Day 29 Elle Lothlorien – A New Perspective

It’s A Guy Thing

Have you ever wanted to know just what it is that men think about all day? The correct answer is “No, I haven’t.” If you answered “Yes, all the time!” trust me: you don’t.

Frog Prince coverMy first novel, the romantic comedy The Frog Prince, is by far the most beloved of all my books. In fact, much like Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Cumberbitches,” fans of the book often refer to themselves on social media as being proud members of “The Frog Nation.” Immediately following the release of The Frog Prince, I was inundated with requests from Frog Nation readers (some might characterize them as “desperate pleas”) for a sequel to The Frog Prince, an appeal I’ve consistently rejected over the years. Why? There were lots of different reasons, really, but my most common response to those who asked was as follows:

Leigh Fromm and Roman Lorraine von Habsburg will never be happier than they are at the end of The Frog Prince. They will never be more in love, never have better sex, and never be in better shape than they are in Chapter 32. What happens next? They get married, he starts leaving his dirty underwear on the floor, she never puts the lid on the toothpaste, they both let themselves go, and over the next twenty years, they slowly start to despise each other. If they have children, it happens in half that time.

The real reason I didn’t write a sequel was that I couldn’t think of an interesting way to continue the story. And when I’m not intellectually and emotionally invested in the writing of a novel—mind, heart, and soul—trust me: that shit ain’t gettin’ written.

And then something wonderful happened. It came in the form of an email from a fan who had just read and fallen in love with The Frog Prince. Predictably, she asked if I was planning to write a sequel. I gave her my boilerplate response which she countered with what seemed like an odd question: “Have you ever read Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun?”

Twilight coverFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Midnight Sun, it’s the Twilight story…told from the point-of-view of Edward Cullen, Bella Swann’s adolescent-appearing, vampire love interest. Meyer abandoned the novel about halfway through, choosing instead to share the uncompleted draft with fans on her website. Since I am in no way a literary snob, I’ll admit that I found Twilight to be an intriguing series, but I also must confess that I enjoyed Meyer’s half-finished Midnight Sun much, much more. (Well, once I was able to deliberately box up and set aside any moral squeamishness I might’ve had over what is essentially the story of a centenarian vampire’s pedophilic obsession with a teenage girl). In my opinion, being in the head of 104-year-old Edward and discovering his motivations for courting the somewhat dreary 17-year-old Bella Swann made for a far more interesting read than the other way around.

In any case, my new Frog Nation fan suggested that instead of a sequel to The Frog Prince, I try a Midnight Sun-like project—in short, a novel from The Frog Prince’s Roman von Habsburg’s point of view. And so the seed for Gilding the Lily-pad was planted. I published Gilding in October of 2013, describing it as “a companion novel to The Frog Prince,” mostly for lack of a better term for the project. (Meyer refers to Midnight Sun as “an exercise in character development that got wildly out of hand,” a description that definitely lacks the oomph needed for a book jacket.)

Gilding coverMy writing methods are somewhat unconventional. Instead of penning an entire book before turning it over for editing, I take an unusual “edit-as-you-go” approach. Once I finish the first chapter of a novel, it goes to a group of a dozen randomly chosen “beta-readers” before moving downstream to a team of professional editors and proofreaders. In this way, I can address critique as I write, before I get too far down the rabbit hole with a huge mess of a story.

In the case of Gilding the Lily-pad, it was a damn good thing that I did this, because I learned one very important truth right out of the gate: no matter how much women claim the opposite, they absolutely, positively DO NOT want to know what men are thinking.

One beta-reader didn’t even make it through the first chapter before letting me know that, although she’d found Roman in The Frog Prince (written from Leigh Fromm’s POV) “charming,” she felt the Gilding Roman was “callous” and “unsympathetic.” Furthermore, she was disturbed by what she felt was the inordinate amount of time that Roman spent “checking Leigh out” at their first meeting and during subsequent encounters.

