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Elm Books is an independent publisher based in Laramie, Wyoming. We publish romance, disability literature, children's books, and more!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

On Writing Historical Romance Set in Canada: An Interview with Author Estella Kuchta

 


We’re gearing up for the release of Estella Kuchta’s historical romance novel, Finding the Daydreamer! The book launches on September 10th, 2020. Pre-orders are available on our website, as well as Amazon or Smashwords.


In Finding the Daydreamer, author Estella Kuchta addresses trauma, courage, and desire with the grace and insight of a practiced storyteller. I was awed by the beauty and inventiveness of this novel. The depth of emotion in Kuchta’s poetic style breathes life into compassionately imagined characters. Annabelle, motherly and courageous, exemplifies the struggle to be truly seen and loved by others. Finding the Daydreamer is a testament to human resilience in the face of disaster, something especially vital in our world today.


I got the chance to interview Estella about the book and her experience as a novelist, researcher, and mother. She had some great insights to share about love stories, as well as questions to consider when writing them!


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Luka Dowell: I was really impressed with the emotional depth of your characters. What's your process for creating characters and developing their personalities?


Estella Kuchta: In a dusty box in a closet, sits my “practice novel.” One thing I learned from that practice attempt is that plot-driven novels feel a little empty. So, when I sat down to start this novel, I chose a completely different approach. I spent months developing some of the characters before I started writing. In fact, I had no idea where the plot would go—and that was true during the entire first draft. I only listened to the characters, especially Annabelle, and followed her lead. Partway through the book, characters started to come much easier. Some of them arrived whole and fully formed. 


Luka: Where did you look for inspiration? Are the characters based on real people you know? What's your character development process like?


Estella: The trend in books, movies, and TV shows these days is to show characters who are incredibly flawed human beings. I guess we’re supposed to feel better about ourselves through feasting on the amusing flaws of others. But as an audience, I find that rather boring. It’s harder to develop really admirable characters who are still whole humans. I wanted Annabelle to be someone I could look up to and learn from. For sure I share some of her characteristics—and that was part of my motivation to write about them—but my goal was to develop a character with real integrity. Harvey vaguely resembles a guy I dated for a while. Other characters contain traces of this person or that whom I know, but also come from imagination. 


Luka: You also research love stories academically. How does your research influence your fiction writing?


Estella: What are the characteristics of a classic Canadian love story? —That was the question I set out to research in my graduate literature program. Finding the Daydreamer emerged as a creative exploration of that question. I was very lucky to have been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council Research Grant (SSHRC), so that allowed me to investigate Canadian literary love stories in-depth. What I discovered was that Canadian love stories are often impeded by: our vast geography; cultural tendencies toward politeness and harmony (instead of fire and passion); and economic priorities (love is often sidelined). In fact, exceedingly few literary novels set within the Canadian border focus primarily on romantic love, passionate love, or devoted companionship. In writing Finding the Daydreamer, I wanted to see if I could overcome those barriers and write a truly love-rich novel. Readers can judge whether I succeeded!


Luka: I certainly think you did! Do you think more Canadian authors should write about love? What advice would you have for those authors?


Estella: I would love to read more rich, in-depth love stories set in Canada. Some of Canada’s most brilliant authors have written engrossing love stories—but set outside of Canada. I’m thinking of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient or Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. Of course, I haven’t read the entire Canadian canon, so people might suggest some reading that I’ve missed. 


Luka: What were the most challenging parts of writing this book? What do you wish you knew beforehand?


Estella: If anyone is wondering whether it’s challenging to write a book while being a low-income single-parent of two children, moving between four countries and multiple jobs—YES, it is! I started this book in Canada, wrote a significant portion of it while working in Japan, revised it in California, and did a second revision while working in China. During the writing of this book, I moved seven times, worked at ten jobs, finished a graduate degree, had knee surgery, a car accident, and a miscarriage. Without a doubt the most challenging part of writing this book was simply finding time. I’m so glad I persevered. It's worth it! 


Luka: Wow, that sounds intense. Did the difficulties you faced (like moving around a lot) help you become more adaptable? How consistent do you need your workspace to be?


Estella: I’m not fussy about my workspace. I can write in cafes, at home, in messiness, in spotless clean, in silence, and with 10 conversations swirling around me. That’s one of the gifts of being a mother—I have the ability to tune out noise and mess. The problem is that once I start writing, I don’t want to stop and do anything else. I become so completely engrossed in the writing, I feel like the real world is peripheral for a while. There were times writing this book where I felt like I was living two lives at once. I long to have the time and space to drift fully into the world of my novels. That happened infrequently with Finding the Daydreamer. Maybe I’ll have that with my next novel. I’ve experienced a life jam-packed with experiences, so I don’t ever stare at paper wondering what to write. There are so many stories inside me waiting to pour out. 


