Write Now With Elle Marr

Today’s Write Now interview features Elle Marr, lover of dim sum and author of THE FAMILY BONES.

Write Now With Elle Marr
Photo courtesy of Elle Marr

Who Are You?

A reader, francophone, and lover of dim sum, I’m thriller writer Elle Marr. Writing novels has been my favorite pastime for the last decade, and I frequently set my stories in the Pacific Northwest, in Oregon, where I live.

What Do You Write?

I write stories that I would like to read. Namely, thrillers that feature a diverse cast of characters, set in atmospheric locales, and which ask sharp questions that stick with me for days at a time. It always comes down to fun for me—am I enjoying myself while writing this story? If the answer is no, I know something’s got to change in the plot. As far as words or themes that I avoid, I think everything is on the table, depending on the characters’ needs and backgrounds. Writing as a novelist has always been a dream of mine, since I was a kid first filling the pages of a small journal with notes about my day. Kitty ate her lunch but she didn’t like it. Kitty slept next to me and I gave her a pat. I like to think my writing has evolved since then, and I feel incredibly lucky to offer up stories for readers now.

Where Do You Write?

Honestly, I love the idea of writing tools but I rarely use them. Instead of sketching ideas or plots in my (dozens of) notebooks and journals, or creating sticky notes that cover my wall in outlines, I am a Word doc minimalist. Seated at my desk, facing a wall of my framed book covers (to remind myself that I’ve done this before, I can do it again!), I often have five different Word docs open or minimized in the lower toolbar of my laptop. Usually the docs are my manuscript (I have never written a book long-hand on paper), a doc for my outline, another doc for saved but excised paragraphs from my manuscript, character descriptions and backgrounds, and the initial synopsis I write for every book I undertake before putting my hands to the keyboard. Mostly, I write while listening to Apple playlists (Pop, One Republic, Taylor Swift, or Beyonce) because the upbeat songs create an energetic yet ambient soundtrack that I can tune out.

When Do You Write?

I wish I were as organized as this! While I add this prompt to my list of goals for 2023, I’ll reply that every writing session is different lately. I have small kids at home, so they really dictate when and how long I get to write or edit my manuscript. Generally, I try to wake up by six in the morning, write for an hour, then sneak in writing throughout the day during nap times. If I’m adhering to NaNoWriMo rules (National Novel Writing Month), I’ll aim for the 1667 daily word count goal, and anything more than that is a bonus. When actively drafting a novel (versus editing), I’ll try for 15 minute sprints just to get a few paragraphs on the page. Often, once I’m in the habit of writing each day and hitting these word count goals, then the pages come more easily. Rewards are also a fun way to motivate myself (because we all work better with a carrot), and I like to celebrate a good day of drafting with a sweet treat.

Why Do You Write?

When I wake up in the morning, I think about writing. Now, I also think about my family, what I’m going to eat, and whether I can squeeze in a walk that day, but the idea of writing is always exciting to me. It might be tiring to think of it or even nerve-wracking, but it holds the promise of discovery as well. I write because I couldn’t stop if I tried. I am motivated to create stories that feature more mixed-race characters that look like me, because they were a rarity when I was growing up. I’m inspired by anyone pursuing their passion, but particularly in art: theatre, music, books, and other forms.

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

Usually, when I can’t get an idea that works on paper, I will take a brain break. Meaning, I’ll go on a walk, go people watching at some public place, or binge watch a show for inspiration. Movies take too much time—are too much of an investment when I’m on deadline—to see through a plot’s arc, and short-form TV provides a faster payoff.

Bonus: What Do You Enjoy Doing When Not Writing?

Watching live theatre. There’s nothing like experiencing a story through an actor’s personal delivery, and while seated beside other like-minded art-lovers. Thanks for allowing me to share my process!

My thanks to Elle Marr for today’s interview.