When I started college, nothing scared me more than rooming with someone I didn’t know. But I needn’t have feared; I got along great! Same thing happened in graduate school; my roommate there ended up being one of my favorite roommates ever! So when I went to ACFW last fall and arranged to share a room with someone I’d never met, I figured we’d get along great, and we did! My blog guest today is that very roommate, Hayley Elliott!
Welcome to the blog, Hayley! We’re so happy to have you!
Thank you! It’s great to be here!
First question: what inspired you to start writing?
Not sure I was ever necessarily inspired so much as it was ingrained in me since childhood. I started out writing deep, heartfelt poetry about the meanings of life like—will this boy ever notice me? Or beautiful sonnets about rainbows, butterflies, and even Tigger. (Yes, from Winnie the Pooh. Why? I have no idea.) Or why does my heart yearn for more? Who uses the word “yearn” at the age of ten? This girl. I always got excited about writing projects through my school years and kept a personal journal as well. Those are fun reads, let me tell ya! Full of questions, angst, and more yearnings.
As for writing as a career? Well, that began when we tried conceiving our first child and it took over a year and a half. I found myself wanting more—needing something more—to occupy my mind. I had the desire to write…fiction no less…first time for everything. Through late-night talks, my husband and I developed the storyline for my first book. It’s been a long journey since I began that first manuscript and to be honest, I’m still tweaking it today. It’s like a first love. They’re hard to let go.
What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?
Writing routine? Bahahaha. *Laughs manically while chugging coffee, sporting a messy ponytail and sweats* Girl, I’ve got a high-maintenance toddler, and a bun in the oven that’s about to burst any day. The only luxury of a routine I have centers around my family, because while I enjoy writing, I enjoy my family more. That said, my writing hours happen during my child’s nap time, which is a rare occasion these days, and in the evenings after my little one goes to bed, giving me a window of about 3 more hours if I’m super productive. During said hours, I’m also balancing photo shoots and photo editing for my freelance photography business. I also have the opportunity to write when my toddler is at Mother’s Day Out twice a week. However, I mentioned I was pregnant, right? My current dilemma centers around whether I have enough energy to write or if I’d rather sleep. I’m afraid once my newborn comes along, sleep may win out more often than not. Obstacle = toddler. Challenge = acquiring enough sleep. Obstacle/Challenge: 1, Me: 0. So does that answer your question about obstacles and challenges?
LOL, absolutely! And trust me, I’ve been there. Believe me when I say that as the kids get older, you do get more freedom and flexibility. Not necessarily more quiet, but more freedom and flexibility for sure.
On to the next question! How has God shaped you during your writing journey?
Writing about characters and stories people connect to is more than learning fancy, frilly language, or following all the writing rules. It’s about understanding people. Understanding their emotions, what motivates them, their experiences, their triumphs and sorrows, how the world affects them, and how God plays a part in each of our lives. I’ve learned enough about craft to blow my mind and still have plenty to learn, but what I’ve found to be the most difficult and intriguing part of writing is creating a character that feels real— especially those that experience things I never have. You have to research so much. But also pray a lot for guidance. Most of my best scenes are those I’ve fallen asleep praying about, only to wake up and spill thoughts on a page—ones I don’t really consider my own. So while I enjoy writing, I wouldn’t be able to do it without God’s help. Writing has always drawn me closer to God, whether writing a personal journal or a fiction novel, and therefore has strengthened my faith and relationship with Him. Maybe it’s odd, but I feel closer to Him when I’m writing, even if the writing is terrible, I’m still gaining something in the process. So while some of the stories I write may never been seen by the majority—I do it for me. I do it for Him.
What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you on your writing journey?
Part of being a writer is also learning craft and developing friendships with other fellow writers by attending workshops and conferences. I attended my first two writing conferences last year. At my second conference in Nashville, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, I was newly pregnant. And if you’ve ever been pregnant, you’re familiar with the term “pregnancy brain.” Right? Well, I had it full-fledged even at ten weeks pregnant. Somehow, I managed to leave my cell phone in the bathroom stall and hiked up like a thousand stairs and across half the hotel before I realized I had left it. In a hot mess, I ran (okay, I fast-paced-walked) to the bathroom. It was gone. I panicked, to say the least. I was out of town. I had all my flight, travel and Uber information on my phone. And did I mention my phone was on silent and the screen was locked? But then my genius roommate <cough, cough, Amanda Wen> asked if I tried calling my phone. DUH! Bless it all for happening at a Christian conference, someone turned my phone in and the hotel staff was holding it for me.
