This month’s interview is a couple of days late, but it’s here now!
Today I’m talking to Elaine Battista-Parsons. Elaina is a writer across genres. She is the author of Italian Bones in the Snow with Vine Leaves Press. She also has a young adult novel called Black Licorice in the final stages with Inked in Gray Press (2023). Elaina’s poems and prose have been published in Malarkey Books, Read Furiously, superfroot, Wingless Dreamer, Drunk Monkeys, and Backlash Press. She’s the editor of 50 Give or Take with Vine Leaves Press and lives on the Jersey Shore with her family. Her recent essay “I Said it Out Loud” was a 2021 finalist in the Anne Dillard CNF contest for personal essay.
Welcome to the Fountain Pen, Elaina. Please tell us a little bit more about yourself.
I’m a New Jersey native—specifically the Jersey Shore, so I grew up with the sand between my toes and my skin soaked by the sun. Funny enough, I now love winter more than any other time of year. I write memoir, Young Adult, and I dabble in poetry and micro. I’m a big fan of ice cream, coffee, the Golden Girls, Bjork, and Madonna. Creating things is my favorite pastime: writing, singing, cooking, and doodling. If I am not creating, it’s likely I am overeating or gnawing on my fingernails.
How did your writing career begin?
When I turned 40 in 2017, something inside of me flipped a switch. The voice of my salty inner writer was like: what the f*$# are you waiting for? Then I couldn’t close the cage. I wrote and wrote, I networked on Twitter, Instagram…for five years. (Prior, I was a full-time teacher. My speciality is working with students with dyslexia).
Wow – you’ve managed all those things in your bio in just five years? Impressive!
Why young adult fiction? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
The first book contract I received was for a young adult novel, but truth be told, fiction is not my speciality. Creative nonfiction really is my jam, jelly, and mozzarella. It chose me. Real life is plenty complex enough to write about without the enigma of characters. That being said, I am determined to keep at it with fiction too.
What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?
I want my work to inspire transparency among us. As in—don’t hide who you really are, and don’t worry about taking up too much space. There’s plenty of room for mistakes, reinvention, vulnerability, and breaking traditions. I am a true unconventional spirit. I appear mighty, but I am also healing. Why can’t we be both?
Where do you see your writing career heading?
Straight into the middle of an ice cream sundae full of peanut butter and chocolate where it can swim and nobody bothers it. Oh, I mean…I’d like to edit and write and create for anyone who will let me. Nothing specific.
How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between? Where you do get your ideas?
PANSTER all the way. I get a spark, then the book reveals itself to me, out of order, in the messiest of ways.
Does social media help or hinder?
HELP HELP HELP. The writing community is a bowl of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds on your grandmother’s vintage kitchen table.
Tell us about your most recent publication.
Italian Bones in the Snow is a quick piece of who I am told in prose and poetry. First, second, third, and fourth loves. Italian food. Grandmothers, Aunts, Cemeteries, Bread, and lipsticks. Music all over the place.
How did your relationship with Vine Leaves Press begin? Was it a conscious decision to work with a small press rather than a Big 5 or self-publishing route?
I submitted Italian Bones in the Snow, feeling in my heart that it belonged with a small press. Intimate relationship kind of yearning. Melanie Faith changed my life forever when she read my work and told Jess, yes. Plus, she’s the High Priestess when it comes to editing. Jess is a fearless leader. I am VERY grateful to have found this press.
Is there anything you need to have with you when you write? A tool of the trade, a mascot…?
When I write I like something on the background as white noise. See Golden Girls. Or YouTubes of live performances by Florence and the Machine and Journey in the 1980s.
What’s next for you?
My debut young adult novel will release in early 2023 through Inked in Gray Press. It’s called Black Licorice. It rips apart the structure of friendship and all it entails.
Thank you for such a fascinating whirlwind into your writing life. I’ve got Italian Bones in the Snow on my TBR list and I’m itching to get to it now.