Elizabeth Fountain left a demanding job as a university administrator in Seattle to move to the small town of Ellensburg, Washington, and pursue her dream of writing novels. She started writing in grade school; fortunately, most of her tortured high school poetry and song lyrics are lost to posterity. Her first book was five years in the making, and offered lots of opportunities to give up along the way; that might be why it’s a tale of people, aliens, and dogs who face the impossible, and do it anyway. An independent publishing house in Calgary, Champagne Book Group, released the novel in April. Now Liz has three more novels in progress. She takes breaks from writing to teach university courses, spend time with family and friends, and take long walks while leaning into the diabolical Kittitas valley wind. She holds degrees in philosophy, psychology, and leadership, which contribute to a gently humorous view of humanity well suited to tales of aliens and angels, love and death, friendship and dogs. Liz strives to live according to a line from British singer-songwriter Chris Rea: “Every day, good luck comes in the strangest of ways.”
Her latest book is An Alien’s Guide to World Domination.
About the Book:
Louise Armstrong Holliday is the last person on Earth you’d expect to save the human race. But when she uncovers proof that her boss is an alien the color of lime jelly gone horribly wrong, and is at the center of a plot to destroy humanity, Louie decides to do exactly that. She begins a journey from her company’s suburban Seattle office park to the old cities and castles of Eastern Europe. Along the way, Louie is attacked by flying books, overly-sensitive bat-crow monsters, and her own self-doubts. She must learn the truth about her closest friend, stand up to her boss, confront her oldest enemy, and make peace with her Aunt Emma, who annoys her in the way only true family can. She also has to rely on Buddy, the little blind mini-Schnauzer who saves her life twice – and really is from Mars.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON.
Would you call yourself a born writer?
I would call myself a born reader. My parents taught me to read early, and I entertained myself with books from about as young as I can remember. Reading wonderful books by Roald Dahl, Jolly Roger Bradfield, and others, helped train me to adore terrific storytelling, and inspired me to paint pictures with words. My writing began early too, but fortunately, most of the really early and terrible stuff is lost.
What was your inspiration for An Alien’s Guide to World Domination?
For a while I struggled with trying to write a “serious” novel about a woman who works too much. I know, it bored even me. Then in 2008, after a conversation with a dear friend, I dreamt a central scene in the story: two people, on a bridge, in danger, and one reveals himself to be an alien. I woke up with most of the plot of An Alien’s Guide in my head, and the realization that this story needed to be set in a world like ours, but different. In this world, aliens are real and all around us, and dogs are from Mars.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
Sometimes I worry that I really only write about one theme: belonging. Finding where, and to whom, she belongs drives Louie, the main character in An Alien’s Guide, to do so many things she wouldn’t dream of otherwise. My other works in progress explore this theme, too, as do my short stories. Heaven, my short tale of a renegade angel and the trouble he creates when he falls in love with a woman on Earth, questions whether belonging is powerful enough to stand up to the highest power and turn Hell back to Heaven. It will be published in a compilation later this summer.
I love writing science fiction and fantasy because these forms allow us to immerse ourselves in the deeper questions about what it means to belong to the human race, without taking ourselves too seriously. My hope is that as readers laugh with (and at) Louise, Jack, Sergio, Jones, and the other wacky characters in An Alien’s Guide, they’ll also realize they know what it’s like to feel suddenly surrounded by aliens. In fact, I like to say this book is for anyone who’s ever looked at their boss and thought: “you must be from another planet.” In other words, all of us!
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
An Alien’s Guide took about five years from start to publication. Three and a half of those years I spent writing the manuscript and preparing it to send to potential agents and publishers. Six months went by before I heard back from Champagne Book Group, who wound up publishing it; and then another year of work between signing the contract and celebrating the release date.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
True confession: I am a binge writer. I don’t have a daily writing routine. When inspiration strikes, I settle into a writing jag that can last hours or days. When I need to do revisions or edit on a deadline, I’m quite disciplined; I’ve never missed a deadline. But when I’m in the creative rush, it’s all out (or in). I love the feeling of disappearing into a new story, and describing the world I find there. While that’s going on, I don’t really want to leave, and I can spend days in a fog, not quite tracking the “real world” much at all.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
Believing it was good enough to interest a publisher. In the four years between starting it and getting the publication contract, I gave up on it at least a hundred times. Still, I see parts that I wrote early on, and wish I could revise them again. Just to make the writing a bit tighter, less wordy, more powerful.
What do you love most about being an author?
Connecting with readers. Last November, during National Novel Writing Month, I posted my progress on writing 50,000 words in 30 days on my blog. The story (which I’m polishing now to see if it can get published too) is for younger readers, and it involves a girl on a cross-country journey with her grandfather and a funny black Lab named Licky. Licky the dog is inspired by my brother and sister-in-law’s beloved dog of the same name, and at one point in the story, fictional Licky is in danger of dying. My brother was reading out loud to my sister-in-law, and when they got to that part, my sister-in-law sent me a note: “If you kill Licky, I swear, I’ll never read another word you write!” I loved it – a reader, moved enough by my story to get really pissed off at me!
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I found a small independent publisher willing to give An Alien’s Guide a chance at finding its audience by publishing it as an e-book. From contract signing to publication took a bit over a year. Much of that time was spent editing the manuscript, making sure it was as polished as could be. I think we had three or four rounds of editing, from a few major revisions down to the detailed word-by-word line editing. I find line editing to be very taxing and time-consuming; I can only read a small amount before my eyes start to lose focus and I miss errors. And that’s the main reason I’m glad I went with a small publisher – lots of personal attention and assistance in getting the manuscript ready for readers. J. Ellen Smith, the founder and owner of Champagne Book Group, does a wonderful job of creating a kind of wacky-family atmosphere for authors, and CBG authors are a tremendously generous (and hilarious) group of colleagues.
Where can we find you on the web?