Here are a few excerpts from Chapter One, just to give you an idea of what was so troubling to this reader. Keep in mind that you’re reading from the man’s point of view:

I turn around and instead of an elderly woman, I find her—the tall, hot brunette. I stand there, frozen in my tracks, staring at her like a gape-mouthed moron, using every ounce of willpower I have to keep my eyes above her neckline. All I can do is hope that I’ll be able to look away before she catches me ogling her.


I look over the back of her from head to toe. Her hair is long, about halfway down her back, and she’s tall. I glance at her feet. Okay, I think, so she’s wearing heels. Still, she’s got to be at least five-nine, five-ten. I’m discreetly (I hope) checking out her ass when a man’s voice interrupts my appraisal.

OpinionBased just on these two excerpts, the beta-reader’s opinion of Roman von Habsburg was basically that he was a skeevy pervert. Honestly, I was shocked by her reaction, especially since it was my belief that I was practicing restraint to a degree that stretched belief. Why did this particular beta-reader and I hold such dramatically different opinions on the matter? Probably because I’m what’s known as “a guy’s girl.”

After I graduated from high school, I joined a volunteer fire department. Now, this was in the early 90s when fire and rescue was an almost exclusively male-dominated profession. Fire DeptThe guys in my battalion (Bat 4, yo) did almost nothing to rein in the man-fest in progress, even after women began infiltrating their ranks. Their lewd behavior and blatantly raunchy comments shocked me at first. But after six years of running calls with those guys, enduring their juvenile antics and ribald jokes, I had transformed into “a guy’s girl,” a chick who could give as good as she got, and who always had a tart rejoinder on the tip of her tongue, loaded and ready to fire at any man foolish enough to take her on. In the years that followed, I found myself in one male-dominated profession after another—everything from underground utility locating to clinical research to writing thrillers—which served to open the door to the mysterious male mind even wider (for better or for worse).

And here’s what I know for a fact: even if a man is outwardly kind and respectful to women, even if he’s the very pinnacle of human decency and the strongest proponent of women’s rights alive, 75% of his inner thoughts—beginning roughly at the age of 13 and ending roughly when he draws his last breath—go something like this: Nice ass. Great tits; wonder if they’re real. Who cares if they’re real? Where did I leave my phone? Oh, heeeeey, check at the legs on this one! They’d look even better wrapped around me. Mmm-MMM! Why is this goddamn coffee taking so long?

Behind Great WomanIn other words, if I were really writing a man, the majority of Roman’s internal dialogue would basically consist of: ‘Stop looking at her tits. Stop looking at her tits.’ Look at it another way: Edward Cullen, vampire extraordinaire, spends the majority of Twilight stalking and gawking at Bella Swann in locales ranging from flower-filled meadows to school cafeterias—“checking her out,” as any 104-year-old man with easy access to a Viagra prescription is wont to do. Edward’s fixation with Bella spans three novels, but his bloodlust is just a literary fig leaf for what he’s really thinking about the entire time: SEX. Meyer was able to pull off Edward being consumed by physical fantasies of Bella Swann—even though the book’s audience is Young Adult—because Edward didn’t want Bella “that way.” He only wanted to eat her. (Heh.) It is no coincidence that the Twilight series spawned the fan-fiction-turned bestselling phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. It was simply a matter of removing the literary fig leaf, and letting the true nature of the story—sexual obsession—stand up and firmly demand to be counted. (Ahem.)

Frog King coverAnyhoo, with few exceptions, readers of Gilding the Lily-pad ended up adoring “the man’s side of the story.” I had so much fun writing this companion novel that I’ve decided to go on and write The Frog King, which will have the odd distinction of being a sequel to two novels which are not sequels to each other. So whose point of view will The Frog King be from—Leigh’s or Roman’s? Since fans were so delighted by Roman’s version of events in Gilding, I decided that I would write The Frog King chapters with alternating POVs, with Chapter One being from Leigh’s, Chapter Two from Roman’s, and so on.

