Practical learnings turned fantasy

Friday, February 17, 2012


Staff Writer

Fans of fantasy writing will find a favorite in Bedford-based author Elaine Isaak, who has three published novels under her belt and several other works in production.

Her books are available through Toadstool Bookshop in Milford and through her website,, where budding authors also can benefit from her writing advice and inquire about scheduling a writing workshop.

Isaak took some time away from creating otherworldly adventures to answer our questions about why she became a writer, funding her latest endeavor through Kickstarter .

Here’s part of the conversation:

Question: What made you decide to become a writer?

Answer: I have a friend who is an astrophysicist. He and I once had a chat where I asked why he had gone into that field. He replied that he’d been a big fan of Ray Bradbury as a kid, and reading Bradbury made him think, “I want to do that – I want to go to Mars.” I was a Bradbury fan as well, but my reaction was, “I want to do that – I want to make people believe they can go to Mars.” Fiction is a chance to discover other lives, other worlds – and writing allows me to create those worlds and share them with others. It’s like a giant, wonderful game of “Let’s pretend.”

Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

A: Just about everywhere. Often, by reading non-fiction – history, archaeology, science – or by traveling to museums, historic sites and cultural events. Right now, I’m working on a young adult fantasy novel inspired by reptile biology, global climate change and China’s one-child policy. Reptile gender is often determined by the temperature of the eggs. What if a society of reptiles had a gender preference similar to those in China who prefer to have boys? And what if global cooling meant that they could no longer manage the gender balance in their society? That basic concept gave me plot, characters, conflicts.

And the name of the hero in my first novel was inspired by my high school job at Ames department store. …

Q: Do you have one character that’s your favorite?

A: I’m usually very invested in whomever I’m writing about at the time, but I’d have to say that Wolfram, the protagonist of “The Eunuch’s Heir,” was the most fun to write. He’s reckless, resourceful, bold – he’d try anything to achieve his goals, and he didn’t care what anyone else thought.

Q: How did you go about getting published? Was the first book you published also the first book you wrote?

A: I actually had submitted my novel through the “slush pile”: the heap of unagented manuscripts sent to a publisher by unknown authors. When I heard from an editor who was interested, I told him, “My agent will call you back.” Then I hung up the phone and called my top three agent choices. Funny, they’re always willing to talk when you’ve got an offer on the table!

Q: I understand you’ve decided to fund your current project, “An Author’s Grimoire,” through Kickstarter. Could you tell me more about the project and why you decided to publish it in this way?

A: A grimoire is a textbook for wizards. So, “An Author’s Grimoire” will be a how-to manual for writers, and fantasy writing in particular. I’ve been writing articles and leading workshops for more than 10 years, but I’m not famous enough to sell a non-fiction book through a traditional publisher. Indie-publishing on the Internet, though, doesn’t offer an advance that can help to support the writing while I’m working. Kickstarter is a nice way to fill this gap. “An Author’s Grimoire” will be available first to backers who sign up between Feb. 17 and April 2 on Just search for my name or title!

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