Updated: May 19
"I felt so vulnerable starting this journey. I hadn’t written any fiction in ten years and felt so much self-doubt. So I think I needed to write a story that would take me head first into all those challenging feelings all of us face as creatives."
This month I had the delightful opportunity to interview Author Joani Elliott. Check out her wonderful insights. And be sure to check out her fabulous debut novel The Audacity of Sara Grayson.
TCA: How did the idea for Sara Grayson emerge?
JE: In 2015, I left my faculty position, which I loved, at the University of Maryland to chase a dream of publishing a novel. I knew that if I kept teaching writing instead of actually writing, I’d never fulfill that dream. So many of my colleagues were good at managing both. I wasn’t.
Well, my writing experience went from challenging to terrible to agonizing. I had so many starts and stops and nothing that was really working for me, which led to a lot of procrastination and a lot of me reorganizing my kitchen pantry, my closets, my garage. I was aimlessly wandering the aisles of the Container Store buying more organizational supplies. I thought, what have I done, leaving my job? Writing is a horrible, terrible thing.
Four months into my very bad idea, I was sitting one morning thinking about how agonizing this whole process had been, but at least I didn’t have the pressure of anyone waiting for my book. I could be grateful for that. Then I thought, what would it be like if people were actually waiting for my novel—or what if I had millions of fans waiting for me to write my book?
What would that feel like?
And that’s the day Sara Grayson was born. I imagined a woman who was in far worse writing agony than I was. Not a soul in the world cared if I finished my book, but in that moment I saw a woman who had her mother’s dying wish plus thirty million fans waiting for her to finish the biggest book of the decade. Who was she? How did she end up in this situation?
TCA: Are there sections in the book that are autobiographical from your own writing/teaching journey? How have you felt vulnerable as you prepared to write and publish The Audacity of Sara Grayson?
JE: In many ways I felt like I was rediscovering the craft of novel writing right along with Sara Grayson. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were quotes that I needed as well as Sara. The self-doubt, the ups and downs. The way you can feel like a rock star one day and the pits of despair the next. There is always this voice in the back of your head that is asking, Can you really do this? Does this even matter? And I’ve learned it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Also, The Container Store is not a good place to write a book.
TCA: Both our books have been labeled GENERAL. If you were to create your own label, what is The Audacity of Sara Grayson to readers?
JE: ABANDONED DREAMS Section :)
TCA: I’ve heard it said, “The story picks the writer.” Do you think that is true for you? Where have you found yourself most essential in the writer/author world?
JE: I think that could be true here. I felt so vulnerable starting this journey. I hadn’t written any fiction in ten years and felt so much self-doubt. So I think I needed to write a story that would take me head first into all those challenging feelings all of us face as creatives. The response among readers has been beautiful, particularly from writers, who feel like the book resonates with them and encourages them to write again or to keep writing–to take courage. It makes what I do as a writer feel deeply meaningful. I love my job.
MAR 2023 GIVEAWAY
This month win an autographed hardcover of The Audacity of Sara Grayson ($27.00 value) by Joani Elliott.