An optimist and opportunist, Strife is a self-made author, cover designer, and editor. Best known as Elysia Strife, who writes primarily sweet holiday romance, she most loves writing dystopian science fiction fantasy novels under the pseudonym variation E. L. Strife. She is an upcoming author of young adult fantasy as Elysia Lumen and looks forward to diving deeper into the world of magic.
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Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
The Kiss that Saved Christmas is about a young widow who’s struggling to hang on to the home her husband built for them by using it as a venue. The trouble is, she trusted the last few assistants too easily, and she can’t get enough business to pay for the timber home much longer.
Claire, the venue host and owner, in desperate need of help to save the last standing memory of her husband, reluctantly hires a man to perform maintenance and assist with events.
Zach is more than she expects.
Zach Carver does everything from clearing snow from roads, sawing down trees, caring for cattle, fixing engines, to running from a less than perfect past. He’s out of work and willing to do anything for a second chance. Claire gives him what he needs, but she doesn’t realize how much she, herself, needs him.
I wrote this book after encountering several people with stories of hiding pain because they feared judgment and loss of what mattered most to them. I was moved by what they had endured and felt compelled to write The Kiss that Saved Christmas.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I’m an indie author all the way! I do everything from outlining and writing to editing, proofreading, cover design, and formatting. The only thing I can’t do myself is critique it. I had some wonderful help from Katrina Ariel and Nina Castle. Getting fellow authors’ feedback is critical. I am so grateful for their help!
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
This is actually a funny story. At least, I think it is. I always have some concept of what the title will include but never really refine it until I’ve got the major developmental edits done, because then I know how it will end… for certain.
I presented an idea to my husband, who’s also a creative type, and he said, “Mmm, how about The Kiss that Saved Christmas? That sounds more like a Hallmark movie.”
I laughed, because it was totally true. I told him I was going to give him credit, to which he argued of course. But credit is due.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
I usually have some concept of my cover early on, before I even fully outline the book. The reason is that the cover to me is a symbol of what’s inside. If there’s a dog on the cover, there better darn well be a dog in the story! Maybe that’s just me. But I believe it’s important to have accurate packaging for products, so I usually have a cover “rough” that’s used in early promotion, then refine it as the book gets closer to publication until I find the sweet spot in layout, color scheme, text, etc.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
I do all my own covers as I have a degree in Interior Design. It might be in housing and not graphic design, but we spent a fair amount of time learning graphics programs, presentation, and art theory. Are my covers awesome? I can’t say. But I’m happy with them and feel they accurately represent the content of my books. And that’s crucial to me.
How was your experience working with the designer?
She’s a bit of a stickler for symmetry, which sometimes doesn’t feel necessary. I occasionally wish she’d take an abstract route, come up with something new and off the wall. But she’s stuck in her ways.
At least it always smells like Christmas in her house! That makes our design sessions much more enjoyable! :-D
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
I’ve had a few comments on the cover for The Kiss that Saved Christmas, and all have been pleasant. (To my relief!)
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
(I say this from a designer’s end…) Definitely find someone who is willing to offer you several designs to choose from if you can. It’s important that they’re comfortable with changing certain details like hair color, scene setting, font type to fit your story and genre. If you’ve got a blazing red head on your cover but there isn’t one in the book some readers might get annoyed. (This is the first thing my husband does when I ask him to take a look at a cover. “Is this in there? Is that?”) Don’t just have your friend do your book cover unless their well-practiced art fits your genre.
Check out their portfolios and select a few images that are close to what you envision for your book. If you’ve got a mood board or a collage of pictures, sometimes that can help them too. Good communication is everything. And give them plenty of time to get the work done. You can’t push an artist because you have a deadline.
Also, don’t pay 100% upfront unless they’re really well-known artists. Paying half ahead and half at the end is more common.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
There is always more to the story that we can readily see. We never truly know how much anyone is burdened unless we get to know them. This is the journey Claire and Zach take together, discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they find one another.
I hope this book inspires just one person to be more understanding and accepting of others, to show love where there isn’t any. We never know what wonderful things would sparkle in the dark until we shed light on them.
I pray everyone finds a bit of Claire’s hope and Zach’s unwavering love in their lives this holiday season. My best wishes to you.
Thank you for having me.