Ella Preuss is a vibrant young writer I’ve been getting to know on Facebook. In addition to being a prolific writer, Ella is also a take-charge kind of person who knows quite a bit about how to make the most of social media. Here’s the interview we did via email recently:
1. Since we met on Facebook earlier this year I’ve learned that you are a versatile writer with not just one, but two, series of novels in the works. One is The Black Comet Chronicles, a young adult dystopian series; the other is the Into the Light series in the more recently coined new adult genre. Why did you pick the young adult and new adult genres? And how is it that you came to be working on these series simultaneously?
For me, it’s always been young adult — ever since picking up the first Harry Potter book and reading it as it morphed from a MG into a YA series. As a teen, I devoured everything I could find, and I started falling for the genre. I started my first novel, a paranormal YA, at sixteen. It went through various changes, until Kami Garcia’s and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures came out in 2009, and after reading it, I was devastated that my book was practically the same. It had dreams that turned into reality, the same kind of magic I was writing about, a very similar family structure. It was as if I had drawn from their imagination to write my story! So I shelved my book, convinced it wouldn’t do me any good to keep writing it. But I did keep reading. More and more each year.
Finally, I decided, there aren’t any more “original” stories left, are there? There are just takes on them, depending on each author. So at nineteen, I sat down, brought out my novel, renamed it Insomnia, made a bunch of structural changes, and finished it at over 100,000 words. It was my first long novel, and while I knew it wasn’t perfect, I loved it just the same. Still do.
Then came The Hunger Games and the Shatter Me series, both dystopias, both two of my favourites. And both with strong female leads. I became interested in exploring a dystopian world from a male POV, something I still haven’t seen in the genre. There seems to be an overflowing amount of female leads who fit a certain mold, and while I love that, I can’t help but think the male figure has been pushed to the sidelines, condemned to work as the love interest who helps the female lead however he can. I aimed to change that.
In The Black Comet Chronicles, I tell the story of Milo, a young cyborg thrown in the middle of a brutal war between humans and an anarquist cyborg group known as the New Revolt. Milo’s seventeen, a crucial age, I think, and I wanted to explore his feelings, his actions in the face of danger. I’m revising the first book in the series, and I honestly don’t know when I’ll publish it, but I’m aiming for next year.
But since the market is to the brim with dystopias, and readers seem to be getting tired of them, I decided to try something new. And that’s how I ended up writing new adult.
I can do things in this new genre that wouldn’t fit in a YA novel, but also, I think it serves as a way to explore our characters under a different light.
My NA novel, The Darkness That Haunts Us, is written from a dual POV, both Megan and Isaac have their own chapters. Here, I could play again with stepping into a female and male POV, this time, in the same book. Both my characters have struggles of their own, and I loved teasing the readers by dropping hints every now and then, until in the end, it all becomes clear, and I come full circle with my character’s developments.
I’m getting ready to publish Darkness any day now! University keeps getting in the way.
2. As a young writer thriving in Argentina, what would you like people in North America to know about your life that we’re likely to be clueless about? How did you become so fluent in English? And how does being bilingual (or maybe even multilingual if you know more than two languages) help you as a writer?
I was five when I told my mum I wanted to learn English. I don’t remember why, but I really wanted it. I was lucky to have been accepted at such a young age in an English language institute with three other five-year-olds. Back then, my textbooks featured a green alien and little to no words, leaving more room for colours and shapes (although I’d learned to read at three-years-old). We learned British English, the same way you learn Spanish from Spain and not the Spanish spoken in Argentina, because they’re the “correct and original” versions of the language. I remember once I wrote “favorite” in my workbook, and my teacher made me write “favourite” all over a notebook page. (And now I cringed while writing Darkness, because I decided to write it in American English, being that it’s set in Chicago. I had to make sure “neighbor” was rightly written, because to me, it’s missing a letter.)
You’re definitely used to it, being native speakers and living where you live, but do you know how culturally bombarded by the USA the rest of the countries are? That’s one of the reasons non-English speakers get used to North American idioms so quickly. (And I’m a firm advocate of the usage of the term North American, as opposed to the simple American. I’m American too, you know!) We turn on the telly, and bam! Dozens of Northern programs. I grew up watching Veronica Mars, Smallville, Law and Order, and the like. Listening to that foreign language. And going back to the language institute and being scolded when I didn’t speak in a proper British accent. That nonsense stopped when I turned seventeen and Oxford realised that not everyone could speak like that, and honestly, they didn’t need to. But I’d already picked up the British aspects of the language, and I graduated from the institute being laughed at by my classmates who said, “I wanted to sound foreign and posh.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I started reading in English as soon as I could. I’d underline the words I didn’t know, look them up in my dictionary, and re-read the chapter, understanding everything. Took me a month to read HP 6 this way. I was 13. So I guess I started expanding my English vocabulary way more than my Spanish one. It’s why I feel more comfortable writing in English. I try to write in Spanish occasionally, but I just can’t.
