Meet Novelist Lizbeth Selvig

Award-winning novelist Lizbeth Selvig is a 2010 Golden Heart® finalist. Her story, Songbird, finaled in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category. She writes “contemporary romance that nudges over the line past sweet,” and has completed four and a half manuscripts so far.

Lizbeth and her software engineer husband of 35 years have lived in a number of interesting places, including Germany; Toronto, Canada; and Anchorage, Alaska. They currently live on five acres in the small town of Webster, Minnesota, about forty miles southwest of Minneapolis, with their Border Collie, Magic, whom Lizbeth says is “a beautiful animal with severe hyperactive disorder, who makes up games with as much enthusiasm as I make up stories.” Lizbeth and her husband have two grown children: a married daughter, who is an equine veterinarian, and a son who is in a rock band.

When she’s not writing, Lizbeth enjoys quilting and scrapbooking. She loves riding horses and owned a little Arabian gelding for 29 years, saying a tearful farewell when he died in 2007 at the age of 32. Lizbeth and her husband enjoy hiking and are in the process of hiking in every Minnesota State Park. They’ve hiked in nearly two-third of the 71 parks so far.

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Before we begin, I want to make sure Lizbeth feels welcome, so I’m offering a cyber-smorgasbord consisting of her favorite comfort foots. Help yourself to chocolate cupcakes topped with Lizbeth’s homemade butter-cocoa frosting, or grab one of the Moose Munch dark chocolate candy bars—made by Harry & David, sold at Target stores. Check out the sides of chocolate-covered raisins, peanut M&Ms, and Pecan Sandies. And for those who want something simpler, I have a huge tray of graham crackers and glasses of milk in which to dunk them. Enjoy munching as you learn more about Lizbeth and her writing journey.

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Lizbeth’s Literary Journey Begins

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•Many writers have been creating stories since they were kids. Were you one of those? When did you decide to write with a goal of publication, and what led to that decision?

Hi Keli. First of all thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s such fun to be here on Romance Writers on the Journey.

I did start making up stories when I was young. By age 10, I was writing myself to sleep when other kids were reading in bed. During high school, I stopped writing about my teenage fan crushes and started creating my own heroes. Most of what I wrote was short stories, and I submitted them to magazines like Good Housekeeping and McCalls and got my first “positive” rejection:  “Nice writing. Sorry.”

I read stacks of Harlequin romances, Grace Livingston Hill inspirationals, and fell in love with LaVyrle Spencer’s novels. That’s when I began collecting how-to books on publishing a romance novel. After I finished my first book, which took many years in between raising two children, I knew being published was my dream.

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•I understand you’ve been a reporter and editor. How did those jobs come about? And what’s this I hear about you and tractor salesmen?

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota because, at the time, there wasn’t a degree in creative writing. I worked as a reporter for several weekly magazines and wrote news and feature articles as well as my own column.

After several years, I was fortunate to be able to quit and stay home with my kids. Fourteen years later I went back to work, and my most fun job was as managing editor for two nationally distributed farming magazines. I know NOTHING about farming, so I was often a source of amusement to the old hands, interviewing all the tractor salesmen at farm shows with newbie questions. 🙂

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•How did your experience working on the newspapers and magazines prepare you for being a novelist? Are some of the skills transferable, or did you feel like you were starting over?

Journalism school provided me with better training than I’d ever imagined. The experience of writing for newspapers and editing other peoples’ work has served me well in so many ways:  I learned grammar skills, honed my powers of observation and can even write concisely if I want to! Research is fun, and it’s no problem to come up with “copy” for Web sites and columns. I never felt as if I had to start over when I began working on novels, because I’d written fiction all along, but studying writing as a craft definitely made my fiction stronger.

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Lizbeth’s Contest Success

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•Your first foray into the Contest Circuit resulted in a final. Wow! That’s impressive. Why did you choose to enter, and how high did you jump when you received the call from The Molly coordinator?

