Elle Wright: Love, Loss, and the Edge of Scandal
For Elle Wright, finding love after loss is a driving theme, both in her new Wellsprings series novel, Touched by You and in her life. After discovering her passion for romance writing and landing her first publishing deal with Grand Central for the debut novel we now know as The Forbidden Man, the universe dealt Elle a devastating blow, one that threatened to derail a promising career. But she persisted through her life’s challenges and difficulties to not only finish the Scandal series but to begin two more. Elle took some time to sit down with Diverse Romance to reveal details on her writing and how a dream helped her work through her pain to once again embrace her passion.
Your journey to becoming a published author is a very relatable one. Why don’t you tell us about it?
As a child, I loved to make up stories. I played with Barbie dolls, and I would put my dolls through some serious changes. LOL Yet, I never thought I’d actually write a book. I’ve always loved television, so I wanted to write scripts for a soap opera.
I just sort of fell into writing novels. I started a journal in college, but I wasn’t writing about my life. My journal turned into a long, dramatic saga about a young black girl in college, navigating the world and her relationships. Soon, I would give daily updates on her life at dinner to my friends. Once I married and had my daughter, I was home with her and started putting all my journals together into a book (that will probably never see the light of day). I think that’s when I knew I could do it.
It was also during that time that my mother gave me my first romance novel, Indigo by Beverly Jenkins. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, everything. Indigo is still my favorite book today, and it changed my life. It inspired me.
A few years later, I had finished a novel I called “The Affair,” which would eventually become The Forbidden Man, but then I had a vivid dream about a group of assassins who hid in an elaborate bunker, five floors below ground. The dream was so real that I shared it with friends and family and they encouraged me to write the book. I did. I found a small, indie publisher that took it on and I published it under a different pen name (it is not available anymore). I didn’t know anything about publishing, other than what I’d researched online, so I took a gamble and signed up for the Romantic Times Convention in Chicago. My hope was the learn about promotion and marketing. I also figured I’d pitch The Affair. At that conference, I met Latoya Smith, who would later buy “The Affair” and my Edge of Scandal series for Grand Central’s Forever Romance. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I remember buying The Forbidden Man when it first hit the shelves in Target, and I couldn’t wait to read more from you. What’s on tap for your next release and what sparked the idea for your new Wellspring series?
Touched by You is the first book in my new Wellspring series. I love to set my novels in Michigan, and I tend to stick to the Southeast side of the state because that’s my home base.
After I finished Edge of Scandal, so many readers were asking why Caden (“Den”) didn’t get his own story, so I originally set out to write his redemption story. I knew that he wouldn’t find redemption where he was, and that I needed to get him away from everybody. He needed a fresh start.
An idea came to mind to create a fictional town with a mostly African American population. I knew I wanted the town to be small, but not too small. I also knew that I wanted the town to be the home to a large corporation. Wellspring Water Corporation was born. Parker Wells Sr. was the CEO of the company and basically controlled the town (and not in a good way). I liked the idea of building this town around the company and exploring the history between the families who founded the town. Since Parker Wells Sr. was the villain, I figured I’d start with his children. Although Caden didn’t make the final cut for this story, I hope the readers will enjoy Carter and Brooklyn’s story.
Sounds like a setting made for more romance and more scandal. You describe Touched by You with some powerful words — Intense, Emotional, Scandalous, HOT, romantic, and funny! Tell us more about the themes and characters.
Touched by You explores finding love after devastating loss. Carter Marshall’s house was set ablaze by a young white man simply because he lived in an upper middle class, mostly African American, neighborhood in Detroit. The beginning of the book opens with Carter Marshall, who has spent the past two years of his life seeking justice for the murder of his wife and daughter.
Carter needs a break from his life, and decides to take on a project with Wellspring Water. There he meets Brooklyn, who is dealing with her overbearing father’s manipulations. Brooklyn is unlike any woman he’s ever met, and she begins to melt the ice around his heart.
Brooklyn is the only daughter of Parker Wells Sr., and she has done her best to distance herself from Wellspring Water Corporation. She wants to help, not hurt people. However, her father has a business deal riding on an arranged marriage to a state senator’s son. When Brooklyn rebels, she pretty much loses everything.
Brooklyn and Carter meet by accident, and forge a tentative friendship that eventually turns to love.
It sounds as if there will be some sizzling chemistry between Brooklyn and Carter. What message do you hope readers get from this story?
For this book, I want readers to know that there is life after loss, that it is possible to love again, to be whole again.
Most writers can pinpoint some narrative or dialogue that cuts to the heart of a message or theme in their book. How about sharing one or two of your favorites?
