This week, I had the privilege of catching up with Elena Shelest, author of contemporary fantasy The Seven Lives of Grace and creator of beautiful artwork, which she shares on her Instagram account, @lena_fiveminutediscovery.
Read on to see what we chatted about…
Hi Elena! Thank you for chatting with me today. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in a port city of Odessa, Ukraine by the Black Sea (and still can’t swim well, go figure). When I was almost fifteen, I immigrated to the States and switched my major from art to nursing. Still do both. I currently reside in Oregon with my hubby, two busy and always hungry boys, a cutely annoying dog, a standoffish cat, and a nosy bunny. I wish we were closer to the beach and somewhere warmer but love the nature here.
Wow, an artist and a nurse? That’s incredible! When did you start writing and who or what inspired you?
I’ve been writing poetry and journaling since I was a teen as a way to express myself. I think writing is in my blood as my mother is a poetess too. I’ve started a few stories but never had enough time to finish them until my husband sent me on a mission to test the waters in Texas (we’re always trying to move somewhere, by the way). It didn’t work out, but I had a few free weeks doing nothing at my friends’ house with no family to take care of (always hungry boys were at the mercy of my husband’s cooking abilities). So, I sat by the pool for hours and finally wrote a story that’s been on my heart for a while. New ones just kept coming afterwards.
Gosh that sounds like the dream – weeks to spend writing while your husband takes care of the kids! I’m jealous. What’s your favourite genre to read and write?
Everything I read has to have a fantasy element in it. Otherwise I get bored. I love when authors explore the impossible, the magical, the realm of the unknown, stretching our imagination. Of course, some romance needs to be present as well.
Romantic fantasy is my number one favourite too! On that note, tell us about your debut novel.
My book The Seven Lives of Grace is about dreams coming true. My heroine, Grace, is a twenty-something bookish Seattle dweller who’s struggling to make ends meet. She gave up her dream career to take care of her ill mother and younger sister but now wants to do something different with her life. Getting a magical inheritance was not what she had in mind! Mayhem begins when she decides to give mysterious gifts and tries to discover not only her destiny but also herself.
There is a caveat. She has only seven days to figure things out and make a decision that can alter her life forever. If you want to read a book that makes you go deep while having fun, check it out on Amazon.
That sounds wonderful and so uplifting! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings?
I like it when magic meets everyday reality, so all the places in my books are real. Therefore, I do a lot of research. For The Seven Lives of Grace, the setting is Seattle. I loved visiting this port city that’s not too far from where we live. My character was inspired by my desire to see women realize their potential and reach for their dreams in life, so she’s very relatable to our everyday struggles.
With The Healer’s Choice that’s coming out this year, I wrote about places I’ve never visited but plan to. Istanbul and the culture behind it is fascinating. Southern Ukraine/Crimea is amazing too. The characters have some traits of different people I’ve met but it’s a completely new DNA. It’s like watching your kids grow up. I might do some initial molding, but then they take off on their own.
Istanbul is incredible, and I’d love to visit Ukraine! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser?
I am a total pantser. I love being surprised by the characters and the story. But that makes editing a longer process than I’d like it to be. So… I am transitioning to plantser. Does it make me a reformed pantser now?
Haha, I think a lot of pantsers transition to plantser eventually. What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on a historical fantasy set in the 17th century Ottoman Empire. It follows the journey of Adiela, the daughter of a Jewish merchant and the first carrier of the magical gifts. It was super fun doing the research for the story as well as looking a little deeper into my own cultural roots. The male character is a Slavic Cossack warrior from the territory that was the birthplace of modern day Ukraine.
If you’re interested in following my writing journey, being my beta-reader or getting some behind-the-scenes details about the story + a few other extras, you can sign up to be notified of the progress (you will also get my once-a-month newsletter. It’s fun and insightful, I promise!
17th Century Ottoman Empire? Sign me up! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors?
I wish someone would have told me how much time and effort it takes to birth a book. The only reason I didn’t quit was because I had a fully written manuscript on my hands before I realized how much further I needed to go. So my advice would be, if you’re serious about it, write the whole story first, then get into the nitty gritty of the writing and publishing jungle.
Great advice, it definitely isn’t easy. How can we find out more about you and your books?
If you want to look through my inspirational blog posts, check out my website: www.fiveminutediscovery.com
If you want to see my awesome updates about writing life and life in general, find me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/elenashelestwriter
If you just want to know when my next book is coming out, follow me on Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/elenashelest
Get a free novella, Sweets Make Everything Better (yes they do, especially if they are laced with some magic) when you sign up to my newsletter: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/fw9l65v5od
I definitely recommend checking out Elena’s gorgeous artwork, some of her pieces are going to be included in Enchanted Waters alongside Helena Satterthwaite’s illustrations of the ten enchanting short stories we’ve written for this collection.
Elena’s story, The Wishing Well, is inspired by Slavic folklore. It’s a haunting and captivating tale, complimented by stunning paintings by Elena herself. You’re definitely going to want the paperback of this collection! I’ll show you some sneak peeks of the artwork when I’m allowed.