Meet Debut Author Elizabeth Pina

Elizabeth Pina is a contest success story. Her debut novel, Learning to Let Go, took first place in the Southern Heat contest sponsored by the East Texas chapter of Romance Writers of America®. Her win led to a request for a full from the final round judge, which in turn led to her first contract with White Rose Publishing.

A self-professed “contest junkie,” Elizabeth finaled or placed a whopping eighteen times with four manuscripts in less than two years before selling.

Elizabeth lives in the Houston, Texas area, where she and her family survived Hurricane Ike last year. She’s the wife of one great guy and mother of three boys and one girl, who range from sixteen to thirty-something.

When she’s not working full-time or writing, Elizabeth helps with the livestock and on 4-H projects. Her favorite animals, though, are her Smooth Fox Terriers and Italian Greyhounds, which she shows all over southeast Texas and neighboring Louisiana.

Join me as we learn about Elizabeth and her journey.

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Elizabeth Pina.

The Journey Begins

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•When did you first hear the call to write? How long was it before you answered?

In high school, my English teacher often read my short stories to the class and encouraged me to keep writing. Naturally, I ignored him. For thirty years!

About two years ago, I found a fan fiction type of thing for Pride and Prejudice and thought I could write as well as the authors there. And so it began!

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•You’ve had four manuscripts final in contests. How long did it take you to write the first story? Was it the easiest or the most difficult one for you to write?

My first novel has yet to be seen by anyone else. It probably took me a couple of months to churn out almost sixty thousand words. It was easy. Very easy. I had no clue what I was doing and just wrote. Now I write, edit, agonize, re-write, more editing, a little bit more writing. Ignorance was truly bliss.

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•Two of your completed manuscripts are contemporary suspense, one is a romantic suspense and one is inspirational. What drew you to each of those categories? Do you prefer one to the others?

I get my ideas from people and events around me, so contemporary came naturally. My writing (at least in the beginning) was very “sweet” and it was relatively easy to follow the rules for an inspirational, which I classify as a G-rated contemporary with Christian elements. My RS came from being at a dog show and doing a “What if someone stole the top dogs?” sort of thing.
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Your Process

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•Are you a seat of the pants writer, a lists-first plotter or a combination of the two? Do you write best in the morning or at night? With music or total quiet? Are snacks a prerequisite?

I’m such a pantster. I’ve tried other things, storyboards, character charts and deep analysis, but my story often evolves into something a lot different from my first ideas. About the best I can do now is write a synopsis (often more like an outline) and fill in or change the important elements as I go.

I write best at night, usually between ten and midnight. I try and take care of email and other items in the mornings, because if I start writing I’ll be late for work!

I like to write in silence, but use music for ideas and mood setting. I have playlists on my iPod for each of my WIP’s, with tracks that help me go over or improve a scene. I get a lot of ideas while commuting so keep a notepad handy. I snack during other work but not while writing.
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Peaks

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•You’ve finaled and placed in a number of contests, but the first one is always special. What do you remember about that call? Did the first final change the way you looked at your writing?

My first final was the 2008 Golden Claddagh, and I got an email. I remember sitting down early in the morning, opening my laptop, and reading it. Two or three times. I cried. And cried. All the way to work.

I told a friend, she told another friend, and then I put it on the contest alert loop and enjoyed the congratulations. I didn’t tell my husband until later that evening because I knew he wouldn’t understand what it meant to me (that’s okay). That final made a huge difference because – after six months of contests – I began to doubt I’d ever succeed.

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•One win will always stand out: your first in the Southern Heat, which led to your sale. Please share the story from finalist call to receiving The Email. And be sure to include your reaction. Was it shouting, dancing, tears of joy or mute disbelief?

This one is funny. I had this FEELING I’d final, but the results were delayed and I pushed it out of my head. I got the news I’d made the final round but Learning to Let Go had finaled before with no requests. So, I didn’t hold my breath.

I departed on a business trip to London, came home sick and exhausted, and saw an email that I’d placed first with a score of 51. I thought that was out of 100 and was very disappointed. But it was out of 50 with an additional bonus point. Even when the wonderful contest coordinator, Carol Braswell, wrangled a request for a full, I had few expectations.

I sent the full in at the beginning of February and was advised I’d hear back by early May. I check my personal email during lunch and was stunned to see something on March 18th. A rejection, for sure. I couldn’t open it. Felt sick. Depressed. Worthless. I took an elevator ride to give myself a pep talk that it wasn’t the end of the world

But it was still thirty minutes before I could open the email. Only one person in the office of 40 knew I wrote. I read the first line, stood, and squeaked “Tammy!” Half the office turned their heads so I whispered, “I’ll send you an IM” and sat back down again. We celebrated over Yahoo and then I spread the word. I’m still waiting for them to say they made a mistake.
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Potholes and Pitfalls

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•Some days our writing flows. Others it feels like the creative stream is dammed. How do you deal with those periods when doubt or discouragement slows your progress? Or when you receive disappointing feedback from a contest judge, critique partner or editor?

I’ve learned to appreciate the opinions of others and pay attention to feedback, both good and bad. It often hatches an idea. Plus I want to prove a few folks wrong!

