Interview with Rae Elliott Williams
Author of Matilda Blows Into Town
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I was born in Vermont, and now live about an hour north of where I was raised. I returned home to be near aging parents after about 20 years living in Ma & NH.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
I left VT after college and spent the next 18 years working as a Recreational, Expressive Arts Therapist in NH and Ma. We returned to Vermont when my parents started to age to live next door to them and raised our children predominantly in the Greater Burlington area.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
In 2010 my son left for college. We had done all the college visits and I felt as prepared to let my first born go as I could be. A month after we dropped him off at his college of choice 30 minutes west of Boston, our 15 year old was given the opportunity to move to the Boston area and play junior hockey. I never wanted to hear her say, “I wonder how good I could have been if my parents had let me play juniors.” So we helped her organize her educational piece and moved her down there. My empty nesting anxiety kicked in and as an Expressive arts therapist I knew I was going to need a creative outlet. I started a Fairy garden, building it from an old boot tray and fun little things that I found. As I gardened the stories just started forming in my mind. When winter hit I started to write them down. I wrote for the next 7 years, while my daughter finished juniors, got a scholarship and a starting position at a D1 college and finally graduated and started her life in Boston. In retrospect I realized that I was writing from the excited perspective of my children and the adventure they were on instead of from my place of anxiety. I never intended to publish, it was therapy. But once a friend suggested it I started to think about it and over the course of next 3 years began the editing process and figuring out the steps I would need to take to get it published.
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
They are fun and wholesome stories about a troupe of fairies coming of age in Boston. I wanted them to be stimulating without the requisite antagonist that causes anxiety as I was experiencing enough of that at the time. I also feel like youth of today have enough anxiety in their lives and I didn’t want to add to it. I wanted to challenge vocabulary because I love words and I feel like youth of today don’t necessarily use their full battery our wonderful language. I wanted to stress the idea that everyone is responsible for creating the life that they want. That we all have the power to make decisions that will lead us to our dreams. I wanted to educate about acceptance and diversity and coping skills. I guess the books represent a lot of what I taught as a therapist.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
7-10 year old kids who like the idea of magic and mystical. I believe that it is magical when you learn to create the life that you want and my fairies are pro’s at believing that life has no limits and if they can hold their dreams in their heads, they will hold their dreams in their hands. There is a lot of sports reference in the book as well as New England life so anyone from New England will recognize some of the culture and references. I have had feedback from moms and grandmothers that reading it to their younger kids was enjoyable for both the 4-6 year old and the parent.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
I was using this process as a means of coping with my anxieties and fears as my life changed. So I learned a lot about myself. I went from no interest in sharing my stories to being motivated enough that I spent 3 years taking these stories from my head to my hand. I learned first hand that if you believe you can, then you will.
If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?
Establish a strong social media presence. Getting you book published is the easy part, selling your book once it is available is much more of a challenge when you are a 58 year old women with 50 friend on Facebook and no idea how to tweet.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
Millions. I feel like the stories, there are currently 8 in the series, are fun and will continue to be fun for years to come because the coming of age process will effect every generation.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
Trying to find ways to market the book. I have done a radio interview, I have sent books to people with a greater social media reach. I have donated books and tried to be open to every opportunity because my mission is to get all 8 stories published so that all the fairies get a chance to present themselves.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
The writing part actually came pretty easy for me. It felt a bit like divine influence. The stories were just there in my head, the first 3 nearly in full. I would sit down and just let my fingers type and the stories spilled out and moved from one vignette to the next.
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
Marketing. I heard an author say one time that writing and publishing were about 20% of the work, marketing was 80%. I thought that can’t be, but she was right. You really need to have a following otherwise no one knows to go out and look for you.
When do you think you will write your next book?
Over the 7 years from my 15 year old getting through 3 years of juniors and then 4 years of college I wrote 8 stories. After getting the first published someone called me an author and I said, “I’m not an author I’m a therapist who wrote her feelings.” Later that day I realized how limiting that thought and reaction was. So I started to think of myself as an author. Within 3 days a whole new series of stories started running in my head and over the next 3 years I wrote a series of 5 stories about a magic book that helps kids cope with challenges they are facing in fun and mystical ways.
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
I was published by Indigo River Publishing. I think they might be a hybrid but they called themselves a traditional publisher. So I guess I don’t know for certain.