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Interview: Loretta Ellsworth

February 2nd, 2010 (07:19 am)
thirsty

Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Castle score music

Loretta Ellsworth's new book, In a Heartbeat, is narrated by two very different characters: Eagan, a sixteen-year-old ice skater, and Amelia, a fourteen-year-old heart transplant recipient. This book will tug at readers' heartstrings as they learn of the tragic circumstances that bind Eagan and Amelia together. If you enjoy novels like If I Stay by Gayle Forman and/or books with multiple narrators, I urge you to pick up In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth.

I'm flattered to be kicking off Loretta's tour today, the very day of the book's release. We spoke of narrative, research, and inspiration, among other things.

When writing In a Heartbeat, did you find it difficult to switch back and forth between the two different voices? Did you write the story as-is, with the narrative alternating back and forth with every chapter, or did you write all or the majority of one girl's story first, then go back and fill in the chapters for the other narrator?

I started out with both viewpoints. I did try to write one story and go back, but this posed some problems because when I put the stories together, the chapters didn't flow as well, so I had to go back again and write in the alternating chapters. Part of the problem was the fact that I didn't know where the book was going, so I needed the viewpoints of both girls to help me discover the story. But writing alternating chapters posed a challenge in keeping their voices distinct.

How much research did you do into organ research and cellular memory before writing this book? What fascinates you about the most about cellular memory?

I read quite a bit about organ transplants and cellular memory. What fascinates me most is the insistence of some heart transplant recipients who claim to have memories or characteristics that weren't there before the transplant. The communication between the brain and the heart is a two-way dialogue and so much still isn't known, but I don't know why some people experience this phenomena and others don't, if it really is just the effects of the many drugs they take, or if the cells really do carry memory. It will be interesting as more people have transplants and more studies are done in that field.

Your first novel, The Shrouding Woman, was published in 2002. How do you feel your writing has changed since then? Was it your first completed manuscript?

I first wrote an adult novel, which is still in a box in my closet. But as a middle school teacher, the voices that resonated with me were younger, and I felt that I'd found my niche when I wrote The Shrouding Woman, which was my first completed children's manuscript. A relative of mine told me that she can see my writing developing and getting better with each book I write. I'm not always aware of that, but I do know so much more about the writing process after spending two years pursuing a Master's degree in Writing for Children, and I find that I have more confidence in my writing and that I do things purposefully now in my writing instead of accidentally.

Your second novel, In Search of Mockingbird, was born out of your admiration for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Have you woven any real-life experiences into any of your otherwise fictional stories? Do you see yourself in any of your main characters?

I think all writers find bits of their lives scattered throughout their books. We draw on our past, consciously or unconsciously, and it can't help but be reflected in our writing. Many of the characters possess certain traits of people I've known. I usually attempt to make the main characters different from me - I'm not sure how well I succeed.

What are your ten favorite books of all time? I know what's at the top of your list...

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (of course!)
2. Huckleberry Finn
3. The Great Gatsby
4. Charlotte's Web
5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
6. Little Women
7. Canticle for Leibowitz
8. The Pearl
9. Tuck Everlasting
10. Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman

Visit Loretta's website.

Follow Loretta's blog tour:
February 2, 2010: Bildungsroman
February 3, 2010: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
February 4, 2010: April Nichole
February 5, 2010: Library Lounge Lizard
February 6, 2010: The Book Butterfly
February 7, 2010: Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
February 8, 2010: Books by Their Cover
February 9, 2010: Shelf Elf
February 9, 2010: Pop Culture Junkie
February 10, 2010: Books Are My Lovers
February 11, 2010: Mother Daughter Book Club
February 12, 2010: Mother Daughter Book Club Interview
February 13, 2010: Read This Book