A friend encouraged me to enter a contest for the first time in 2005, and I was only learning about contests’ roles in an unpublished writer’s career. The Molly is highly regarded, but I didn’t know that yet. I only knew there were two rounds of judging and I was thrilled to make it through the preliminary round. When I made it past the second level to become one of the three finalists, you can bet I jumped pretty high! I didn’t win, but it was big validation for a relatively new writer.

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•Your contest success continued with your second and third manuscripts placing in prestigious contests. Which of these placements meant the most to you?

It was super satisfying to win Houston RWA’s Lone Star Writing Competition last fall with the third manuscript, Songbird. I don’t enter a lot of contests, but I try to send each book out to test the response. This was Songbird’s first entry and it won—that was so gratifying.

But, I think my most satisfying placement was coming in second in the Finally A Bride contest in 2008. My second manuscript, Isabella’s Song, had placed in the top 25% of the Golden Heart even though it’s got an unusual time frame and setting. When I finaled in FAB, I knew my judge was an agent I’d already pitched the book to at RWA® Nationals in San Francisco, and she’d turned it down. I figured the die was cast. But, I got nearly perfect marks from her, and she said her only issue with the book was that it was set in that odd time frame (1987) and she couldn’t sell it. Otherwise, the writing was great and the story compelling. This agent is well thought-of, so her comments were thrilling.

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•And then came March 25, 2010, a day you will long remember. You received a call from a Romance Writers of America® board member with the news that Songbird is a finalist in the Single Title Contemporary category. Where were you when the call came, and what was your reaction?

I was doing exactly what all my friends had told me not to do—sitting home awaiting a phone call.  “Go out, take your cell phone, do something fun,” they’d said. But, I’m such a dork, and I’d sent so much positive energy out with this manuscript, that I had to suffer.

I never watch TV during the day, but I turned on the Ellen DeGeneres show (I’ve never yet watched it all the way through) and five minutes into it, at 9:35 a.m., the phone rang. My first thought? ‘Who’s bothering me? I’m waiting for an important call.’ Seriously. Of course, it was Trish Milburn from RWA, and I was proud of my relative calm. “I’m so happy to hear your voice, it can only mean good things,” I told her.

When I hung up, I scared my dog to death by jumping up and down and screeching. She thought the sky was falling. I called hubby first, Mom second, daughter third and then my sister-in-law.

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•What have been the high points of being a GH finalist so far? Any surprises? Concerns? Special plans while you’re in Nashville?

The biggest high is the pure disbelief that it happened—and that hasn’t gone away. I mean, the Holy Grail of writing is getting published, but the Golden Heart® is a pretty close second for romance writers. Short of getting The Call from a publisher, this is validation of the best kind—and the confidence it’s brought me is still surprising. I also love the camaraderie on the GH Yahoo! loop, and I’m honored to have three other GH finalists in my RWA chapter (one my critique partner). Being able to share this with them is amazing!

But, yes, there is a down side.  How cliché is it that I don’t like having my picture taken? Even so, I had to suffer through that ordeal with very little time to prepare, so the photo isn’t my favorite. As for a fancy dress for the award ceremony: I’m short and squat—from highest quality Norwegian peasant stock—so ball gowns on me are a bit like ball gowns on a fire hydrant.  But, I’m doing lots of cardio at the gym—so I’m thinking positive and expecting to find something pretty before I fly off for Nationals.

I’ve never been to Nashville, so I’m looking forward to spending a day on either side of the conference doing some sightseeing. I’m a runner, so I love to lace up my shoes at least a couple of times and run through the cities I visit. It’s an amazing way to see some of the neighborhoods close-up.

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Lizbeth’s Sources of Inspiration

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•What sparks your story ideas? A person? A place? A newspaper headline?

People and places are my biggest inspirations. My daughter-the-vet is full of amazing plots-on-the-hoof (pun intended; she works with horses). My son plays lead guitar in a rock band, and he and his friends are fabulous characters. Living in other countries, and in a state as grand as Alaska, has made me aware of the economic, ecological, political and social situations in places other than where I grew up. And, getting to know the people of different places has given me more wonderful fodder for characters. Putting these characters, landscapes, and current situations into a book, then weaving humor, emotion and, of course, romance into the plot is a challenge I love.

