Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m chatting DJ Elton. Welcome to the Clubhouse tearoom, Gopi.
Hi Paula! It’s great to be here to have a sit-down and natter with you. I love your enthusiasm with the Clubhouse, and your recent successes with your novels. And we’re having high tea. Lovely! Actually I’ll have coffee thanks, have you got any Columbian? Great. Any cakes? Scones and plum jam with whipped cream. You’ve made my week Paula; we’re a bit on the deprived side in Melbourne lately, with lockdown and all.
It’s lovely to have you here too. So let’s start by asking you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’ve always been writing short bits here and there throughout my life. Lots of poetry – about love, relating, feelings, spiritual themes. I did a major health cure of a pretty serious medical condition for over a year, ten years back, and wrote out that whole story, but I didn’t get serious about publishing until I wrote a novella, ‘The Merlin Girl’, and paid to have it self-published as it seemed easier at the time. I loved the writing part although the rest of it was a big lesson in what not to do. Ouch! But I learned from that situation. Currently, I’m doing short stories, micro-fiction and poetry because I want to tighten up in those areas and so I’m not thinking about ‘the novel’ at this point in time. My influences you ask? All the loved great ones like Alice, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Andersen’s Fairy Tales; these all grew my love for fantasy. Contemporary authors I like are Maria Lewis and Alice Hoffman, as well as Ben Elton and Ian McEwan. I write sci-fi and some horror too – more psychological than gory horror. Working as a clinician in mental health helped develop that in my writing.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you write short stories, or poetry do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you?
The last few short stories I’ve written have been quite tightly plotted out, but then the fun starts as I’m very flexible; other ideas creep in and take over, so I’m revising a lot and never rigid about plot. Adding or changing a character always brings new perspectives. I do like mind-mapping the story, key words, all of that, and then filling in the bits. It’s constant renewal until the first draft is done. Then edits and more edits, too many edits and that’s before the beta readers add their take.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
All of my characters have traits based on real people, some have more than others. Usually a character is made up of several aspects of different people put together. For this reason, haha, some friends and relatives love to hear what I write and some politely avoid it. I did write about someone once and it was pretty obvious who it was and I had chosen to hone in on some of their faulty behavior, so that didn’t sit well, but we have never discussed it, and I’m glad about that. But it could have been influenced by anyone…everyone has some fascinating traits!
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
People might be surprised to know that I’m quite self-disciplined. It’s all tied up with my meditation background which has been happening for some decades now; I don’t drink alcohol, smoke, use substances and I’m vegetarian. As a yogi I meditate for up to two hours a day, sometimes more, in chunks. It’s actually all about where you position your mind. My first meditation is early in the morning so at 5am I’m quite nicely primed to write as then I have a lot more clarity about what I want to say. I also have a wildly active imagination with all of the above, and rarely get bored. That’s probably why I chose the fantasy genre.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My writing work schedule is rather haphazard as I tend to multitask. I have my 5am writing slot, and I don’t sit writing at a desk all day. Maybe I would if I were writing a novel, but now I snatch time when I can write (or edit) and take it as it comes. I’m also finishing some postgraduate study in writing and literature, so I hope to have more regular writing time later in the year. I’m also involved in other admin activities and events tied into with my meditation practice, which keep me busy too, although lockdown has made most things online. Ideally I average an hour a day with 500 plus words; this is good for me at the moment. But then my favourite publisher will put out a juicy micro-fiction call, and it’s spontaneous writing and submitting there and then! You would understand that, wouldn’t you, Paula. (haha!)
(Yep, I do Gopi. We both love the Dark Lord and his micro-fiction call outs :-))
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
My pen name is DJ Elton. If I were to seriously take up another genre, eg: paranormal romance, I might consider using another pen name. I just need to separate myself a bit from the different hats I wear. It’s fun thinking up pen names. One became one of my characters and she could be getting her own novella. Social media is mostly in my pen name, and some of you will know me otherwise.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
The names for characters just seem to land. With fantasy and PNR there can be an influence that is medieval, Celtic, Far Eastern or made-up names. There are a lot of clichéd names about so sometimes research is needed to get the right name. I don’t know too much about my characters before writing them. They flourish as their story unfolds as it’s being put to the page. I would like to be super character-orientated and map each one out but there has to be room for spontaneity and improvisation. Besides, some of them come along and try and take over – I do believe this happens! – trying to hijack or steer the story line, and hey, sometimes you let them. As they come alive, then I start to relate more to their persona and needs.
What was your hardest scene to write?
This is an interesting question because I find horror scenes hard to write. So it’s not so much a scene, but the whole genre! I can write if it’s humorous – you know, plastic fangs and cheeky ghosts, that kind of thing, but dark, dark visceral horror just doesn’t flow out of my pen. I can’t get into the fear side of it, or maybe it’s about my fear side? I guess it is, although I don’t seem to feel that fear thing. I find this quite fascinating, and actually had a recent interview on my blog with three respected horror writers about what it is about it that inspires them, and it was mostly about fear. I’d be interested in your take on it too, Paula. Currently I’m writing a short story which has both a murder and a suicide, and the challenge will be to write it with that level of feeling and emotion intent, as I can sometimes write in quite a detached way. I have worked in community mental health in my past life, so I know a lot in theory and practical experience and I won’t need to research it. The story is psychological thriller stuff although this WIP is a paranormal romance.
How long on average does it take you to write a book, story, poem?
It can take five minutes to write 100 words of micro-fiction; a drabble. Thirty minutes to write 500 words. That usually just flows out and I find it easy enough, especially with a given theme. I’ve had to cut a 450 word story down to 100 words a few times, and that’s an interesting little editing exercise which also adds much extra time. Editing and re-editing, all the drafts…that’s where my time goes. I’m talking about short stories now. I recently wrote a poem which is being published, and the research on it seemed to take forever (about three weeks!) whereas I wrote it up in ten minutes. Poetry is easy to write quickly, I find it really flows well. I did write a novella; it was only 15,000 words and took me three years to write, but that’s ancient history. Now I could write the same amount of words in less than two months, especially if it were the one and only WIP.
Thank you so much for joining, Gopi. It’s been great talking with you. It was sneaky of you to throw a couple of questions back at me. (hehe)
To find out more about DJ Elton and her work check out these links:
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.