BIW Member Interview
Elaine Gounaris Hanna is from Massachusetts where she received a B.S. in Biology and a Master of Divinity in Orthodox Christian Theology. She currently resides in Indianapolis with her clergy husband of twenty years, Fr. Nabil, 18 year old daughter Sia (along with her two pet rats, Bubos amd Rabie), and two sons, Basil, 15, and Gregory, 12. In addition to writing, she is active in the life of the church, home schools Gregory, and is one of those people who train teams of evaluators to score the state exams your children take every year from elementary through high school.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Elaine Gounaris Hanna: By the time I was nine I was playing with words to write little nonsense pieces. In early adolescence I graduated to sappy poetry, by high school I was writing short fiction stories. I loved doing non-fiction research papers in college (egad!) and have continued doing that, having written numerous articles and papers on spirituality, theology and women’s issues. Some of which have been published in a variety of church publications and others of which I’ve offered as workshop presentations, sermons, or academic talks. A couple of years ago I took a writing course called Writing from your Life and loved it. It brought out another side to my writing, so I’m now trying my hand at Young Adult fiction, based very loosely on my experiences growing up near the ocean.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing.
Elaine Gounaris Hanna:
1. Despite my detailed outlines, prolific notes, and firm intentions, writing doesn’t always go as planned, so I have to be flexible and be prepared for surprises. The characters and plot seem to have a life of their own and defy me at every turn, jolting me into directions I had not anticipated. Little did I know when I started writing fiction that I was not necessarily in charge!
2. Rewriting is essential. I absolutely love tearing apart what I’ve written to come up with something much better. I concluded a long time ago that I am married only to my husband, not to my words.
3. Writing doesn’t happen by itself. After I permit myself the luxury of mulling things over in my head for a time, then I have to commit myself to the motto of BIW – BIC HOK TAM!
Moe: What are you working on now?
Elaine Gounaris Hanna: In addition to continuing with church things, I’m working on two young adult fiction novels simultaneously: High Water and Deep Water. After I had written the first book, I started on its sequel immediately, to not lose momentum, and have been adjusting High Water as I write Deep Water. I realized quickly if I said something in the sequel, I had to set the stage for it in the first book, so I’ve been going back and forth between the two and am close to finishing.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing related book?
Elaine Gounaris Hanna: When I started writing High Water I rehashed the same twenty five pages I had initially written for a whole year. During that time I read more books on writing in general and for kids in particular than I can remember. A number of those books slapped me upside the head and directed me to radically readjust my approach, so not only did I tear those pages apart and significantly rewrite them, but wrote another 700 or so in the following year through BIW. So, I can’t choose one book, but was helped tremendously by a whole conglomerate of them.
Moe: What is your favorite writing website?
Elaine Gounaris Hanna: I’ve only looked at a couple of sites like Writer’s Digest and SCBWI, because I prefer to curl up with a good book rather than sit at a computer screen reading. Though I’ve found them helpful, I always come back to the BIW site, which has enough info to keep me busy and is easy for a computer klutz like me to navigate, so BIW it is!
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Elaine Gounaris Hanna: Do the research in order to have accurate information for solid outlines and useful notes before BIW starts. I pour through books at the library and search on-line for information frequently. Since my books take place in a seacoast town in northeastern Massachusetts, for example, I research things like water temperature, tides, currents, what fish might be swimming in the area at which time of year, life in a seacoast town, what happens in an estuary, how lighthouses function, even how to make a lobster trap. The details matter, even if it’s only a phrase or passing remark.