T: Good Morning Sharon and Elias thanks for joining me this morning. I hope your drink is strong enough?
S: I usually drink bottled water.
E: Good Morning Teresa! I would like a cup of Black coffee please and a glass of water with lemon.
T: I promise for this set of questions I’m going to keep things fun and light (well, light for me) so let’s get started.
T: How much of you is in Jacob and Belle?
S: Belle, was my grandmother’s middle name. I’m not much like Belle, except for maybe her curiosity and when I was young, I did tend to get into trouble a bit, nothing bad, just little. And I was more of a Tom boy, as opposed to a girly girl.
E: I would be lying if I said, my younger self isn’t woven throughout this story. There are certain aspects that are ideal and I was anything but an ideal child. Like Sharon, I did get into a bit of trouble, but a young Jacob, does have some of my adventures mixed in that are based on facts…
T: Do you think the readers will be able to guess which adventures from your past you wove into Jacob and Belle?
E: We shall see. For me personally, I am a good listener and a student of history. My parents were both depression era children and I wove memories both real and imagined into this first book collaboration with Sharon.
T: So Belle is more of a girly girl?
S: No way. I was a Tomboy up growing up, so I made her more like me. I envisioned someone, who was a trouble maker, always getting into messes. Almost from the beginning of the story, we see that Belle isn’t your typical polite, speak only when your spoken to, never get into trouble kind of girl.
She starts plotting Jacob’s downfall, before they even meet and when they finally do, she has very, un-lady like, ideas about what to do to poor unsuspecting Jacob. lol
T: How hard was it to get intimate with your characters, when writing letters from a time period when sex before marriage didn’t really happen?
S: It’s very interesting you would ask that. Hmmm… Elias and I had discussions about this many times. How do you make the reader feel the great love between Belle and Jacob during a time, when kissing, would still be seen as risqué? So, the question was; how do we make the kisses count, the hand holding, sweet touches and words, could we find a way for them to be passionate, without throwing her up against a wall, a quickie in the shower or hot sweaty sex? The thing people need to understand, is that it’s an epic love story, shown through letters, where we see two young people begin to grow up faster than they’d planned, and their love growing and blossoming as well. In spite of our limitations, I think we were able to make it work. But we’ll let the readers decide.
E: I agree with Sharon. It has been really challenging, I think the creative ways that we have broached the subject, have brought a sense of tenderness and intimacy and passion as well as humor into play. It’s really been a lot of fun, planning and calculating each piece, introducing something a little tiny bit risqué, yet still keeping a certain naivety in play as well.
T: What have you taken away from writing Letters?
S: It’s been an interesting dynamic working with someone else. I not only felt the emotion from the character’s point of view, but mine as well. Some of the moments created in the letters weren’t real and some came from bits and pieces of my own childhood.
E: I never realized, just how personal and intimate a story could get. How two people can be completely swept away with the characters, just as much as the readers. When we read our letters back and forth, especially when we are coming from a place of vulnerability or something poignant that maybe touches on reality for us or an experience that a family member had or just a scene that tugs at the heart strings, that is what I can take away. If it touches us that way, what is it going to do for the readers?
T: How hard has it been to get into your character’s minds since they are different than your “normal” writing and character style?
S: Actually, for me, I’m still writing in my normal style, the only difference between this story and my others; I’m writing with a partner instead of alone, and it’s a different kind of love story, then the other books.
E: I haven’t had as much trouble as I did with Cain. Since Letters, has only two voices, that has been immensely helpful. Also, when I write as Jacob, I see him, hear him and I can see Belle as well. I see all of it so to me, it is like he is telling me his story, so it feels very natural.
T: Elias did writing about war bring back any bad memories of being in the service?
E: Not bad per se, just cold reality. I tried to weave that into the story as it has gone. It’s been cathartic in a lot of ways
T: How has it been cathartic?
S: I think to some degree most of what I write is cathartic in one way or another. Writing about Belle and Jacob, brought back some fond memories for me. Being the holiday season, there were lots of nostalgic things Elias and I wrote about. Things I’d forgotten about. I think remembering sweet memories was like finding buried treasure. My childhood wasn’t a happy one, but through this story, I remembered some sweet times in my past that had been forgotten.
E: Revisiting a time and place that was so different. Its like looking through a microscope at your younger self and wanting desperately to change his course, but realizing that back then I was unteachable.
T: How many versions of a letter do you go through before you send it off?
S: For me, just one. I make changes, tweak and edit throughout the entire letter and then I email it to Elias.
E: For me the same. I just revise the original. I think I have had two that have had one revision each.
T: What music if any have you been listening to for Letters? Is it different than normal? Anything from the time period?
S: I listen to music I like, no matter what the period, but I have enjoyed listening to music from that era as well.