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Lizbeth’s Best Tips for Writers

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•With your experience as a reporter and editor, what advice you would offer other writers, especially those who are embarking on their journeys?

Learn the craft of writing however you can—from classes, critique partners, books.  It’s true, a great story often trumps imperfect writing (as it should), but poor writing always ruins even a good story—like mud on that ball gown I mentioned. Never stop asking questions or dreaming. Observe everything around you and use your observations for idea fuel. Do good research, but don’t go crazy—have a ball with it. Most of all, if panic doesn’t set in when you imagine never being able to write again, think about a different line of work. (Which is not to say you won’t want to quit a lot of days—that feeling is totally normal!)

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•I hear you’ve earned a reputation as a “Grammar Ninja.” Why is that?

Let me start by saying, if William Safire represents the gold standard of Grammarians, and Mammy Yokum the opposite end of the spectrum, I’d fall somewhere in the top half.  There are many people who know more than I do. But, when I was a managing editor, I had to be able to back up my grammar corrections, so I became addicted to grammar books. I love them and can read them for an hour at a time. When I realized I could describe a dangling gerund and catch them in my critique partners’ work, I knew I understood more grammar than most people will ever care about in their lifetimes. I’m the person you want to read your manuscript when it’s been through major revisions.  Line editing is one of my annoying passions.

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Partners on Lizbeth’s Journey

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•OK, Lizbeth. We’re gonna dream BIG. It’s July 31st, the night of the Awards Ceremony at Nationals. Your awesome new photo has flashed across the jumbotron along with those of your category mates. The presenter opens the envelope, smiles, and reads your name. You wend your way to the stage with the spotlight trained on you, make it up the steps without stumbling, and take the podium to deliver your acceptance speech. Who will you thank?

Most importantly, I thank the Lord for the talent He’s given me, and for the opportunity to pursue my dream.

I would not have had the confidence to even try writing for the public without the encouragement of my super supportive hubby of 35 years, and I also had/have great support from my parents who used to listen to my story ideas on Saturday mornings during family time.

Then, there’s the group of very special, incredibly talented writers in Alaska who made up my first real critique group. They taught me, with loads of love and patience, to take criticism and to want to make my writing better. They were the ones who saw the birth of Songbird and coaxed it into adulthood.

Finally, I have a new critique group in Minnesota, and they are equally amazing. The whole Midwest Fiction Writers chapter is so inspirational—we have an incredible group of writers and I look up to them all.

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Lizbeth’s Journey Continues

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•What are you working on at this point? Querying agents and mentioning your GH finalist status perhaps? Are any new characters begging you to tell their stories?

Absolutely I’m querying agents, trying to take advantage of the wonderful luck and opportunity the Golden Heart® final has given me. Whatever happens, this chance is mine to use or lose.

Writing-wise, I’m working on a trilogy of stories set in Alaska. I’ve created a family of scientists—I call them “the Cousteaus of the Arctic.” The first book, Aleutian Star, is finished. (A wealthy socialite must spend three months on a remote Aleutian Island.) My current project is the second book, Beluga Moon. (A whale scientist loses her confidence until she has to fight a powerful company to save Alaska’s beluga whales.) And the third, Fire Sky, is coming next. (An extremely intelligent but shy research scientist heads to Alaska to study climate change and faces her biggest internal fears with a mountain-climbing aurora photographer.)

There are lots of other characters waiting for their books. Two are: Rusty, a severely brain injured firefighter who fights to keep his family intact, and Molly, an intrepid athlete who hikes across England with her artificial leg.

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•Your stories so far have been contemporaries with an inspirational feel. Do you have plans to explore different sub-genres?

Several of my ideas would fit better in Women’s Fiction than straight romance. In the future I’d also love to try my hand at straight inspirational stories—something that includes a strong, contemporary faith arc. And, I’d like to write a futuristic romance. One of my newest characters is a “perfect” hero—a cross between Dr. Who and Paladin from the old Have Gun, Will Travel.

