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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Going Hybrid and Getting Elevated: An Interview with Elana Johnson

Going Hybrid and Getting Elevated: An Interview with Elana Johnson

I’m pretty sure most of you are already acquainted with Elana Johnson, author of the dystopian Possession series from Simon & Schuster. Last month, Elana independently published a new book, a standalone contemporary romance in verse, called Elevated. Today I have Elana here talking about her new book and her new hybrid author status.
The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator–let alone get stuck with–is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she’s been avoiding for five months.
Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.

1. In Elevated, which came first, the premise of the story or the idea of writing it in verse?

The premise. I thought of writing about people being stuck in a huge elevator when I went to a planetarium with my kids — probably 4-5 years ago. I struggled with who should be in the elevator, why they’d be there, what would happen, etc. for a couple of years. (This is how most of my books start — this slow kernel of an idea.)

I wrote the first 100 pages of the book in regular prose. It just wasn’t working. The story was over, dead.

I wanted to stretch myself, and I thought I’d like to try writing in verse. So I took those 100 pages, and I changed them into poetry. I cut A TON — and suddenly the book/story had new life. Thus, ELEVATED was truly born. 

2. Was your writing process for a novel in verse (and a contemporary romance) any different from the writing process for your dystopian novel series?

Light years different! First off, contemporary is a whole different beast than dystopian or any other kind of plot-based fiction. There’s no “bad guy” in contemporary. No villain. No evil forces. Everything is internal; the fight is within as the MC struggles to learn and do what they think is right.

So plotting is different, absolutely. And character development too. As for the actual writing, yes, it’s also different. I recently just completed my second verse novel, and I find that I have to have a style. Something on the page that dictates how the verse flows. I don’t have to do that in my other novels. So it’s an interesting process.

3. The premise — a girl stuck in an elevator with her ex-boyfriend seems humorous, as does the cover — but the synopsis seems very serious to me. How would you characterize the mood of Elevated?

High angst. It’s all angst, all the time. Ha!
4. I understand you were present at a photo shoot for the cover. Can you tell us about it?

The photo shoot was awesome! My good friend and fellow author, Erin Summerill did it with some teens from her neighborhood. We went to a sports arena to find this cool industrial elevator with two doors (which is harder than you might think to find!). It was a lot of laughing, and trying to get the doors to stay open — because you know, elevator doors don’t like to stay open. It was an awesome experience, and I’m glad we got a cool shot for a unique cover.
5. You recently signed with a new agent. Why then, did you choose to go indie with this book?

My previous agent had shopped this book in the New York traditional market. It got a lot of attention and editors seemed to like it. But no offers came, even when it was passed on to higher-ups and shown at acquisitions. The reason? The verse market is “soft” and “doesn’t make publishers money.”
That was okay for me. I get it. Publishing is a business, and they only buy books they think will make money. That didn’t mean Elevatedwasn’t a good book, well-written, or worthy of being published. It is all of those things, and I determined to do it myself.

During all that, I split with my first agent and started querying again. I did recently sign with a new agent, and I’m grateful she is okay with the idea of me being a hybrid author!

6. What’s next for you?

I hope a sale in the national market for my YA time travel! I am nearing the end of revisions on it and hope to have it on submission soon. After that, I will be releasing another YA contemporary romance novel in verse in September, titled Something About Love.
Thank you, Elana, for sharing your journey and experiences with us! Elevated is available to purchase now, and if you don’t already follow Elana’s blog, you can find her here.
PossessionSurrender and Abandon — all available now from Simon & Schuster!
Digital short stories Regret (only 99 cents) and Resist (free!) round out the trilogy.

11 Responses to Going Hybrid and Getting Elevated: An Interview with Elana Johnson

  1. I so admire Elana in being able to write in so many genres and to be able to write in verse. Glad she found an agent that supports a hybrid career. I suspect that will become more and more common.

    Good luck with the book And the time travel one sounds really cool. Fingers crossed it gets published.

  2. Robin says:

    This is the first I’ve read Elana and her novels. Heading over to her blog right now! Thank you for the introduction!

  3. I’m a hybrid author, and I think it’s sort of the future of writing. I think it opens a lot of doors for writers.

    Best of luck to Elana!

  4. Great to see Elana here. I’ve always wanted to try a novel in verse. Love to read them!

  5. Tiana Smith says:

    Lots of good stuff here. Thanks for sharing. And good luck Elena!

  6. SA Larsenッ says:

    Elana’s answer to #5 is one of the many reason to love her. She is one of the most honest and authentic writers I’m blessed to know. Good for her and ELEVATED!

  7. Linda G. says:

    Sounds like a fantastic book–best of luck to Elana in her new hybrid career! 🙂

  8. Larissa says:

    I <3 Elana! *waves*

  9. Thanks, Dianne! I appreciate you hosting me today. 🙂

  10. Rosalyn says:

    Elana has been incredibly helpful to so many writers–it’s great to see her getting good exposure!

  11. Sarah Allen says:

    Elana was one of my first friends and mentors when I started into the blogging community, and I’ve loved watching her journey. I would love to follow in her footsteps and create a hybrid career. Here’s to wild success for your new book, Elana!

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, With Joy)