I wouldn’t say that being billingual has helped me much as an author. It has opened doors to me in the Northern market. The indie movement in English speaking countries is better developed than in Argentina, and I can start publishing as soon as I want and know that I’ll be read. Here, I don’t have that chance. Sadly, Big Publishers still rule the market.
I love learning languages (even inventing them). I speak a bit of French (it’s easy to me because it’s a Romance language, like Spanish), I understand Portuguese because it doesn’t differ much from Spanish, and I’m learning Japanese and Russian because I love the challenge of learning new alphabets.
3. You mentioned you also enjoy photography. Do you find that pursuing photography enriches you as a writer? If so, how?
That’s kinda funny, because I actually enrolled in uni to become a director of photography. In case you don’t know, they’re the ones who decide how films will look like based on the director’s wishes. They choose lighting compositions and the colouring of the final product. Basically, when you watch a film, you’re watching the visual decisions of a DP (approved by the film’s director). I love photography, and I had a friend who’d enrolled in film uni, so I decided to drop English translation and switch degrees. In Argentina, you enroll in uni for the career you want to have, we don’t have that two years of deciding what to pursue. Or is it three years? So at 18, I dropped English, a career that was definitely going to be depressing for me, and I had to wait till the following year to go back, this time, to enroll in film school.
All this time I kept writing. And soon I realised that I didn’t want t become a DP. As much as I love photography, I could care less about the sensitivity of film or the amount of kilowatts needed for a certain light setting. So I switched again, this time, to follow the scriptwriting career. Now I feel more at ease, in my element.
4. You recently told me you are a Goodreads librarian. What does a Goodreads librarian do? And how can writers use the site to connect with readers and vice versa? What other social media sites you enjoy, as well? Why is that?
I’m a little OCD. I need to see everything organised and properly defined. And I love Goodreads (GR). So when I started seeing that summaries were awfully written, or that there were things that needed changes, I applied to be a Librarian.
Being a GR Librarian comes with a lot of responsability. You can’t do anything you want unless you want to be banned from the site. Major changes have to be approved sometimes. What I usually do is correct the spelling of summaries, erase unnecessary lines, add covers when they’re released, add little details like website info and such. And we can create new profiles for books. Librarians make sure these profiles are complete, so that when others look for them, they can find them easily.
Authors can apply for the Goodreads Author status. It’s like a regular profile, but it features the author’s books and gives readers the chance to follow them and friend them. GR is a great tool, I believe, in promoting upcoming releases. Readers can add as many books as they want to their Want To Read list. Their friends will see this action and possibly follow the link their friend has clicked, creating more exposure for the author’s book.
I use it to keep track of what I read. There’re others who’ll tell you that GR is where authors die in agony. A newbie author can spend hours refreshing the page, waiting for more readers to add their book to their lists, share comments and review, and more importantly, waiting for a rating. The horror! To authors, I say, don’t waste more time than needed on GR. Spend that time building a community in FB and Twitter. Tumblr’s getting big in the book blogging world now, too. And it’s so much fun.
5. What drew you to the Sisters Born, Sisters Found anthology? What would you like readers to know about Soaring into Space, the story you contributed to the anthology?
I think that what drew me to the anthology was the idea of sharing stories that came from the heart. All of my stories do, but I wanted to do something special for this book.
I started writing something contemporary, and it gradually morphed into a story with fantasy elements. I can’t seem to be able to escape from my love of magic. I’d like you to know that it’s a story based from my own experiences, a story of strength. I don’t hold grudges against the people who have wronged me. I simply pity them now. And I wish I were able to help them be better.
6. Where can people get in touch with you and learn more about your work?
You can find me all over the internet, seriously! I’m on Facebook (three times!), Twitter, Tumblr, and I have my website/blog.
My FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEllaPreuss
My FB Photography Page: https://www.facebook.com/ellapressblog
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllaPress
My Tumblr: http://ellainthetardis.tumblr.com/
And my Website: http://ellapreuss.blogspot.com.ar/
Ella Preuss is a 22-year-old writer from La Plata, Argentina. When she’s not reading or creating stories, you can find her with her camera in hand, capturing life’s sweet, brief moments. Ella’s writing a dystopian young adult series titled The Black Comet Chronicles, and The Darkness That Haunts Us — the first new adult novel in her Into the Light series — is getting ready to be published soon.