Luka: What does your writer's routine look like?


Estella: Sometimes I write for 12 hours a day, other days only two. I’ve never been a very routine-oriented person. Mostly, I write whenever possible. I often have to force myself to stop writing and go to bed. I get so focused that I might not even eat dinner until 11 at night. But in the morning, I don’t feel like doing much of anything except sitting on the couch, sipping tea. 


Luka: You put a lot of time into researching the historical aspects of the book, including consulting with experts. What ethical considerations should authors have when writing historical fiction?


Estella: The most challenging ethical consideration for me was how to handle the Indigenous characters and history. I’m not Indigenous myself, and I felt a real responsibility to write about those characters and the First Nations reserve in a way that would honour and acknowledge Indigenous histories. Yet, my many attempts to make contact with the specific First Nations Band of that area went unanswered. Quite understandably, some Indigenous peoples are reticent to talk to strangers about their histories, since those histories have often been used against them, misunderstood, or taken without permission. This left me in a bit of a bind, however. I didn’t want to omit Indigenous histories altogether and paint the illusion that only settlers lived in that area. I also couldn’t write about them without permission. If my parenting and financial situation would have allowed, I would have flown up to the Cariboo on multiple occasions for the sole purpose of developing relationships with the local Band members. But that was out of my reach. In the end, I altered those sections of the book dramatically so that I was no longer writing about the local Band. Two of my friends who are Indigenous elders very kindly read through the sections containing Indigenous characters and histories and offered feedback. I’m very grateful for their approval. Other aspects of the book also posed ethical considerations, such as issues of homosexuality and abuse. I also wanted to give voice to the more-than-humans who appear in the book.


Luka: Can you expand on what you mean by more-than-humans?


Estella: By “more-than-humans,” I mean the plants, animals, mountains, and weather the human characters encounter. As a Canadian, a researcher and a writer, I’m very interested in the relationships that develop between humans and nonhumans, and the way those relationships shape and influence human identity, values, and behaviour. As part of my research for this book, I studied and “listened to” chickadees, wind, fir trees, moss, rivers, and of course, horses.


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Estella Kuchta is a writer, researcher, and postsecondary instructor in Vancouver, Canada. Her research focuses on ecocriticism, eco-education, and the biological impact of reading love stories. Her creative writing and journalism projects have been published, aired, and broadcast in newspapers, literary magazines, radio and TV in Canada and the United States. She earned a BFA in Creative Writing and MA in Literature from the University of British Columbia, where she won several awards for writing. Her website is https://estellakuchta.com/.


Finding the Daydreamer launches on September 10th, 2020. Pre-orders are available on our website, Amazon, and Smashwords.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Take Off with Strange Flight! Elm Books Explores Sci-Fi with Disabled Protagonists


What does it mean to be a science fiction hero with a disability?

The authors of Strange Flight know living with a disability can be challenging—facing social stigma, inaccessibility, and invisibility that feels like navigating an alien world. And, all too often, people with disabilities are stereotyped as weak or incapable. Elm Books aims to do better—to recognize the creativity, perseverance, and diverse modes of understanding people with disabilities bring to our shared struggle for existence. What could be more appropriate for science fiction?



Strange Flight is Elm Books’ second science fiction anthology to exclusively feature protagonists with disabilities (the first was Dark Space). This collection from scholar and editor Leonie Skye features six short stories from authors with disabilities and disability allies.

When you get to the very end of the line—the end of freedom, of life support systems, of the world as we know it—how do you cheat fate and keep going? What mysterious portals might open onto new dimensions, what previously invisible corners be turned, what fantastical opportunities appear? How do disabilities open doors? Secure your space helmet, buckle up, and meet the protagonists of Elm Books’ second science fiction anthology, Strange Flight.