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Five Fun Facts About Lizbeth, The Writer

~ There are four things that show up in every one of my books: a horse, an elderly person, a British accent, and a Beatles reference.

~ In seventh grade I convinced my science partner that I was Paul McCartney’s secret, adopted-out sister. I forged letters from him and faked phone calls. It was a hugely elaborate writing/media project and amazingly successful. Embarrasses the heck out of my husband now, but I think it’s funny.

~ I would much rather write by hand than on the computer. There’s nothing like a blank notebook and a sharp pencil.

~ My second manuscript, Isabella’s Song, is based on a short story I wrote in tenth grade. I still have the original.

~ I prefer the house very quiet when I write. No TV, no music. Although I can write in chaos, I’m pretty much like an otter—everything is super-fun, and the next distraction is better than the last.

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Lizbeth’s Questions for You

What unique themes or images do you bring to your writing?

In other words, what makes up your “brand” as a writer?

I’d also love to know what place you’ve visited has inspired your writing the most?

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Learn More About Lizbeth

Visit her website ~ www.Lizbethselvig.com

Friend her on Facebook ~ Lizbeth Selvig

Friend her on MySpace – Lizbeth Selvig

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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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44 Responses to Meet Novelist Lizbeth Selvig

  1. lizbethselvig says:

    Hey Stacy!
    I have you to thank for introducing me to Keli! She’s wonderful for offering this opportunity–as you well know from your fun interview last month.

    I can’t wait for you to see Alaska. If you are inspired by mountains and clear water–you will not be disappointed. It’s one of God’s most magical places! I can’t wait to see how you apply such inspiration to your stories. Thanks for all the encouragement you give so well.

  2. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Tami!
    Thanks for all the wonderful support and for your growing friendship. We do have a fabulous group at MFW–so much talent I look up to. I’m proud to be part of our bunch.

    I can’t wait to read your stories–I think I would fall in love with your heroines–they sound like the kind I write: solid, down-to-earth, with lots to learn, but strength they don’t even know they have. And you’re writing about a pirate–how could that not be spectacular fun??

  3. lizbethselvig says:

    Boone!!
    You rock my friend–thanks for coming by! I can’t wait to see this gown in Nashville. I’m so psyched to spend time with you and Jenny. We’ll have a ball, although I don’t have a gown or dress yet. I’m afraid of them (kind of like some people are afraid of clowns).

  4. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Christie! Thanks so much for coming here and checking out my interview. I really enjoyed meeting you during yours last week–it was so fun, I couldn’t wait to try it out too.

    You caught a major clarification boo-boo in my interview, though. How embarrassing for me, someone who purports to know what she’s doing-lol. It wasn’t my hubby I fooled, it was Vicki G. — who moved away in 8th grade (not, I don’t think, because she was devastated that I didn’t know Paul). But my husband thinks the whole episode was sort of a “blot on my copy book” and gets embarrassed when I tell the story. Don’t know why–I’m the dork who did it 🙂

    I love your story about traveling the Columbia River route multiple times. I actually have several places I’d like to travel a first time–for the sake of better research! Your book sounds really cool!!

    Anyone else have places they’d LIKE to travel for inspiration?

    Thanks Christie–continued good luck with your writing and your blog.

  5. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Angie!
    I love that you always have a cowboy in your story. I have a brother who lives in Texas–wish I’d spent more time there; it’s such a rich place to draw inspiration from–kind of like Alaska. In fact, the states are similar in many ways: both kind of wide frontiers, both independent-thinking, both with crazy histories!

    I’m trying to figure out how I’d get my four favorite elements into a futuristic story. How could you get a Beatles’ reference onto another planet? Fun to figure out a way!

  6. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Florence,
    I loved your post — it’s so real and you are definitely feeling the things all writers feel at some point. I really enjoyed meeting Christie here, too, and I’m so happy you came by today. Don’t feel like an outsider at all–believe me, it doesn’t matter how long you do this, some days you feel all alone. That’s because writing really is a solitary journey. Even wonderful new friends can only encourage us–they can’t do the work or birth the stories! You’re very welcome among your writer colleagues!

