Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. She has published two novels, How to Climb the Eiffel Tower and Overlook. She is currently working on another novel and a mystery series.
In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for her recent novel, How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. A cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse.
Elizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. Her childhood was filled with excellent food and people loudly talking over each other. After earning a degree in psychology and a short stint as a corporate recruiter, she and her husband embarked on the adventure of parenting their two beautiful daughters. Motherhood led Elizabeth to start a small business, home school one of her daughters for several years, and learn more about competitive swimming than she ever knew possible. She and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.
What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?
I was fortunate to have excellent English teachers throughout my education. One of my favorites was the inimitable Barbara Donahue who allowed my fifth grade class start a literary magazine. We named it Excelsior and filled its little square pages with poems and short stories. My contribution was a poem about an eagle. It was heartfelt and had a good message. Excelsior continued through high school and published a few of my awful poems of teenaged angst.
What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?
Being a writer is a double-edged sword. I love being independent and having the freedom to write whatever I want. Few pursuits are quite so flexible. On the other hand, writing is a lonely pursuit. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves if the work doesn’t get done or if the end product is not good. Writers need to be brave, as well as dedicated.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?
I believe that writers get stuck. I’ve certainly come to a screeching halt with different projects. It’s an awful feeling, but you can’t let it define you as a writer. If a project isn’t working, put it aside and work on something else. I am a firm believer in working on multiple projects at one time, so I always have something to work on. I have also come to appreciate the power of “butt glue.” Rather than saying “I have writer’s block” and going off to do something else, I have learned to show up at the keyboard everyday. Some days are unpleasant and unproductive, but eventually I got unstuck and can move forward.
Right now, I am working on the sequel to my first novel, Overlook, as well as a mystery set in the Galapagos Islands. The biggest challenge to writing the sequel is maintaining the snarky tone of the first book while dealing with some pretty serious social issues. I worry that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I can always start over if I have to. The story is set in 1976, so I have to be careful to have my characters see issues like domestic abuse and divorce through the lens of that time.
What supports you in your writing?
I tend to write about difficult subjects – cancer, infidelity, betrayal, abuse – so I need a lot of support. The thing that keeps me going is the thought that my books might touch a reader’s life. Quite a few of my readers have contacted me to say that How to Climb the Eiffel Tower made them understand what it’s like to live with a cancer diagnosis and that life can still be funny, even in the face of difficultly. On a day-to-day basis, I also rely on an unhealthy amount of caffeine to keep me going.
What are you currently reading?
I always have several books going at once. Right now, I am reading: The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen, an ARC of The Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks, and If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black.
Where can our readers find you and your books online?
My website- ElizabethHein.com
My writing blog – Scribbling In The Storage Room