Meet Novelist Elisa Beatty

Two-time Golden Heart® finalist Elisa Beatty writes Regency romance powered by witty dialogue from her smart, fast-talking characters. She’s completed one manuscript and is at work on her second. Did you catch that? Her first story is the two-time GH finalist. Can you say clearly talented?

Elisa does have some advantages other writers don’t. In her own words, “I have serious academic chops—went to Harvard, got my Ph.D. at Berkeley, was a Shakespeare prof for quite a few years.” She also has a Masters in Creative Writing and has published a couple of pieces in “obscure literary journals.” Like her husband, she’s a high school English teacher, which affords her a little more time for creative rather than scholarly work.

Formerly from the East Coast, Elisa grew up in “one of those revolutionary war towns where Washington slept pretty much everywhere, lots of the houses—mostly owned by Quakers—still have Underground Railroad tunnels, and quite a few supposedly have ghosts.” Home these days is a very tiny, very messy house near Berkeley, California where she lives with her love of 20 years, an eleven-year-old daughter with a black belt in sarcasm, and a five-year-old superhero-in-training son. Her family shares their cramped quarters with a black bear of a dog and one very elegant Siamese cat who’s mildly embarrassed to be seen with the rest of them.

Elisa scrambles to fit bursts of writing around classroom time, grading, course planning, and caring for kids, pets, hearth and home. “Luckily,” she says, “I’m becoming more of an insomniac as I grow older. And I have a VERY high tolerance for dust bunnies.” What she doesn’t have is time outside of work, family, and writing novels. She’s even given up TV, a sacrifice she made in order to have time to write.



I asked Elisa what virtual fare she has for you. She said, “Since I’m a Berkeley girl, steeped in the Slow Food movement, I’d like to offer something lusciously healthy: organic goat cheese drizzled with blackberry honey, and sliced, fresh-picked organic figs. (Trust me…once you try this, you won’t even need chocolate.)” So, I invite you to try her unique treat and prepare for another as you learn more about this dynamic woman.



Elisa’s Journey Begins


•With your penchant for words, your educational background, and the fact that you’re an English teacher, I’m guessing you’re one of those people who was born with a pen in her hand. Am I right?

I am one of those always-wanted-to-be-a-writer people. In first grade, whenever the teacher handed out those sheets of beige “story paper” with the huge picture box on top and the four lines for writing, I’d never get around to drawing the picture, and I’d usually fill five or six pages with story. And those were BIG sheets.

In college, I was an English major, but did a creative thesis—the first of several novels I started but didn’t finish. I went to grad school, not because I intended to complete my doctorate, but because I was offered a fellowship to Berkeley, which was a creative hotbed with great writers constantly visiting from all over the world. I got my M.A. in Creative Writing while I was there, but fell in love with teaching, finished the Ph.D., and found myself on the professor track for quite a few years. I still wrote on the side, about half ‘literary’ fiction and half genre romance. Loved both, never felt a conflict between them. I got about halfway through writing a couple romance novels during the years I was writing my dissertation, but did nothing with them.

About seven years ago, when my daughter was old enough not to be climbing on me all the time and before my son came along, I decided to get serious about actually finishing a romance novel. I got back to work on a manuscript that eventually became A Most Improper Gentleman (originally called Shameless)—which is the book that’s finaled in the Golden Heart both in 2009 and 2010. But it took several years. Early on, I was making amazing progress, writing about a chapter a week….and then I got pregnant again. And exhausted. I could just barely juggle teaching and pregnancy, and writing went out the window.


•When were you able to resume your writing?

In the spring of 2008, as my son was becoming a bit more independent, I picked up that unfinished novel again. Something inside me just said, “Finish this now, this is your time.” The phrase “I’m on a rampage” has been running through my head ever since. With fabulous cheerleading from my beloved younger sister, I wrote most of the rest of the book over the summer.

When school started again, my teaching duties swamped me as usual. But my sister noted that the Golden Heart deadline was coming up, and challenged me to finish in time. Somehow, miraculously, I wrote THE END on Dec 1, and got it Express Mailed just in time to make the deadline.

And lo and behold….it finaled!!



Elisa’s Elation


•So, you sent off the first romance novel you’d ever written to the Golden Heart? That took courage—or perhaps a little chutzpah?—or maybe just enough newbie innocence not to realize what a huge contest you’d just entered. But enter you did. And finaled! WOW!!!

Where were you when you got the news from the Romance Writers of America®, and how did you react? I wanna hear the whole story, so dish it out.

You know, I’ve finaled twice, and have YET to get the call from RWA®.

In 2009, I was such a clueless newbie, I didn’t know about the phone call tradition and was nowhere near a phone all morning. On a break, I checked, and my category had five names listed, so I thought, “Dang, it’s all over.” Then at 11:45, I checked email, and SURPRISE, saw a message from RWA, asking me to call ASAP. My writing’s a secret at work, and colleagues were all around, so I had to stay very quiet and professional and calm. I was on the phone with Madeline Hunter—yes, MADELINE HUNTER (!!!!)—and I sounded like I was making an orthodontist appointment. And, bless her, there were only fifteen minutes left until the 2 p.m. Texas deadline, and Madeline couldn’t hail Carol Ritter on her phone to tell her my pen name (which I had to make up on the spot…oops!) so Madeline SPRINTED up several flights of stairs to make sure I made it on the list correctly. (Seriously, MADELINE HUNTER!!!!! I love her!!)