Bwahaha! I’d almost forgotten that particular anecdote! And the only reason your genius roommate came up with that solution is because she’s left her own phone too many places to count. :)
What’s the best book you’ve read recently, and why?
Man, oh me oh my. This is a rather cruel question. I’ve read numerous books in the last couple of years, but I’ll focus on the word “recent.” My New Year’s goal was to read my Bible more and focus on books that invest in my personal growth. I could pleasure read for hours and hours, fiction books, of course. But non-fiction? They usually take me three times as long to read. However, this year I read a lovely book called Everybody Always by Bob Goff. He has a wonderful outlook on life, one that I took several notes on how to implement. He reminds us of the one thing Jesus repeatedly told us to do: love everyone. It’s not always easy either. It’s something we tell my daughter often, she may not like someone or the choices they make or how they treat her, but it’s important to love them anyway—even the “bad” people, because everyone needs Jesus and everyone needs to be loved. I don’t think we could be reminded of this sentiment enough.
If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?
I shall partake in all of the above—especially if the carbs contain chocolate. I’d love to say someone smart or deep like Robert Frost, Charles Dickens or Jane Austen—but that’s not me. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally get behind Pride and Prejudice wholeheartedly, but if I’m going to sit down with an author, I want them to be relatable and understandable.
This deserves a paragraph break because I debated in my mind for days and days. This is such a hard question to answer. I’ve read so many wonderful authors. But one person kept popping up in my mind. Debbie Macomber. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the ACFW Conference and adored her. She was funny, genuine, and creative, along with a dynamic speaker. I was surprised not only by her writing journey and her determination to succeed, but also how involved she is with her community. She seemed very down-to-earth but also has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in both writing and serving others. I would love to have the opportunity to hang out with her…not just once…but man, to have her as a mentor. Whew. That would be something pretty spectacular.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I have free time, there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend time with my husband and daughter. We could be doing just about anything from lounging on the couch watching a movie, to bike-riding to the closest park, to playing board games. It doesn’t matter. They’re my people and I want to spend all my time with them. When I’m feeling particularly extroverted, I hang out with my book club and bunco pals (yes, I said that—and yes they’re all about my age—younger even). I also enjoy hanging out with other writers to talk about books, writing, and techniques. Aside from being a stay-at-home mom, I’m also a freelance photographer so that tends to take some of my free time on the weekends and weekday evenings as well.
Last question, Hayley: How can we pray for you?
Being on the journey to become a published author is not easy—despite what people may think. (“Just publish it on Amazon, it’s super easy, everyone’s doing it.” They say.) The journey to become published—whether traditional or indie—is rather long and tedious, especially if you’re wanting to learn to do it well. Sometimes your end goal seems even further away, like you’re never going to reach it. I’ve said it many times, getting published is a marathon, not a sprint.
I’d love to ask for prayers for lots of things, so feel free to take your pick…Prayers for peace in my writing journey. Prayers for understanding my particular path. Prayers for writing a clear message readers will grasp in a unique and fun way. Prayers for writing the way God wants me to. Prayers for perseverance. Send all the prayers to any writer. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when your heart is fused into your work.”
Hayley Elliott writes inspirational romantic stories filled with adventure and humor. She is a member of ACFW and RWA, including her local chapters. She enjoys writing faith-building posts about life experiences and discoveries on her personal blog. When she’s not writing, she’s managing her freelance photography business.
Hayley lives in Oklahoma with her husband and daughter, who are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby girl number two. Hayley loves reading (obviously), spending time with family, being outdoors (as long as it requires only moderate exercise), traveling to new locations, and eating sweets—especially chocolate. You can connect with Hayley via her blog, Twitter, or Instagram.