And yes, even after a whirlwind courtship, a romantic engagement, and nuptials on the horizon, Roman will still be checking out Leigh’s ass while she’s not watching. When it comes to “writing a man,” some romance authors embrace reality whole-hog, while others prefer to dial back a man’s obsession with sex. Which begs the question: if an author fails to document a male character’s desire to check out a woman’s breasts, does that man still sneak a peek at her cleavage?

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

Recommendations: Isobel Irons

Isobel IronsYou know those things in life that we call “guilty pleasures” because we know they’re not 100% healthy for us, but for some reason that just makes them all the more addictive and impossible to ignore? Nutella, for example. Or salted caramel lattes. Or shirtless pictures of Channing Tatum on Pinterest.

Then again, is there really anything wrong with any of those things? Are they really any more bad for you then they are enjoyable? If you want to get philosophical up in here, these guilty pleasures are probably what make life a little more worth living. (Especially on those crummy Mondays when everything “normal” starts to seem soul-crushingly predictable. Am I right?)

Wake-Say coversTo me, Isobel Irons’ books are in the category of guilty pleasures that no one should rightfully feel guilty about. Her debut novel, Wake for Me, is one of the most unique and engaging medical romances I’ve ever come across. Because of her background in television, her books read like a cross between Gray’s Anatomy and some gritty reality TV show you would deny watching among your work friends (but then secretly devour in private, several seasons at a time, on DVD.)

Promiscuous Obsession coversAnd if you’re really looking to bite into something life-changing, check out Isobel’s YA Issues Series (first book: Promiscuous), which is a John-Hughes-meets-Mean-Girls take on what it’s really like to be a high school student in today’s hyper-sexual, popcorn-political, Instagram-obsessed landscape. Trust me when I say this series is not for the faint of heart (with over 140 F-bombs in the first book alone), but it will steal your heart—and keep it—if you’re willing to let it. (If you don’t believe me, just check out the rave reviews these books have been getting on Amazon and Goodreads.)

You can find all of Isobel’s books on Amazon, or you can find out more about her on her website.


 Questions for the Author:

1. Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Lothlorien SokoloffLet’s just get something out of the way first: I am not a spontaneous person. In fact, my days, weeks and months tend to be pre-planned down to the minute, so even small changes can trigger a control-freak panic attack. My dear friend, bestselling thriller/paranormal author Alexandra Sokoloff, however, happens to be a very spontaneous person. Here’s an afterthought in an email I received from her on August 3, 2012: “Also, come to Australia with me if you feel like it—I’m at Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast from Aug. 14-19 (everything paid) and then just driving wherever for a week—you’re always welcome!”

Please note that she invited me to join her on an international adventure eleven days before said adventure. After my benzodiazepine drip beat back the massive anxiety attack that followed, I gave it some hard thought and decided that it was a terrible idea. Alex, however, can be very persuasive, and on August 9th—five days before she was set to depart—I had booked myself on a flight to Brisbane, Australia, where the two of us planned to meet up and set out for Surfer’s Paradise by car.

Photo Montage 1Now here’s why a person like me should never, ever attempt anything resembling spontaneity. Without getting into the wheres and whyfores of the International Date Line, let’s just say that the concept of arriving in a country two days after I left my place of origin (in this case, Denver, Colorado), was just too much for my poor little brain to process. As a result, on the evening of August 12th I found myself at LAX, buckled into a seat on a Qantas flight. I shared this circumstance with Alex via text, certain that she would match my enthusiasm since she was set to depart from the same airport just a few hours after me.

That was the horrifying moment when I discovered: 1) Alex’s flight to Australia didn’t leave until the next day; 2) In 14 hours, I would be arriving in a country where I didn’t know a single soul, where I had no international phone service, no contact phone numbers, no transportation, and (since I was essentially piggy-backing on Alex’s trip) no idea where the hell I was even supposed to go when I got there.