In 2010, I was completely tuned in to the whole process: cell phone clutched in my fist every minute, scanning all the Romancelandia internet boards starting at dawn for breaking news. Slowly, slowly, the categories filled—except for Regency. A total blank. I started to wonder if they’d cancelled the category. 2 p.m. Texas time came and went, and still a total blank. I started to wonder if I was suffering from hysterical blindness. Finally, at about 2:20, after my four-billionth hit of the refresh key, my name suddenly popped up—my REAL name, unfortunately, so again it was me calling RWA, this time to beg Carol Ritter to change it quick before the word got out around school.

Anyhow, I was unspeakably thrilled both times.


•You headed to D.C. to meet your fellow finalists, the Ruby Slippered Sisters, and had a great time. What were the highlights of Nationals as a first-time GH finalist?

It was a true Cinderella experience. As a busy mom and teacher, I’d spent years in elastic waistbands and comfy European shoes; the most glamorous part of my grooming routine was getting the mint-flavored dental floss. Suddenly, I was buying makeup again, and HEELS, and dresses that showed I still have at least the remnants of a waist. The best part was that, instead of wicked stepsisters, I got the Ruby Slippered Sisters, who are the most amazing, empowering, talented, supportive women on earth. (Plus, Stephanie Laurens and Julia Quinn BOTH chatted with me in elevators, and I got to meet my idol Joanna Bourne, who very graciously said she’d look forward to reading my book one day. Squee!!!)


•You obviously have oodles of talent because your second book has made an impressive debut on the Contest Circuit. What is its track record so far? Any requests? Nibbles?

Oh, *blush.* Thanks, Keli! I started the second book, The Devil May Care, last May, and it’s ALMOST complete. I sent out the early chapters to contests to see what kind of responses it would get, and it’s won the Historical category of the Golden Pen, and has finaled in the Emily, Great Expectations, and Fab Five. I’ve had editor or agent requests from the first three, and am waiting for the final results of Fab Five. I’m very, very excited about this book, and dying to get it really done. If only my students would stop wanting me to be prepared for class, or my kids would go a couple weeks without laundry or dinner!


•You made significant progress on your story last November with NaNoWriMo. What was that experience like? Did you achieve your goal?

I’d finished the first three chapters of The Devil May Care just in time to send it off to Golden Pen, and had gotten to 30,000 words by the end of October. I used NaNoWriMo to finish a complete (but messy) first draft. NaNo asks for 50,000 new words in 30 days, about 1700 words a day—and miraculously, I managed it with only about an hour or so a day to write. No excuses: I sat down after dinner and WORKED. I was literally writing as fast as I could type, and I’m a fast typist. It was exhilarating, and nauseating, and for awhile I felt like I was causing myself permanent brain damage, but I loved watching the pages pour out. Amazingly, lots of it turned out to be perfectly usable for the second draft. I wish I could turn off my inner editor so easily the rest of the year.



Elisa’s Education and Expertise


•With a Master’s in Creative Writing, experience as a Shakespeare professor, and your current position as a high school English teacher, you’ve got some solid credentials many novelists don’t. How have your education and expertise contributed to your successes so far?

My brain’s spent years marinating in language of all kinds: reading, writing, doing close analysis of text, and teaching other people to write (academic writing and creative writing both), and I can’t think of better training for a writer. Getting into the nitty-gritty of other people’s writing, learning what doesn’t work and becoming conscious of what does work, has enriched my own writing and made me stretch myself year after year. It doesn’t make the process of getting words onto the page any easier, unfortunately, but I’ve got a confidence and fluency I wouldn’t have otherwise.


•As a teacher and a double GH finalist, what tips would you offer other writers eager to place in contests and attract the attention of the publishing professionals?

Read, read, read. Write every single day. And learn to love revising.


•Have your GH finals and multiple requests opened doors for you?

Since my 2009 GH finalist was the first book I completed, and I had SOOOO much to learn about the industry, I haven’t been terribly aggressive in pursuing publication just yet, though I’ve had very encouraging responses from the tiny number of editors and agents I’ve shown work to. I love that first book, but it’s not terribly “high concept,” so I feel like I need to finish my second (more high concept) book before really going all out with trying to publish.

One of the agents I’d most love to work with is waiting on the full of The Devil May Care. I’m not moving forward looking for anyone else until I at least get that polished up and sent to her. I’d rather get things right than rush.

I didn’t feel ready to capitalize on my 2009 Golden Heart final. But I’m hoping the next few months will be big ones for me.



Elisa, the Blogging Pro


•You’re actively involved in a successful group blog. How did that come about, and what has the experience taught you?