    I think my heroines should meet your heroines. I’m like Tamara Hughes who posted above — I like solid, Midwestern heroines who are sometimes a little less brash than they could be. A touch of in-your-face New Yorker could be just the thing!! I hope you have great success with your writing. Sounds like you’re taking all the right steps–joining RWA and your chapter. You’ll have a ball!

    Nice to meet you!! Hope we keep in touch.

  7. lizbethselvig says:

    Laura,
    You are the sweetest–thanks for the wonderful thoughts. I’m just so proud to be part of MFW–there isn’t a person in the group who hasn’t inspired me. The thing is, you all did it when I wasn’t even in Minnesota–so much success; so much enthusiasm: I just wanted to be like you all when I got back from Alaska. So, I’m thrilled to be one of the four finalists (and two RITA finalists) from Minnesota this year. Thanks for coming by and checking this out!

  8. Kristin W. says:

    You’ve been gracious enough to comment on my blogs so back at ya’. Congrats on your final. I love your story of interviewing tractor salesmen.

    My “tagline” for my inspirational writing is “Laughter for the Soul”. Sums up my writing to a tee.

  9. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Kristin,
    Congrats again on your GH final!! Thank you so much for coming back today and checking this out. I’m loving this chance to meet so many new writers, and I really enjoyed your interview last week. Everyone is so inspiring and gracious!

    I love your tagline–so many people need laughter for their souls these days; I’m so pleased to know you’ve nailed your niche perfectly! Good good luck with all your writing — and definitely keep on feeding that soul with laughter!

  10. DeNise Woods says:

    Hey, my sweet friend, Liz you rock. Congratulations on the GH. Kelli, thanks for the introduction. You have a great site.

  11. Elisa Beatty says:

    Congrats on the GH final, Liz! It’s been fun getting to know you on the 2010 finalists’ loop!

    How cool that you’re a grammar girl–I loves me some grammar!

  12. Carolyn Ellis says:

    Hi my friend, you were wonderful 🙂 loved it!

  13. Tamera Lynn says:

    I’m crossing my fingers and toes for you at Nationals, my dear. Wish I could b there to cheer you on. We miss you up here in Alaskaland. What a great interview! And I like your photo :o)

  14. lizbethselvig says:

    DeNise-oh, thank you–right back atcha on the rockin’ friend you know. Is the snow gone from Wasilla yet? Is the greenhouse growing new plants? Thank you so much for checking out the interview!!

  15. lizbethselvig says:

    Hi Elisa–
    It’s been a ball on the loop; things are starting to gel a little, I recognize all the names a bit faster. The whole name game thing cracks me up-it’s great. I’m proud of all of us–so big congrats to you too! And a fellow grammar sister? Oh boy, we’re going to rock the conversation in Nashville 😛

  16. lizbethselvig says:

    Hello Carolyn-who’s-always-there-when-I-need her! I’m so glad you came by to check out the interview and enjoyed it. You know your crits mean the world to me – LOL!! JK — thanks a bunch!

  17. lizbethselvig says:

    Tami!!!
    You are so wonderful — and you with contest finals yourself to celebrate!! I wish you could be in Nashville too. But–sounds like I get to have you here in Minnesota in the fall so I’ll TAKE it!!
    I miss you guys more than I can say–but that’s a broken record isn’t it? I’ll be back soon to visit I hope!

  18. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to check out my interview here at Romance Writers on the Journey. You all made my very first online “presence” such a joy, and such a positive experience. I have the most wonderful long-time friends and amazing new friends I can’t wait to get to know better.

    Keli, by offering this opportunity and putting such an incredible amount of work into each interview, you’re giving a great gift to us, the as-yet-unpublished writers just learning the ropes. The Lord has certainly led you to a special “ministry” — making up-and-coming authors feel like professionals so early in our careers. Thanks for the fun!

    I hope anyone who wants to contact me or stay in touch will feel free to do so. I plan to come back and check out my fellow new authors often!

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