Elizabeth Randall's new book, Fire is the Test of Gold, was released October 2022. I talked to her about her book and her writing process.
1.What inspired Fire is the Test of Gold?
Up until now, my published books were nonfiction. I come from a line of journalists, and I've been widely published as a freelancer. So the idea for Fire is the Test of Gold came from, appropriately enough, a newspaper article. Two men went to sea to scatter a relative's ashes and never returned. I started to wonder what could have happened to them and the loved ones they left behind.
2. What is your writing process like? When I'm writing non fiction, I research for anywhere from three months to years. Then I sit down to write. For fiction, the characters have to come alive for me. I have started a lot of 30 page books where I get bored and give up. With the Fire book, I sat down and wrote one to five pages every day in the office I share with my husband. He makes a lot of videos, but when I'm writing, I can block everything else out.
3. Why did you choose to jump to fiction after writing non-fiction? I have a writer acquaintance, Laura Lee Smith, who won the Florida Book Award for her novel The Ice House. She says writing non fiction is harder than fiction, and I say the opposite. I grew up reading the New Journalists like Tom Wolfe so I always thought of nonfiction as stranger than stuff that was made up. But I was an English teacher exposed to and teaching all kinds of writing. So I guess I wanted to prove I could do it. And like every other writer, I have stories to tell.
4. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? Read a lot and write a lot, like every day. When you skip days, the door to creativity starts to close. Like any other activity, writing is something you have to do a lot of to be good. Also, get one good proof reader who will tell you the truth. 5. What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing? My favorite part is the writing process, which includes a lot of editing and revising. Fitzgerald's ,The Great Gatsby, was so good because he constantly revised. My least favorite part is marketing and putting myself out there. I'm embarrassed by self promotion, although I know it needs to be done. I enjoy meeting readers and writers, but I still find it nerve racking to give book talks and public interviews. Luckily, my background as a teacher enables me to get up and talk in front of groups, but there is always some element of stage fright. Writers are often somewhat introverted. 6. What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? The time line. I use a lot of different POV's and it was hard making them consistent and linear. 7. What part of the book was the most fun to write? I had some favorite characters (I won't say who) who turned out to be quite innovative and amusing to write about.
8. How did you come up with the title for your book?
I usually come up with the title first. Fire is the test of gold is actually a quote by Seneca, a stoic philosopher of Ancient Rome. (45b.c.) The rest of the quote reads: "Adversity, of strong men. " I came across the quote quite by accident, and it stuck with me. I thought it could turn into an interesting book about how people become stronger when they're tested.