One of the joys of finaling in the Golden Heart in 2009 has been developing a group blog with my fellow Ruby Slippered Sisters: We mostly focus on the joys and tribulations of writing, offering advice on craft, the industry, creative inspiration, and psychological fortitude. Last month, I did a post on this spring’s seminar on historical romance at Yale, and Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Christine Wells, Lauren Willig, Cara Elliott, Sarah Wendell, and Avon Editor Carrie Feron all stopped by and left comments. It was a blast!



Elisa’s Research Process


•Regency readers crave detail and descriptions that set the stage. They know the ins and outs of the ton and the Town and expect writers to get it right. How have you developed your knowledge of the era? What are your best sources of info?

It may just be my scholarly background, but I find doing research to be utterly delicious. Learning about the Battle of La Coruña for my current book has been a thrill: tracking down accounts of how many barrels of gunpowder were blown up before the French could claim them, using Google Earth to learn the details of the landscape, reading private letters from the soldiers who fought the battle, finding pictures of uniforms and weapons from different regiments that have been preserved in museums …. it’s amazing how much primary source info is on the web, if you know how to look for it. And everything I learn triggers more story ideas. I don’t think there’s any better cure for the story blahs than a fresh burst of research.



Elisa’s Journey Continues


•What are you working on now?

The Devil May Care is a much darker Regency than my fast and funny GH-finaling book, but still powered along by witty dialogue. I love smart, fast-talking people who are intentionally funny (and not just funny because of how often they screw things up—I hate ditzy heroines as much as I hate humorless heroes). The Devil May Care is set during the Peninsular War as the English were wrestling Napoleon for control of Spain and Portugal. The hero’s a spy, the heroine the identical twin sister of his murdered partner. To help catch the sister’s killers and foil Bonaparte’s plans in Iberia, the heroine—a provincial governess—must pass herself off as her sister, who was (in addition to being a spy) a notorious courtesan. The book’s got sea battles, double-crosses, fencing, explosions, secret identities, quick repartee, allusions to bawdy Latin poetry, mucho angst, and love scenes that will no doubt horribly embarrass my children someday. I’m having a ridiculously good time with these characters.



Five Fun Facts About Elisa, the Person


~ I blend in anywhere in the world except Scandinavia, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethnically, I’m mostly German, but with my dark hair, dark eyes and a good summer tan, anywhere I go in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Northern Africa, or Latin America, I get mistaken for a local. I should be a spy!

~ I love languages, and can read or speak English, French, Italian, Latin, and some Spanish, as well as Chaucerian Middle English. (Again, I should be a spy!)

~ I wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood, and told my sixth grade teacher I would definitely be working for NASA one day (ha! that was before I realized the job required MATH skills…and physical coordination). Now my sixth grade daughter is obsessed with space, and wants nothing more than to live on another planet. I’m fairly sure it’s not just because I annoy her.

~ I met my husband in a play (a very trashy, very violent Jacobean drama) in which he played an evil duke who specialized in seducing other men’s wives, and I played an innocent young girl who gets tricked into having an affair with her own uncle. Seriously, for over-the-top melodrama, Desperate Housewives has nothing on 17th-century theater.

~ Every wall in our house is a solid wall of books. Same with every wall in our classrooms. Our garage and rented storage space are solid cubes of book boxes. This is what happens when two bibliophilic English Ph.D.s marry. Beware!



Elisa’s Question for You

What wild careers did you imagine for yourself as a kid (astronaut? spy? ballerina? romance novelist?) and how close have you come to that dream?



Elisa’s Drawing

Elisa has generously offered to give away a $25 e-gift certificate from Barnes and Noble.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Elisa by midnight May 21 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On May 22, Elisa will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name in a comment. I’ll add it here as well and will provide her with your email address so she can send the e-certificate to you.

Congrats to Elise Hayes, winner of the B&N gift certificate donated by Elisa.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.



Learn More About Elisa

Visit her website and personal blog ~

Visit her group blog ~

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Elisa Beatty


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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54 Responses to Meet Novelist Elisa Beatty

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks, Autumn, Vivi, and Diane for stopping by! Autumn and Vivi, I know you’ve both been spending a lot of time out of easy internet range lately, so I especially appreciate the effort!

    Thanks for backing me up on the spy thing, Autumn. Problem is, if I REALLY tried it, I’m so clumsy, I’d be caught and dangling upside down over a shark tank within the first 30 minutes.

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks a million, Keli, for having me here!!

    It’s been a lot of fun. Interestingly, most of my family and non-romance-writing friends have told me via email or Facebook that they came and read the interview and totally enjoyed it, but it’s almost all fellow romance writers who left comments. Wonder what that means.

  3. Keli Gwyn says:

    Wow! It’s wonderful to see so many comments for Elisa. Thanks to everyone who visited and showed her support. You gave her a great gift.

    Elisa generously offered a $25 Barnes and Noble e-gift certificate as a drawing prize. The time has come to reveal the name of the winner, who gets to decide which books to buy. 🙂

    And the winner is . . . Elise Hayes. Congrats, Elise! Happy shopping!

  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    Congrats, Elise!

    And thanks again, Keli, and thanks to everyone who stopped by. The comments really are a gift!

Comments are closed.