Carter was so wrapped up in Brooklyn’s energy that he was rendered speechless when her mouth met his. A warmth shot through his body, right before it disappeared. Because she disappeared. And he couldn’t say if he was relieved or disappointed.
Brooklyn gripped Carter’s chin, forcing him to meet her gaze. “So forgive yourself. You didn’t cause the fire and you didn’t ignite the flames. You were a victim just like Krys and Chloe were. The only difference is you were the one that was left to pick up the pieces. Just like we have the right to choose our path, you have to choose to move forward. It’s not easy. But I have to believe it’s worth it, that life is worth the pain. Because on the other side of pain, is joy—even in the midst of sorrow.”
So, let’s switch gears a bit. To keep all of your publishers happy and stay on schedule, you’ve got to get words on the page. Tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.
My favorite place to write is in my bedroom. I usually just prop myself up on some pillows and write. Before I write, I queue up my playlist (every book has a soundtrack). And I also have to have the TV on mute in the background. Not sure why (LOL). I try to write every evening, but life sometimes happens.
What‘s one of your favorite reviews/comments you‘ve ever received about your writing? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?
One of my favorite reviews was the first one I received, from author J.D. Mason. “This gripping debut is packed with drama and a love triangle that will certainly tug at the old heartstrings. Ms. Wright’s entry into the world of romance is a memorable one that I’m sure readers will enjoy from the first page to the last.” WOW! I was on cloud nine after this because I am a huge fan and to know that she liked my book was awesome!
Along with those great reviews come challenges. What’s been your biggest struggle as a writer? And how do you handle it?
I think my biggest struggle changes with every book. LOL Right now, it’s finding the time. My daughter is a senior in high school, and it’s so hard to find the time to do everything I need to do for her, work a day job, and write. I have to force myself to sit down and focus.
The end of a challenge or struggle usually means progress. What’s been the high point of your career, so far?
Oh, there have been so many high points. Every day, I have to pinch myself. I feel so blessed to be on this journey. To be in the room with authors I’ve read and admired still makes me giddy with excitement.
But if I had to narrow it down to one, I would say my high point was the moment Ms. Beverly Jenkins contacted me about doing a signing with her in my hometown. She’s my favorite author, and I was absolutely ecstatic. That was years ago, but now I actually talk to her. LOL I have her phone number. And I’m still a fangirl!
The low points in our careers often serve as “come to Jesus” moments when we have to decide if we really want to be authors. What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?
My lowest point was absolutely the death of my mother. It was around that time that I was revising The Forbidden Man, getting it ready to submit to agents.
I couldn’t find the strength to keep going, even though I tried. It was the worst time of my life, because my mother had been so instrumental in my journey. She was my best friend. I had to allow myself time to grieve. Finally, she came to me in a dream and told me, “You have got to find a way to get through this.” God, therapy, a strong support system in my family, and time. I still struggle with it daily, but I know I have to keep going. For her, for my family, for myself.
Having lost my own mother at the beginning of my career, I think few understand how a death of that magnitude can take the air out of your lungs. I know your readers are glad you were able to overcome the dark space to write again. Shifting to a lighter topic, we always like to help introduce readers to diverse authors they perhaps haven’t read before. Give us the name of a diverse author you‘ve read that you would highly recommend to readers.
Of course, I’m going to say Beverly Jenkins. She’s my favorite author, and she’s phenomenal. But there are so many other authors that are doing their thing in this industry.
Beverly Jenkins, hands down, has been the most named author in Diverse Romance interviews. She is truly an inspiration. What‘s next on your writing journey?
Touched by You (Wellspring #1) will release on May 29, 2018. Wherever You Are (The Jacksons of Ann Arbor #2) will release on June 1, 2018.
I’m also working on another (or three) collaboration with the amazing authors, Sherelle Green, Sheryl Lister, and Angela Seals. We published a series called Once Upon a Bridesmaid back in September 2017, and we’re cooking up the follow up to that series with Once Upon a Baby for Summer 2018. So many amazing events [are] coming up that I can’t wait to reveal.
Basically, I’m all over the place. I’s tired, boss! (LOL) But I’m so grateful. This has been such a wild, crazy, emotional, fun ride. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, though.
I always think it’s great to pay forward your experience and best practices to aspiring writers. What‘s your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of advice to writers?
My favorite piece of advice to writers is something I heard. “Sit down and write the book.”
And a hearty Amen to that! Write and finish! What a great way to wrap up. Thank you for joining us, Elle! We hope you come back to visit for your next release.
You can find Elle Wright online at:
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ElleWritesBooks/
Please check out Elle’s latest releases in our African American Contemporary Romance section.