South Carolina native Elaine Cantrell is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators, Romance Writers of America, and EPIC authors. Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books. Elaine married her childhood sweetheart and has two sons and three grandchildren. She finds time for quilting and reading as well as enjoying family and friends.
MTAR was delighted to have a chance to talk with Elaine — and we’re excited that she shared an excerpt from her current work with us!
MTAR: What do you do when you are not writing?
Elaine: I’m a social studies teacher.
MTAR: What inspired you to write your first book?
Elaine: My son Steve. He told me he has written a book, so I figured I probably could too. That first book was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love contest.
MTAR: How did you choose the genre you write in?
Elaine: I’ve always been an incurable romantic so the choice was super easy.
MTAR: Which book do you recommend for a reader that is new to your writing?
Elaine: Probably A New Dream, although it’s a hard choice to make.
MTAR: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Elaine: My biggest challenge was finding the time to take a manuscript to the post office. I had decided to submit a story to a contest and didn’t think to mail it off until the last minute. To my great surprise, I won the contest whose prize was publication of your novel.
MTAR: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Elaine: I try to do a press release, a release party, share excerpts on my blog, use Facebook and Twitter, and blog for anyone who’ll have me.
MTAR: Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Elaine: Yes, there is one, but I haven’t submitted anywhere since I revised it. Hopefully, this time someone will want it.
MTAR: What was your favorite scene to write and why?
Elaine: Never Trust a Pretty Wolf is my current release. The scene I liked most was the one where my hero and heroine discovered a dead body and were chased by the killers. My second favorite scene was the one where my heroine confronted the man she’s running away from. He’s one bad dude!
MTAR: How did you come up with the title?
Elaine: I got the title Never Trust a Pretty Wolf from my hero. He discovers something about my heroine, Liesel Wolf, and he vows he’ll never trust a wolf again, not even a pretty one.
MTAR: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Elaine: I really enjoy marriages of convenience. It’s fun to make the hero and heroine fall in love.
MTAR: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Elaine: One reviewer said my work was flat and stale, and the only reason she knew the hero was a hunk was because of the cover. That made me angry because I described him on page seven, and this book won an award from one major review site.
MTAR: What has been the best compliment?
Elaine: The reader hated for the book to end.
MTAR: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Elaine: Never give up. The way to publication is paved with rejection letters.
MTAR: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Elaine: Most of the time I hide a little message. The Sentence is about forgiveness and new beginnings, for example.
MTAR: If you had to choose, which writer would you pick for a mentor?
Elaine: I’d love to have Elizabeth Peters, Larry McMurtry, or Stephen King.
MTAR: What book are you reading now?
Elaine: The Mermaid Seat.
MTAR: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Elaine: Yes, a lot of them. Meg Mims, Jennifer Gravely, J. Gunnar Gray, Cherie Waggie to name a few.
MTAR: What are your current projects?
Elaine: I’m working on a romantic comedy that is yet unnamed. I just finished a scene where my heroine gets into a bean ball battle with Marilyn Monroe.
MTAR: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Adrenalin flooded Liesel’s body. “Oh, what is it?” she demanded, visions of poisonous snakes crawling around their
ankles dancing in her head.
“It’s a dead man.”
Liesel shoved Andy aside and bolted out of the cave as if the dead man had suddenly come to life and grabbed her ankle in the dark, his bloody, battered face staring into hers. She heard Andy shout, “Liesel, stop!” but she paid no attention to the fool. She
made it back to the place where they’d found the fake diamonds before Andy grabbed her. “Let me go! I want to get out of this awful place!”
“Liesel! Stop screaming! The man’s dead. He can’t hurt you.”
He gave her a little shake, and Liesel buried her face in her trembling hands. If he only knew…
Both of them spun around when they heard the sound of something heavy crashing through the bushes. Three men incongruously dressed in khakis, pastel colored polo shirts, and nice Italian loafers charged down the hill toward them. They all had grim expressions on their faces, expressions that went well with the guns they carried.
The report of a pistol filled the afternoon as something kicked up dirt near Liesel’s feet.
“Run!” she screamed.
She took off as if all the devils in Hades pursued her, and they probably did. Veering off the path, she plunged into the woods with Andy closely following. They ran for what seemed like forever. Small branches slapped her face and pulled her hair. She turned her ankle more than once when she tripped over fallen tree limbs or stepped into holes hidden in the forest underbrush. Finally, she had to stop. The hot, boring stitch in her side couldn’t be ignored any longer.
“Shhh,” Andy cautioned. He pointed toward a small depression on the far side of a rotten, fallen tree. Cautiously, they inched their way toward it. “Do you hear anything?” he whispered.
Liesel shook her head as she wiped sweat from her forehead. She couldn’t hear much of anything over the pounding of her heart. “Maybe we got away from them,” she mouthed.
Andy drew a deep breath. “Do you know those men?”
“For goodness’ sake, not now!”
“Give me the GPS.”
Liesel passed it to him. He studied it for a moment and pointed down the hill. “Follow me, and be very quiet. No more loud, panic–‐‑stricken runs.”
Liesel willingly followed him. Anything to get out of there. They moved through the woods as silently as possible, flinching when a careless foot snapped a branch. After one such incident, Liesel’s nerves got the better of her. She propped her foot on a rock and jerked a small handgun from a holster that she wore under her pant leg.
Andy’s hand shot out. “Give me that gun,” he commanded.
He took it from her with ease. “I don’t know why you have this,” he whispered, “but if we get out of here alive you have some explaining to do. Now, keep moving but stay in control. Remember, no headlong plunges into the woods.”
Forty‑five minutes later, they exited the woods near the bridge that crossed the little creek. Liesel fearfully scanned the inviting, family‑centered area. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Two o’clock. Men in khaki.” Andy came to a halt and jerked her against him. “Kiss me like you mean it.”
Liesel didn’t mind if she did. Hopefully the khaki men would never imagine that two lovers out for a stroll had only moments before been running for their very lives. She prayed the men didn’t get too good a look at them. Throwing her arms around him, she pressed her body against his.
She wouldn’t have admitted to it for anything, but in spite of the danger, she felt a thrill from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. Nobody could kiss like Andy Bryce!
Andy took her hand, and they strolled casually across the bridge as if they’d been on a leisurely little walk. He kissed her again before they got into the Mustang. The minute they got in, he put the car in gear and slowly made his way out of the park.
“Now, Liesel,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me why those men are trying to kill you?”
MTAR: Where have you found support?
Elaine: Some of my fellow authors at Astraea Press.
MTAR: Do you see writing as a career?
Elaine: Yes, I do. As soon as I retire from teaching I’ll be able to write full-time.
MTAR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Elaine: I dictated my first story to my father who wrote it on notebook paper in pencil. I was intrigued by a Little Golden Book he read to me and wanted to write my own story.
MTAR: Who designs your book covers?
Elaine: One of the cover artists from Astraea Press.
MTAR: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Elaine: The end. I never want my characters to leave me.
MTAR: Through your research do you typically learn something new from each book you write and what was it?
Elaine: Every time you write you find you learn from the editor’s comments and changes. What you learn depends on the book itself.
MTAR: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Elaine: Finding time to write the book. If you have a job outside of writing your interest is inevitably divided.
MTAR: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Elaine: Yes, I have. I found if I kept writing no matter what I could write through it.
MTAR: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Elaine: Just write. I have a starting point, and I know where I want to end up, but everything in between is revealed as I go.