E: LOL! Sharon, you kinda forgot about me forcing you to listen to the billboard top 25 from 1951. LOL! I think listening to music from that era when I was writing certain parts, helped immensely. I need to be able to convey certain musical ideas in the letters to Belle and to the reader, so I went for authentic.
T: What were some of your favorites while writing?
S: We wrote about singing with the church choir, the pond where Jacob and Belle swam in the summer and where she almost drowned. I loved getting into the mind of a young girl, so pristine and un-jaded by life. Elias and I laughed often and we also cried. I loved it whenever Elias would read some of the letters to me. He would tell me to close my eyes and just listen. The man is a seriously brilliant writer. When someone like Elias Raven reads about a character that he’s written and is so overcome by his emotions, you know, what he’s just written is something amazing.
E: Tennesee Waltz, Too Young, and Because Of You come to mind right away.
T: Are you planning anything special for the release of Letters?
S: We’ve talked about a red carpet kind of event. A huge author takeover event, with some more main stream authors, as well as some we know and have shared events with before. Of course, there will be several videos along the way, thanks to Elias, as his very talented team of ladies.
E: I concur. The girls in Kreative Minds LTD, will be very busy prior to the release. Kendall, Julie, Kim, Iris and the street teams, will have their hands full, not to mention the background people involved with the blogs etc…
T: When did you guys actually start writing Letters?
S: The idea was presented in March and I did some writing for it then. However, In June, after Elias finished Cain 2, we started writing our letters back and forth.
E: Was it that long ago? God I am getting old Sharon! I’m glad you remember!
T: How often do you get emotional, while reading the other’s letter? Do you get emotional while writing your own?
S: He may not want me to tell you this, but Elias has gotten quite emotional at times. With each letter, the seriousness of Belle and Jacob’s situation, has become more real to them, as well as us. We’re bringing these characters to life, as well as the families and friends, so it’s bound to go to a more emotional place.
E: Teresa, have you been reading in the background? LOL! Very emotional, I’ve welled up more than once and SO has Sharon! Don’t let her buffalo you!
T: How has writing Letters changed you, your writing, and/or your outlook?
S: I don’t know if it’s changed me so much, as made me reflect back on the times in my life, when I thought my world was coming to an end (Especially when I was a kid and in trouble with my parents or teachers lol) or things that happened at different times, I thought were so monumental. Compared to Jacob and Belle’s situation, it’s made me realize I could have it so much worse.
E: It has made me look backwards and take a look at the younger version of me with all of his flaws, fears and anxieties. My perception of the world back then, as to what it is now. It’s been a really beautiful journey and I’m grateful that it isn’t over yet…
About the Authors:
From the time Sharon Johnson learned to write, she had one dream, to become a writer and author. Writing has always been the one constant through every moment, both good and bad, in her life. She started with basic Haiku and rhyming poems; then later, she started writing simple one to two page stories. She’s always kept journals documenting her life and those of her children. Through every poem, story and journaled event, she never stopped looking for what she calls her ‘Charmed’ book. Year after year the book never came, until the summer of 2013, when a two to three page idea max, turned into ten then twenty pages and kept growing from there. It became clear within a very short time, her characters had much more to say and their story was far from over. And that’s how ‘The Chat Room’ was born. Eighteen months and a lifetime later, her dream finally became a reality in August 2015. There’s a saying she’s created as a part of her daily mantra; “Never stop looking for your happy ending, because your story isn’t finished yet…
Elias Raven was born and raised in Los Angeles. He’s an avid reader with a lifelong passion for writing. He’s a storyteller, a poet and a talented musician with an amazing voice. Oh, and let’s not forget an amazing cook!
As a young boy he spent many summers reading classics such as “The Adventures of Sherlock Homes” and “The White Company” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His creativity was constantly being pushed as he learned more and more about the world around him. His taste in literature spanned from classics to science fiction/fantasy. He expanded his taste devouring everything from William Blake to Milton, Dante, Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, T.S. Elliot, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Khalil Gibran, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Paul Verlaine, Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Carl Sandburg, Dylan Thomas, and Jim Morrison. These inspirations and his sheer love for reading had him take pen to paper around the age of 20.
Did I mention he’s a Musician? …You can often find him playing his guitars (both electric and acoustic) and keyboards and singing (4 octave ranges) in his home studio. He’s a classically trained music aficionado -trained early on by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Hayden, Liszt, as well as Big Band, Jazz and Rag Time. Spending time with his father at the Los Angeles Philharmonic; experiencing his first orchestra concert at the age of 9.
Elias the Gourmet Cook…Oh My!…His Japanese mother and grandmother trained him very well in fine culinary skills both in cooking and food appreciation from all over the world such as Italian, Indian, Moroccan, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, Pilipino, Greek, and Polish.
When Elias is not reading, writing, composing music or cooking…he can be found listening to music, playing games, hanging out with his kids. He enjoys going to concerts, going on culinary adventures, sightseeing, spending the day at the beach or in the mountains…just doing something adventurous!