From her home in L.A., Alex flew into action (while I sat on the plane, basically crapping my pants, and contemplating an exit strategy that involved immediately deplaning and running, screaming, through the terminal). A few minutes later, Alex texted: Looks like best option is to cab to QT hotel unless I get someone who can pick you up. I don’t actually know where these people live. This rather unpromising communication was interrupted by the flight attendant’s announcement that all electronic devises were to be turned off and stowed for takeoff. As the plane pulled away from the gate, my final message to Alex was the text equivalent of a death rattle: Hopefully all will be sorted out on the other side. By “the other side,” I’m not sure if I meant “Brisbane, Australia” or “the afterlife.” Maybe a little of both.

Photo Montage 2Fortunately, Australians are some of the friendliest people on the planet, and Alex was able to find a total stranger in Brisbane to pick me up from the airport and drive me to the hotel in Surfer’s Paradise. Alex arrived the next day, and with that rather large travel hiccup out of the way, the adventure began. After a few days in Surfer’s Paradise, the two of us rented a car and drove to Sydney—stopping off in picturesque little towns along the way, such as Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Heads—where we spent a few days touring the city and hiking in the Blue Mountains. My romantic comedy Alice in Wonderland is partially based on this trip “down the rabbit hole”

For those of you considering a last-minute, whirlwind trip Down Under, I have compiled a Lonely Planet-worthy list of helpful travel tips for your convenience:

No Thanks, I Brought My Own SnugiQuestions Graphic 4 Aussie A Upon boarding your Qantas flight to Australia, you will be issued a kit containing a blanket, a sleep mask, a toothbrush, and a small tube of toothpaste, all tightly wrapped in plastic. When one inquires about the hermetically sealed blanket, one is informed that fears of bird flu and Ebola pandemics had prompted the airlines to do their part in lowering the risk by eliminating recycled blankets of yesteryear. Whatever you do, don’t jokingly respond with “Oh, you mean like how we accidentally wiped out Native Americans by giving them smallpox blankets?” Because that nice rice pudding everyone else seems to be enjoying will be withheld from your dinner tray.

Yes, We Know Australia Is Big. When you inform your new Aussie friends about your plans to drive by car from Surfer’s Paradise to Sydney (a distance of approximately 529 miles), be prepared for them to cut you off with “You know that it’s a really long way, right?” Gently explain that, while we may not be our own continent and everything, we have a pretty big country over in America too. (Plus, we kind of invented the road trip.)

You Are Here. Maybe. There is no consensus—even among Australians—about which continent Australia or the neighboring country of New Zealand belongs to, with the populace evenly split between “Australia,” and “Somewhere Else.” Ironically, the latter is closer to the truth. According to Wikipedia, New Zealand is part of Zealandia, “a submerged continental fragment that sank after breaking away from Australia 60-85 million years ago.” Not only that, but both Australia and New Zealand are part of the continent of Oceania, which, is actually not a continent. (Two years later and I’m still working out the logic of that.) Whatever you do, do not ask Australians or New Zealanders if they are also citizens of Atlantis.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But Mostly Automobiles. Australians drive on the left side of the road. When, upon leaving the car rental lot, your traveling companion enthusiastically attempts to use the windshield wipers as a turn signal before abruptly bringing the car to a stop and muttering, “Okay, I just need a second to recover from THAT”—don’t laugh. For one thing, the steering wheel and all important automobile-related amenities are on the wrong side of the vehicle. For another thing, your turn at frantic, windshield-wiper-signaling, and nervous breakdowns while navigating the Roundabouts of Death is definitely coming; it’s just a matter of time.

Aussie B The Ass-Eating Toilet Spider is NOT an urban legend. They have a hotline and everything. It’s the equivalent of Colorado rattlesnakes, only rattlesnakes don’t make you too scared shitless to use a toilet.

Welcome to New York, Australia. Australians are not as creative as one would hope when naming their towns. As a result, don’t be surprised when, in just the first 200 miles, you pass places called “Miami,” and “Palm Springs.” Now, I’m not 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure America had those names first.