In Victoria Feistner’s bittersweet “Music of the Spheres”, an astrophysicist’s body is shutting down for good, but at the outer reaches of space her life’s research culminates in a unique kind of eternity. Yvette Franklin’s “The Darkness of Goo” explores communication and teamwork when sensory capability is limited-- stranded in a mysterious realm devoid of light and sound, Captain Nani and her crew must reunite and cooperate to make sense of their surroundings. In “The Reject” by Timothy Lamoureux, Ronan’s genetic disorder proves advantageous when he and his friends stumble into a deadly extraterrestrial trap. In “Twentieth Century, Go to Sleep” David Preyde tells the story of an unlikely alliance between a teacher struggling with PTSD and the time-traveling perpetrator of one of the twentieth century’s greatest crimes. Leonie Skye’s “Leavings of the Smooth World” paints a chillingly realistic picture of a not-so-distant future: on a scorched Earth where the wealthy scramble to buy up the last scraps of pleasurable experience, Leia must follow her aunt’s sensory clues to break through into a new world grown out of the old. Finally, in “The Argo Affair” by Lisa Timpf, Moira’s career as a detective on Earth is nearing an end, but her second life on a new planet awaits if she can solve one last crime.

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“Stories of characters with disabilities navigating science fiction worlds, from both #OwnVoices authors and allies … moments of loveliness and insight.” (Publishers Weekly)

"What happens in a future in which people continue to live with disabilities, mental illnesses, and neurodivergences? That question lies at the heart of editor Skye's collection, comprised of six stories featuring protagonists who live with chronic illnesses and other disabilities. ... These pieces range from stolidly cerebral to deeply emotional ... imagining hopeful futures for people with disabilities." (Kirkus Reviews)

In Strange Flight, six bold new stories—from authors with disabilities and disability allies—probe the idea of life-changing escape. Grab your copy today and explore alternate universes with us!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Elm Books is Reimagining Steampunk!

If you thought steampunk was just glued-on gears and fake posh British accents, you will never be so happy to be proven wrong! Sure, the 19th century was a time of exciting scientific developments, but it was also an era of great social inequality and ruthless colonial expansion. With Death in the Age of Steam, Elm Books authors are reimagining steampunk through the colonized, marginalized, and otherwise ignored voices of the time period.

Editor Jess Faraday writes, “My interest in steampunk writing arose from an argument with another writer, who said that no story could be truly steampunk unless the character were rich, white, able-bodies, Protestant, heterosexual, and male, as in the 19th century, these were the only people who ‘had agency.’ Gross historical inaccuracy and breathtakingly offensive generalizations aside, what I most took issue with was his idea that only the people on the top rungs of society have stories to tell. This is not the case, of course. We all have stories to tell.”



Death in the Age of Steam, the latest release from Elm Books, is a continuation of our “Death” mystery series. Each short story is packed with suspense and intrigue with a steampunk twist. A lady sharpshooter solves an impossible murder in the Old, Weird West, in "A Frame Most Fearful" by Emily Baird. In "The Megalodon" by Jack Bates, unlikely heroes foil the attempted sabotage of a magnificent new submersible. In far-off Jerusalem, a determined Rabbi uses logic and Kabbalah to solve a spate of mysterious murders in "Beneath the Holy City" by Edward Stasheff. "Mrs. MacAdams’s Establishments" by Yvette Franklin has a woman respectable by day and dominating by night who investigates a murder with the help of a Lovelace analytical engine. In "Blood in Peking" by JL Boekstein, you’ll find political intrigue, romantic misunderstandings, and vampires! In "Honor, Love and Photographs" by Christalea McMullin, ancient East Asian rivalries spring to life on the streets of East London. And in "Borderman H49" by Darren Todd, a peacekeeper uncovers a twisted plot to cause havoc between competing solar farms and steal the power of the sun.

Strap on your goggles, get your gears spinning, and join your favorite Elm Books mystery authors for the previously untold stories of steampunk and the weird west!


Death in the Age of Steam is available in print or e-book format on Amazon and our website.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Volume 3: 1 June 12, 2016
Edited by Leila Monaghan

Last year, Elm Book produced one great new collection, Death and a Cup of Tea, and a beautiful second edition of Christmas is for Bad Girls, now available in paperback as well as e-format. Lots of news to share and looking forward to a great year ahead!
Leila Monaghan

Indiegogo Campaign

Introducing our first Indiegogo Campaign!  Only four days left so please help.  We are raising funds so that we can change the payment structure of Elm Books for our next cozy mystery collection, Death by Cupcake. We want to be able to give authors a lump sum of $100 rather than royalty payments.  Any and all contributions welcome.  Or just stop by to see the great video Jess Faraday put together for the campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-elm-books-create-its-best-anthology-yet/x/7635315#/


Publicity Happenings

Twitter

Our PR representative, @LilyCallahan, is now regularly tweeting for @ElmBooks. If you are on Twitter, please follow both accounts and pass on the news!  

