Friends, today I'm honored that Elizabeth Hein, author of the newly released How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, is here to chat about her story and offer advice to new writers. But first, a bit about Elizabeth's book:
Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.
What first inspired you to write How To Climb The Eiffel Tower?
When I was in the throes of my own cancer treatment, I met several people who told me that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them. I found that hard to believe at the time. Still, that statement was a seed of an idea. I wanted to give voice to those women’s lives, so I imagined scenarios for how getting cancer could lead to a positive life transformation. After a few false starts, Lara began talking to me.
Who was your inspiration for the characters of Lara and Jane?
Neither Lara nor Jane is entirely based on a real person. The character of Lara is an amalgamation of several young women I have known over the years. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect are far more common than many people would like to believe. I grew up a loving family. Girls in need of a safe place seemed to follow me home on a regular basis. I knew several girls that were exceedingly bright, but were made to feel stupid by the adults in their lives. Others were mistreated so much that they had no self-esteem left to carry them into adulthood. Even as a child, I was outraged at the way these girls had to live. I guess that indignation stuck with me and came out when I sat down to write this novel.
Jane, on the other hand, is a completely invented character. I was writing what became the first scene of the novel and she walked into the room. From there, the character developed a life of her own on the page.
How is this book different from other books about cancer?
I feel How To Climb The Eiffel Tower is unique because Lara is not a typical “cancer book” protagonist. Many of the other books I read as research for this book had protagonists that were leading charmed lives that were halted by a cancer diagnosis. Lara Blaine’s life was not great before she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cancer could have been just another awful thing for her to withstand. Fortunately, she meets Jane and the other women that teach her to use her cancer experience to reframe her life. Few of the other books I read used cancer as a psychological tool that the main character can use to transform her life.
What advice do you have for new writers?
- Learn everything you can about the trade of writing. Read books of the craft of writing. Read books to learn how books are structured. Learn, learn, and then learn some more.
- Write at least something every day so you stay in touch with the story. Once you get in the habit of writing every day, it is just that – a habit.
- Writing is not a pursuit for the faint of heart. It is difficult. Don't give up. I have seen tremendously talented writers stop writing because it stopped being easy. Even more people walked away after a handful of rejections.
- Follow your gut. You really do know what you are doing.
- Allow yourself to write terrible first drafts; just don’t mistake them for final drafts. Get your ideas down on the page, then edit. Then edit again. Rest. Then edit again.
- Find some writer friends. They will keep you going when the going gets tough.
Great advice, Elizabeth! Thank you.
Writers, have you ever written about your own personal trials? Was writing the story therapeutic? Do you write every day? Do you power through terrible first drafts? Please share!
Buy links:Amazon UK