Interview with Elizabeth Randall
Author of An Ocklawaha River Odyssey
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I am from New City, New York and I reside now in Lake Mary, Florida.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
In 1970, my father quit IBM and moved our family to Florida to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in a warm climate and running his own business. Unfortunately, he was murdered in the kitchen of our Winter Park home five years later. I wrote a book about a similar murder in 2016 titled, Murder in St. Augustine: the mysterious death of Athalia Ponsell Lindsley.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
My father and grandfather were journalists and it seems I carry on the family tradition. As I have always worked full time as a teacher, a long term project such as a book is easier to carry out than shorter free-lance pieces, although I sell a few essays and articles a year as well.
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
My husband, an accomplished photographer, and I work together as a photojournalist team. Our five books are an eclectic collection: The Floating Teacher, Haunted St. Augustine and St. Johns County, Women in White: the haunting of Northeast Florida, and Murder in St. Augustine. My latest book, published by History Press in August is titled: An Ocklawaha River Odyssey. This book is about our experiences paddling the Ocklawaha River in a kayak as well as the ancient river’s history and it’s challenges, including the biggest environmental conflict in Florida history. Which is still ongoing, by the way.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
I think people who love Florida and who are interested in Florida can appreciate our books best. I was surprised to find at book fairs that teenagers like our books as well. I was an a lecturing ‘author in the schools’ for Nassau County in 2017.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
Well, I’ve always tussled with editors about titles, and I was surprised that History Press went with An Ocklawaha River Odyssey when they wanted to title it Along the Ocklawaha. Also, no matter how many times you edit your edit your book, or your editor edits it, there is going to be one glaring ( to you, anyway) error when it is published. I think that’s true for everyone.
If you could, what advice would you give to past self yourself before embarking on this journey?
I got into the habit of writing every day years ago, but I wish I’d started that sooner. I used to wait for inspiration. Writing is an organic process and the inspiration comes more often, the more you do it.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
Everyone! Publishing a book is very much like bringing new life into the world. It takes a long time, and it’s a celebration you want to share.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
If you are talking about the writing process, I think I have gotten to the point where it is one of my biggest joys in life. As I mentioned, I come from a family of journalists, so trying to get hold of someone I need to talk to, who is not forthcoming, would be one of my biggest challenges.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
I know I am what Stephen King would call “a good writer.” I read a lot and I write a lot. However, I am friends with other writers, all males, who seem to get better book contracts and better marketing exposure than I do, although our skill set seems comparable. I have persevered regardless, and I would say that is my biggest strength. Edgar Allen Poe, and Anne Bradstreet didn’t see success during their lifetimes, but their work is so important to American literary culture.
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
Marketing, I suppose, although I do try. That is why I’m on this page.
When do you think you will you write your next book?
I am already writing it. My husband and I took the ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway this summer and I am halfway through the first draft. It’s titled: Alaska: the Inside Passage. This will be our first book about a location outside of Florida.
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
Traditional. We use The History Press, although for our next book, I am looking for an Alaska-based publisher.