Come Go With Me. Once you leave the state of Queensland behind you and enter New South Wales, you’ll notice that the locals will greet you with “How’re you going?” Just smile and say, “Great, thanks.” Do not try to be a smartass and answer “by koala.” Because Australians are very possessive of their marsupials, and will proceed to relate stories of a deadly, carnivorous creature called a “Drop Bear” that will make you terrified to get out of the car within ten miles of a tree for the rest of the trip.

Wascally Woos. Don’t complain about your life, even in a trivial, throwaway-remark-sort-of-way. This is because Australians will always follow up with an anecdote that will make your existence look positively dull and possibly not worth living by comparison. Case in point: I was grumbling to my new Australian friend that if my dog sees a rabbit when we go for a walk, he’ll chase it. She sighed and said, “Yeah, if there’s a kangaroo in the yard when my dog goes out, he’ll chase it, and then I have to run after him.” She may have said other things after this, but I was busy picking up my brain, which had blown out of my skull after trying to process how a dog chasing a kangaroo down the street could ever be considered an event so routine as to be annoying.

Cow-Tipping OK. If you’ve ever wanted to feel stupider than you already do when you have to decide how much to tip your U.S. dog shampooer/valet/cab driver/barista/proctologist, stop whatever you’re doing, get thee to Australia, and offer a tip to someone (it doesn’t really matter what their profession is). For Australians, I suppose there’s a trace of pleasure to be derived from telling a cash-brandishing American tourist (yours truly, who had just had the first full-service fill-up at a gas station in twenty years): “There is no tipping in this country.” I walked away from that encounter feeling like I’d just used the wrong words for “thank you,” and had instead solicited the guy for sex. Then I remembered that Australians speak English. Sort of.

What I Got, I Wanna Get and Put It In You. No, the American plug will not go into the Aussie socket no matter how you twist and turn the plug.

2. Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

Professor NoteI had two creative writing professor in college who urged me to pursue writing as a career. (For those who can’t read the comments on the left, here’s what one professor scrawled on an essay way back in 1991:

“You should think seriously of writing as a big part of your life. I hesitate to say “career,” as I’ve been told the same thing but haven’t made much progress. When I want to, there’s no time; when there’s time, I don’t want to. Excuses! Writers write! You could be one.”

Despite this type of encouragement, and despite winning the annual university writing contest two years in a row, I dismissed “writing as a career” as a foolish pipe dream. Nine years later, I woke up in the middle of the night with a story idea that was so powerful that I got out of bed, sat on the floor of my bedroom, opened my laptop, and began my first book. It turned out that writing an entire book was much harder than writing a college paper! I finished about 25% of that first book, a literary novel, before abandoning it. My next attempt, a suspense novel, was 50% complete before the same thing happened. I did manage to complete my third novel, Virgin (A Thriller). The Frog Prince was the first published, second completed and fourth attempted novel that I wrote (for anyone keeping score). I had incredibly good luck when The Frog Prince became an Amazon best-seller a few months after I self-published it in 2010.

3. Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Oh, my God, there’s no way I could pick one book, because every book I’ve read has changed my life in some way. Why don’t I split my life into decades, and I’ll tell you about whatever book immediately springs to mind.

Magicians Nephew coverDecade 1: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I enjoyed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe just as much as the next kid, but it was Book Six in The Chronicles of Narnia (or Book One, if you’ve read the blasphemous collection that puts the stories in chronological order—expressly against the wishes of Lewis) that really knocked my socks off. The Chronicles in general gave me a love of high fantasy that would last the rest of my life, but The Magician’s Nephew was the first book I’d read that seemed at first to have no connection whatsoever to the stories that preceded it. As you continue turning the pages, you realize that the entire book is an extremely clever backstory to the series. While Lion, Witch, Wardrobe is ambiguous at best about the origins of Narnia, the magic wardrobe, or why the kindly professor in the story so readily believes the four children, The Magician’s Nephew hints and teases you all the way to the end until the pieces to the puzzle just sort of come together in a eureka! moment. It was the first piece of fiction I ever read that made me reflect on a book long after I’d closed it.

