Imaginative: Elizabeth Price’s mind bridges Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres

I do seek individuality and resent being compared to another writer, regardless if it’s meant as a compliment.

Although you are from the Inland Empire of California, it seems like you have a European sort of approach to your writing. From an American perspective, it appears that your work goes off in two different directions, one towards science fiction, and the other towards the paranormal. However, Europeans seem to bind the genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy (a la, J.R.R. Tolkien) together quite a bit. Indeed, here in the Polish town in which I live, we have a summertime festival (“Dni Fantastyki” or “Fantasy/Science Fiction Day”) that celebrates both genres as if they were one, complete with author discussions, costume play, and the whole sort of renaissance fair sort of experience. Reviewing your background and early influences, these likewise follow in the same direction as your writing – you listed as your earliest influence “Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold” (1986) by Terry Brooks and Star Trek (both the original series and The Next Generation). You also listed John Vornholt’s “Masks (ST:TNG Book 7)” (1989) a book that ties into the late Gene Roddenberry’s renowned TV show franchise.

However, your work seems to have aspects that cause it to depart from these initial influences, perhaps in part because your interests extended beyond just these two sources of inspiration (and include Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Steven King). Were there certain aspects of all these works that did more to inspire your writing style?

Interesting, you mention I have a European approach to writing. For me, it’s when a story catches my thoughts. I just finished a novel that I’m currently querying that was based on a true story my grandmother told me about her wedding day. By the end, it turned out to have a very paranormal/science fiction vibe, so I guess I do mix it up a bit. Though, this would be my first mash-up story between the two genres.

When I used to read a lot of fiction, I would read just about anything. As a pre-teen/teenager, I had a crippling back injury that forced me to spend a lot of time in the school library reading. I suppose I’ve always enjoyed a good murder mystery and I rather enjoy the macabre perspective of Poe. My mother was a huge Steven King fan and there was always an abundance of his novels in the house when I was growing up, so that shaped me as well. My grandfather was the Doyle fan and he introduced me to Holmes stories at a very early age. In my teen years is also when I became infatuated with science fiction and when I began writing about Sedom Sortec and that universe – it’s also why the story begins with her as a little girl. So, I would have to say that my greatest influences we’re pretty much all before the age of 18. After 18, I became more infatuated with real-life; Russian and German history was a huge interest of mine for a time as well as the unusual and the unexplained.

 

I’m a big fan of history myself. The stories that come from the interactions of Germany and Russia, and the people who live in between them, are fascinating. Do you have a favorite period that you like to read about?

I would have to say my favorite was during the reign of the last Czar and I have a deep love for the story of Anna Anderson (imposter of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of the Romanoffs). I fully believe Rasputin to this day is one of the best historical villains.

 I, also, well, I can’t say enjoy, Hitler and WWII history, but I read a lot about it. I was young when I heard about what happened, and my childlike mind simply couldn’t comprehend so much evil. I even started to read “Mein Kampf (Vol. 1)” (1925), but it was a little too heavy reading for a 12-year-old. Still, to this day I don’t understand it fully… but I also don’t want to forget it.

 

My introduction as a teenager to World War II history was “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (1960) by William Shirer. That was heavy enough, both in volume and in character. I never tried to read Hitler’s work – I heard it’s a bit dry. Of the books you managed to finish reading, were there things that as an aspiring writer that you sought to emulate, or even perhaps improve upon?

NO! I’ve attempted to create my own unique style… though, I’m uncertain if I’ve succeeded or not. Some readers have mentioned that my novels read like movies and that I don’t add a lot of details. That is true and I relate that to college again. While in college, I spent a great deal of time writing scripts for television and movies, and there isn’t a lot of room for description that isn’t necessary. I’m still working on that though, taking into consideration some people like to know every inch of a room and not just the basics.

However, I do seek individuality and resent being compared to another writer, regardless if it’s meant as a compliment. I still remember a time in high school when I turned in a story in English class. The teacher wrote on the paper, “Reminds me of Steven King,” along with an A. It’s bothered me even to today.

 

Coffee may or may not help with creativity, but it certainly gets you going. Photo via Elizabeth Price.

Trying to come up with something unique in this day when it seems everything’s been tried that’s under the sun is certainly a challenge. What do you do to maintain your originality?

I attempt to write outside my comfort zone a lot. It allows me to seek the advice of experts in certain fields. By doing this, it often gives me a different, fresh perspective and creates a somewhat original plot. As for characters, more often than not, I sit and just brainstorm different characters in my head and create them as crazy and far out as possible. I figure I can rein them in later. Most stories, I simply see where they lead me. I have far more stories I’ve set aside than I finished because they simply weren’t unique enough or the characters grew too stale.

 

What’s the most far out character that you’ve created? Did you have a purpose in mind when creating this person?

Of my published work, I’d have to say Silvia, the exorcist from the Haunted Ends series. She’s based on a woman who was friends with my grandmother when I was young. She was an outrageous black woman who you never knew what she was going to do next. And the number one personality trait I loved about her that even though she was a hefty woman, she used it as her strength and never apologized for being who she was. She also had a very unique way with words.

 

Unique dialogue can be so useful in creating a unique character, whether in novels or screenplays. I’ve tried to dabble in the world of screenwriting myself, though obviously I’ve not been that successful in this field (at least as yet). Having been exposed to that world – beyond minimizing scene descriptions as much as possible – what do you see as the biggest challenge that story writers have in writing for TV or movies, and what do you see as the biggest challenge for screenwriters to write fiction?

I’ve been told that writing is writing, but I can say that’s completely not the case. I’m a commercial business copywriter for my regular job, and although sometimes companies like me to throw in a little humor or whimsy, most of the time it’s very rigid. Same goes with screenwriting. I picture it a cross between the white pages a company might release on a new product and a fiction novel. In screenwriting, there’s a set format and when you describe a scene, you need only describe what’s needed for that scene and you let the set designer handle the rest, whereas a novel, it’s all about description.

One’s writing for the eye and one’s writing for the brain and if you’re used to one, it can be very difficult to change gears. For me, I don’t have a preference. I’m used to someone handing me a project and telling me to write one way or another. As for personal enjoyment, it’s hard to say. For me, it depends more on the genre and not so much the format.

 

How easy do you think your novels would be to adapt to TV or movies?

I’m currently writing Haunted Ends into a “spec script” (ed: an unsolicited screenplay written to be optioned or eventually purchased). I believe that particular novel/series would transfer well to a TV show or even to the big screen. My other novels, maybe not so much. My newer novels (those I’m currently querying) all could easily transfer well to the big screen, partly because I keep that in the back of my mind now while I’m writing them.