Elisa Menz is a self-taught writer and a fantasy literature fan. Born in Bolivia, she grew up surrounded by mythical creatures and supernatural folklore through local writers and storytellers. Inspired by those tales, she started writing her own stories at a young age.
Now living in Chile, she works full time as a writer, while dawdling in video game programming, comic design, and alternative sources of storytelling. A member of the Chilean Tolkien Society and an avid reader of fantasy classics, her work is heavily influenced by authors like David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, and Robin Hobb.
Her stories are full of witty, sweet, and hilarious characters, always with a pinch of magic.
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what is it about?
Easy Guide to Escape Hell deals with the effects of growing up under strict and controlling families, as well as overcoming troubled upbringings and generational trauma. Dagon Gunthersson escapes Hell and his uncaring father, only to end up in the human world, sharing a house with Josephine Gardiner, who has fled her selfish parents. They both quickly realize there’s more to life than fulfilling their family's expectations, and it’s up to them to create the life they want to live. This theme is found all over this story; to take responsibility for your own happiness and break the bonds that hurt us and keep us from growing, not only as a person but as a society as well.
Q2: How long does it take you to write a book? How long does each stage of the process usually take?
It varies with each project since it has taken me from six months to over two years to complete some of my novels. I’m still working on establishing some sort of plan for how I approach a new project because I waste too much time trying to make the first draft “perfect.” Editing is something I greatly enjoy and that usually takes me between four to seven months to complete.
Q3: What is your favourite type of character to write?
Misunderstood grumpy loners who are secretly sweet and caring. I do enjoy reading morally gray and villainous characters but that’s not the kind of people I want in my mind for months. When I write, I try to bring to life people who are flawed; afraid, distrustful, and selfish. I love to peel layers of their personalities and discover kinder and braver sides to them. In Easy Guide, Dagon does his best to hide his concern for the well-being of those around him, and Josephine surprises herself over and over with the courageous decisions she makes. They both take their time before they accept kindness is not a weakness, and courage isn’t exclusive to confident people.
Q4: Do you mine your own life for ideas, settings and/or characters? If so, please give an example from your current book release where you have done this.
I try to keep people I know out of my stories because they tend to read them. But anything beyond my close circle is a source of inspiration. One of the characters in Easy Guide that gave me a lot of trouble was the villain, Caius Ghalore. A power-crazed aristocrat who had the talent to influence the masses and commit the most heinous crimes in the name of “justice.” What kind of person does this? Who can truly believe they are above others and cause so much suffering? I didn’t know what kind of motivations such a character could have, and my villain felt like a cartoon. So, I turned to the real world, to those who wield power and use it for their own gain. It wasn’t hard to find these real-life tyrants and listen to their twisted logic, and then write about someone who could easily justify their monstrous actions.
Q5: What is something you wish you had known earlier on it your writing career?
I honestly don’t know. When I started, I knew nothing and made tons of mistakes. But each of them brought me closer to where I am today, and I loved every step of the journey. Perhaps knowing how difficult it was to publish and reach an audience would have dissuaded me from trying. I am grateful for my earlier ignorance and what it helped me achieve.
Q6: What do you do when you find yourself in a bit of a writing rut? Is there any strategy you find works for you to help the words start flowing again?
It will depend on what’s causing it. If I’m stuck with a scene in particular, I skip it and work on some other section of the book. If I’m exhausted or uninspired, I leave the draft alone for a few days and rest. Reading, watching movies, talking to other humans, and walking around town always help. Sometimes it’s good to go back and read your draft to figure out what’s stopping you from advancing the plot. Re-writing is risky but sometimes it helps unlock new ideas.
Q7: You mentioned that you genre-hop quite a lot in your writing: High Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Steampunk Adventure. Do you have any routines, trick or habits that you use to get into the different headspace and writing voice required to write such different genres?
I’m not like those amazing writers who can juggle several projects at the same time. I hyper-focus on one draft, and that makes it easier to set the tone and voice for each story. I do have a weakness for Fantasy, so when I experimented with Contemporary Romance once, it was a daily struggle not to switch the chickens for fairies. It also helps to immerse yourself in the medium. When I’m ready to start my Steampunk novel, I will dedicate a few days to reading and watching movies within the genre.
Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
Someone who’s looking for a quick and cozy escape from reality. I am my ideal reader. I write these stories because they make me happy, and while there are pain and ugly moments in them, the final goal is to close these books with your soul a little lighter than before you opened them.
Q9: What authors or books inspire you the most?
In my early drafts, I always go insane when describing nature, and if not for my honest beta-readers, I could go on and on about the way the light filters through the canopy of a forest. I blame Tolkien entirely. He seems to be the only one allowed to get away with endless descriptions, and I just love it. I love the humor in David Eddings's books. If there’s one author I can confidently say influenced my writing, that would be him. I aspire to create the spontaneous comedy he included in his work. I always admired Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel's talent to depict the inner turmoil of their characters. No matter the plot, the focus is always on the emotions and how these emotions shape the story. Their attention to detail is mesmerizing and makes it easy to believe the characters on the pages are real people.
What are you currently reading?
I haven’t picked my next book yet. My last read was A Path of Branches by Joe Luegers, the second book of a Young Adult trilogy with a magnificent mix of Fantasy and SciFi that completely blew my mind. I love how he writes action scenes, and his character development is superb. I mostly read indie authors and the originality of these stories always surprises me.
Dagon Gunthersson—a powerful demon warrior and a renowned member of Hell’s nobility—stands accused of treason by his commander. His abrupt escape leads him to the last place he expects: the human world. Stuck in a decrepit manor haunted by lesser demons, Dagon masterminds a plan to return to Hell and take his revenge.
Josephine Gardiner’s sheltered life vanishes the moment she escapes her controlling parents. When she’s offered the opportunity to claim a mysterious manor, no heaping trash, nor the looming threat of eviction will stop her from building the home she’s always dreamt of. But the ghastly creatures scurrying in the shadows might.
While Heaven and Hell gamble with war, the manor inhabitants stand against greedy lawyers, hostile angels, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Can an arrogant demon and a strong-headed woman stop pretending they don’t care about each other and save the only home they’ve ever loved?
To find out more about Elisa Menz check out her https://linktr.ee/elisa_menz or give her a follow on Instagram @mayaseranawriter.
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