Questions Graphic 8 The Stand coverDecade 2: The Stand by Stephen King. (Warning: spoiler alert!) While not the first Stephen King novel I’d ever consumed, it was definitely the first post-apocalyptic story I’d ever known—quite a brilliant introduction to the genre, I think. I read The Stand in 1984 (oh, the irony) when the Cold War was still alive and well, saturating every aspect of pop-culture. Even at that tender age, I didn’t need a literary PhD to help me understand why I instinctively rooted for the “good guys” in the book, who were hunkered down in Boulder, Colorado to raise chickens and argue with each other about the Satanic aspects of electricity. (By the by, the wit King displayed in choosing Boulder as the “U.S.” encampment is just too rich to fully process without either living a couple of decades in Colorado yourself, or watching a few episodes of Portlandia first.) Meanwhile the Bad Guy Central in The Stand was located in Las Vegas, where “Comrade U.S.S.R.” managed to practice an impressive level of debauchery while diligently planning the complete annihilation of the remainder of humanity by acquiring nuclear weapons. I’ve had an obsession with apocalyptic/dystopian novels ever since, possibly because very few non-fiction writers seem to have any interest in writing guidebooks for surviving the eventual Zombie Apocalypse.

Pride PrejudiceDecade 3: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. No, I am not trotting this title out to try to impress you. In fact, when I first attempted to read Austen in my twenties, I didn’t even get five chapters in before I felt like I had no idea what the &%$# was happening, or why everyone seemed to think the story was so romantic and brilliant. I mean, it wasn’t as bewildering as reading The Canterbury Tales, which was penned in such antiquated Ye Olde English that you don’t realize until years after your English teacher forced you to read it that it included, among other titillating characters, a woman who muses on the price her “queynte” (er, “lady bits,” for the faint-of-heart) could fetch on the open market. In stark contrast, not a single person gets naked—or even kisses!—in the entirety of Pride and Prejudice. And Mr. Darcy seems like such a grade-A douche-canoe that I couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their breath on the man, let alone fret about whether or not he thought you were “handsome enough” to want to dance with you. It wasn’t until I read an annotated online version of the book (which explained, in detail, the relevant 200-year-old historical and cultural references) that I understood that Austen was perhaps the original snarky, romantic comedy genius. In fact, I keep a dog-eared compilation of Austen’s novels on my nightstand (although I will soon have to replace it since the cover, along with the first few pages of P&P have fallen off).

Decade 4: I’ll let you know when it’s over. T-minus seven years and counting…



Elle LothlorienA “military brat,” Elle was born in Germany and spent her childhood in far-flung places such as Puerto Rico, Charleston, S.C., Italy, and Washington D.C. Sadly, the only language she ever became semi-fluent in is English. Her first self-published romantic comedy, The Frog Prince, became an Amazon bestseller in December 2010—a distinction it kept through the summer of 2012 when it peaked at #1 on Amazon’s Top 100 List for Humor. She was one of the first self-published authors to take advantage of Amazon’s “free promo days,” which she used on Valentine’s Day 2012 to give away 45,000 copies of her novels—catapulting her second novel, Sleeping Beauty, to Amazon’s bestseller list. This was followed by Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up, Alice in Wonderland, and Gilding the Lily-pad. The latter, Gilding, is follows the same story as the bestselling Frog Prince—but is told from the man’s point-of-view. Frosche Küsse, the German version of The Frog Prince will be released in early September of 2014. As a result of being one of the first crop of self-published bestsellers, Elle is considered a “reluctant expert” on the topics of self-publishing and marketing. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she lounges around in ball gowns, corsets, and wigs while a scantily clad man fans her with a palm frond and feeds her peeled grapes. She keeps a teenage boy and a miniature dachshund around the house to provide comic relief. You can find all of Elle’s books on Amazon.


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