I am my own worst enemy and biggest critic so have frequent bouts of doubt and discouragement. I have writing buddies I can call on for support, but sometimes I need to get outside or listen to music to get me back in the right frame of mind. On those days when it’s no fun being me, I pretend I’m one of my characters instead. Works wonders!
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Partners on the Journey

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•You’re a member American Christian Fiction Writers and RWA®, as well as multiple chapters in each, so you know the value of seeking the support of other writers and authors. What are some of the greatest benefits you’ve received from being a member of all those groups? And I have to know. Do you make it to all those chapter meetings?

The greatest benefit of all is finding like souls. I was often sure no one else had all those people in their head, crying out for you to tell their story.

Also – what a fantastic support and learning network. I’ve received many digital hugs and chocolate when down, and have had so many people join me in celebration. The sweet thing is seeing their names on bookshelves in stores, and knowing I know them, or know of them, or at least know someone that’s met them!

Unfortunately, I can’t make all the chapter meetings, LOL. I am going to both RWA and ACFW national conferences this year, and also volunteer for several chapters. Everything is educational and encouraging.
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The Journey Continues

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•You’ve sold your first book. What’s next? Will you be revising one of your other stories? Or do you have a new one you can’t wait to start?

The Wild Rose Press has requested a full of my contemporary Rural Rendezvous after some revisions. So in between my LTLG edits I’m working on RR. When I hit a wall with RR I turn to my RS, Stealing Best in Show, or another contemporary, When Jonny Came.

The more I learn, the more things I see wrong with my other WIP’s, so even though all these are more or less “finished” I always find things that need changing!
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Your “Firstborn”

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•Please tell us about Learning to Let Go, where you got the idea for the story and why it’s special to you.

Learning to Let GoLTLG started off as The Wallet and I have no idea where that part came from, but other ideas stemmed from my childhood and family. The first version was very dark and gloomy, and may never have survived if it hadn’t been for wonderful and encouraging contest judges. They gave me deservedly low scores but loved my heroine and told me what to keep and what to fix.

I made it my goal to learn from their comments, and spent a lot of time rewriting it and having it critiqued and edited. It’s special because it’s proof what can happen when you don’t give up.

And I LOVE my book cover!
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Five Fun Facts

1) Who has most influenced your writing?

In my early years, authors Captain W. E. Johns, Agatha Christie, and James Herriot, as well as the afore-mentioned English teacher. Over the last year, Tracy Ruckman. Without her, I would never have been published.

2) What’s your favorite vacation destination?

Jamaica Inn, Cornwall U.K.

3) Which holiday is your favorite and why?

My trip to England in 1999. (I’m from there). My parents were still alive, I met a lot of family I hadn’t seen for a while, and we took all the kids. It was expensive but something we’ll always remember and treasure.

4) When did you become interested in showing dogs?

I showed them several decades ago when I lived in England (I’ve always had a dog or two or more) and found it a rewarding experience. Many of my friends are friends I met through dog shows in the 80’s and 90’s.

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Elizabeth Pina at dog show

5) If you were given $500 and told you had to spend it all in one hour in one location on something just for you, where would you go and what would you buy?

A tough question, but right now I think I’d have to nip over to the Galleria and do some clothes shopping for Nationals!
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Conclusion

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Elizabeth. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?

There aren’t any in my debut novel, but all my other stories contain animals. They may be dogs, cats, livestock, horses, or all of the above. Is there a favorite animal or animal character that you remember reading about? Mine would be Black Beauty.

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Learn More About Elizabeth

Visit her Web site: www.elizabethpina.com

Visit her group blogs: Texas Typos and Roses of Houston

Friend her on Facebook: Elizabeth Pina (in the Houston, TX network)

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Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win.

My next drawing will take place May 31st. The winner will receive a cute tote bag just the right size for an outing or errand run.

Tote Bag

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by May 31st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On June 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me,  your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and May 31. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On June 1, I’ll choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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29 Responses to Meet Debut Author Elizabeth Pina

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Elizabeth and Jessica,

    Super Sleuth, huh? I’m smiling as I envision myself sporting a trench coat and fedora.

    I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid, but she was always much better at figuring out whodunnit than I was.

    I love research, which is a good thing since I’m a historical writer. (Oh. That makes me sound old. Maybe I should say writer of historicals.)

    A few years ago (OK, a couple of decades ago) I worked as an assistant editor at a small textbook publishing company. One of my jobs was to secure photos for a biology book we were producing. And that was in the days before the Internet. I learned to be creative in order to get what I needed.

    My secret these days? Google!!

  2. Kathy says:

    Hey Elizabeth great interview and I know you are going far. I didn’t realize you were English either I saw your picture figured Texas Spanish lol. See how wrong we can be lol. Congrats and hugs. Maybe we’ll meet someday.
    🙂 Kathy

  3. Quilt Lady says:

    Hi Elizabeth great to meet you. I love reading authors debut novals. I thing you will do great in the writing field

  4. Hey, Elizabeth!

    Nice to meet you — I’ve not been spending as much time as I need to on the Wild Rose Press loop — shame on me!

    I write historicals, and Google is my very best friend. Most recently, Google Earth has been helping me “visit” some remote locations without travel. I’ve lost hours playing with it!

    Excellent depiction of your writing journey. You’re in perfect company. Glad to know you.

    ~Ashley Ludwig

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