I met Author Elizabeth Crowens at World Con in Kansas City. We are both members of Broad Universe. Her Time Traveler Professor series is an alternate history/spooky steampunk published out of London. Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.
Hi, I’m Elizabeth Crowens. Why do I use a pen name? Because back in the 80’s I wrote for Ninja Magazine and a bunch of other unusual publications. This was when Hollywood and Hong Kong were churning out a lot of over the top films on the tail end of the Bruce Lee craze. I actually had a blackbelt in ninjutsu that I received from the top masters in Japan, but I knew the reality behind the façade and felt I needed a bit of anonymity from my professional life working at a publishing company at the time. The last headache I needed was to have someone plan a surprise attack to see if I could really do a triple backflip and throw ninja stars in my defense. I didn’t need the hassle. So I just came up with a pen name.
When and why did you begin writing?
In the 70’s when I was in college I thought my career path was going to be screenwriting. Back then I didn’t have a very realistic view of how the film industry worked. My head was in the clouds with wildly creative ideas, and my teachers weren’t the best influences because they came from the avant-garde and Andy Warhol schools of artsy indie filmmaking. However, my goals were commercially oriented. New York film schools were like that back then. Unfortunately, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better and flying by the seat of my pants until I finally moved out to Hollywood in 1990.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Back in the 80’s when I was writing articles for magazines and working on the first draft of this manuscript. However, I wasn’t making enough money to make a living out of it. My degree was in Photography and Film studies, but I found out the hard way that in journalism people were paid more for writing articles in magazines than they were for the photography that accompanied them. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I was always good at English in school. I’ll write the article, as well, especially since I’d get paid more for it.”
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Silent Meridian is a 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. It’s a delightful mash-up blending those elements with hints of Doctor Who, Tim Powers, and Nicholas Meyer. Contrary to people’s first impression it is not a Sherlock Holmes story.
What inspired you to write this book?
That’s a stranger than fiction story. I’ve always had a passion of collecting antiques and antiquarian books. Very similar situations that occur in the book, sometimes finding a strange book or an unusual item can inspire a whole flood of ideas.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I try to mimic a Victorian first-person point of view although I tone it down for modern readers. Authors such as Henry James and Arthur Machen can get incredibly wordy. Editors today are always hopping on our backs about word count.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
In the book, I refer to two similar metaphors, i.e. the sfumato effect and the Verdaccio technique of underpainting. These are both art terms from the Italian Renaissance referring to the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci as to how he depicts seamless and invisible edges in paintings such as the Mona Lisa. However, it alludes to the often-indistinguishable transition from dreams to reality to jumping back and forth in time.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
“The key to the future lies in clues from the past.” That’s from a quote in the novel. It’s very much tied into resolving karma and moving forward and any conflicts you experience now most likely can have their roots traced back in history—therefore the justification of traveling through time.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Shush! That’s a secret.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I’d rephrase that by asking the question, “What books or media have been the most influence?” I’ve gone through spurts with reading, but I’ve always been a film buff. My answer? Stanley Kubrick, Harry Potter and Star Wars. Kubrick and Lucas were the reasons why I got involved in the film industry. I remember being blown away by A Clockwork Orange, especially in its art direction and cinematography, when I was in high school and Star Wars just at the time I was graduating college and about to spring out in the job market working in film production. Harry Potter didn’t come around until many years later.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
If I can resurrect someone from the dead it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes stories are so damned clever. One that is living now? Tim Powers. I’m amazed as to how he puts everything together in his plotting.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
This was an unusual situation where I, as the author, had a significant amount of input in the cover design. After I signed my contract with my publisher, he hooked me up with the graphic designer that handles most of his covers. The graphic designer asked me if I had any ideas since this was basically a steampunk novel and not the typical Sherlock Holmes pastiche that comprises most of my publishing company’s catalogue.
“Do I have any ideas?” I thought to myself. “Boy, am I going to surprise everyone!”
Little did they know that I’ve been professionally trained as both a graphic designer and photographer and have had over 20 years experience with Photoshop. Previously in my career, I used to art direct and shoot movie posters in Hollywood. Since I had full intentions of pitching the Time Traveler Professor series (Silent Meridian is the first of approximately seven books) as either a film series or a cable television series, I had already composited a one-sheet or sell sheet mini-poster as a leave behind. The background photo on the cover is one that I took at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle received his medical degree.
Brian Berlanger, MX Publishing’s graphic designer, and I worked together refining some of the images. I took a back seat and allowed him to get all the credit just because I was so thrilled to have as much input as I did.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, “Never give up. Never surrender.”
New York, NY
Art Director: Elizabeth Crowens
Cover artist: Brian Berlanger.
Publisher: MX Publishing
Barnes & Noble Paperback
Barnes & Noble Ebook