Email List

Please let me know at Leila.ElmBooks at gmail.com if you would like to receive occasional e-mails from us with all the latest news.

Call for stories: Science Fiction

We now have a new Science Fiction editor, Leonie Skye.  Welcome Leonie!  Her first collection features heroic protagonists with disabilities.  Drop her a note if you are interested.

Elm Books is looking for short story submissions for our first Science Fiction & Fantasy collection (DEADLINE EXTENDED until 8/31/2016). We hope this will be the first of an ongoing series. We are interested in short stories (no more than 15,000 words) featuring heroic PROTAGONISTS WITH DISABILITIES (broadly defined) and that fall within ANY SCIENCE FICTION SUB GENRE. Stories may be soft or hard science fiction. We are particularly interested in anthropological, feminist, and speculative work that will keep us turning pages in the wee hours.  Please E-mail leoskye.elmbooks at gmail.com  with your submission questions.

Reviews


RTBookReviews.com: Death and a Cup of Tea

An interesting combination of very short mysteries. Some involve murder, some are just intriguing, one is set in the past, one in the future. Not all may be to the reader’s liking, yet for those who like something different, it can be found here.
A medical examiner is determined to find who killed a woman. In 1931 a head librarian must find out who is out to discredit one of her staff. The death of a tea house owner has a college student investigating. Her friend has died and Sofia can’t understand why he didn’t upload himself into the cyberget. A research mouse on a desk — how did it get there? Audrey’s making a deal and solving a murder. Getting rid of an unwanted member of the Tea Ladies may lead to murder. And a psychic prepares for a police interview when she is the last to see a man alive.
 Reviewed by: Susan Mosley
http://www.rtbookreviews.com/book-review/death-and-cup-tea

Publishers Weekly: Christmas is for Bad Girls 

No actual bad girls inhabit this happy holiday anthology—just feisty, sympathetic heroines, and heroes worthy of their love. Four stories are set in the present-day U.S., and two in Victorian England. Danger makes sexual tension run high in P.K. Tournes’s “A Partridge in Pear Treacle.” Love brightens a depressing holiday season in M.M. Ardagna’s “A Very Chunky Monkey Christmas” and a dreaded trip home in Lily Callahan’s “A Sprig of Holly.” In Yvette Franklin’s “Noisy Night,” single mom-to-be Maizy goes into labor on Christmas Eve, aided by her handsome gardener. In Jess Alynn’s “Mistletoe in Minnesota,” Emily inherits her aunt’s house and falls for the boy next door. A long wait ends with yuletide gladness when a long-lost cousin returns in Edith Elton’s “The Mad Hewitts.” Fans of quick, sweet holiday romance stories will savor this fine anthology.

08/31/2015




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http://elm-books.com
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kirk VanDyke's hatred of one's fascination with an idea of wilderness

More National Poetry Month excitement!

Elm Books proudly announces the launch of Kirk VanDyke's spare and lyrical book of poetry, hatred of one's fascination with an idea of wilderness, now available at http://elm-books.com

A 9 Month Winter
struggled putting
the clothes on a cotton line
in wind with gusts
sending a plastic bag in circles
between fences
but before the last shirt
was hung horizontally
it froze in the hand


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lily Callahan poem: The Birds are Back

My own contribution to National Poetry Month. 

The Birds are Back
  by Lily Callahan

The grass stays dry and brown
Dead leaves still hang from the few bushes
But the birds are back

Little larks dart across the yard
  so something must be there to find
And a ragtag flock of seagulls swoop and dive
  no orderly goose formation for them
But they are migrating
  so the lake must be letting go of its ice

The birds are back
Soon green leaves will sprout
And we will stare at the grass
  wondering if it is any longer
      or greener than before

Monday, April 1, 2013

Kirk VanDyke Poem: Spring Mud

In honor of National Poetry Month, we will be running poems by Elm Books authors.  Today a short piece by Kirk VanDyke from his hatred of one's fascination with an idea of wilderness coming soon from http://elm-books.com

Spring Mud

spring mud the snow only left in crevices
wind from west has a memory of past months
limestone flats a muddle skinned spotted growth
something youth left millennia ago
town below in ordered gridline-
somewhere out there our friends run courses
circular job regularities in angled projections
their efforts our lives continuance
while out here we look over barbed wire containment
imagining their minds work in familiar patterns
below, far below in that ordered gridline
slight variations from the identical
their voices heard yelling in gusts
whispering in momentary calm
this is me you us ours, this is