Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I publish under multiple names in fiction and non-fiction, and am an internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. I spent the bulk of my career working backstage on Broadway, and a little bit in film and television production.
How long have you been writing for?
I started writing when I was six; I was published in school literary magazines, and, in high school, published in local papers when I handled publicity for the music department. I started working professionally in theatre when I was 18. In college, my major was film and television production, and I veered away from the writing and more into technical aspects. Working off-Broadway, I started writing monologues for actresses looking for good material; that grew into plays, and then back into short stories and novels. So I’ve been writing for A Very Long Time.
What motivates you to write? How did you begin writing?
Writing is how I make sense of the world. How I explore other lives from the inside and the outside.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?
I do my first 1K of the day on what I call my “Primary Project” (whatever’s being drafted) early in the day. Feed the cats, do my yoga/meditation practice, write my first 1K of the day.
The rest of the day shapes up depending on if I’m doing only my own work, or a mix of my own work and client work and other freelance writing gigs. It’s shaped by what’s on the tightest deadline and the highest paycheck. I prefer to write in the morning and edit in the afternoons. Since I’m always juggling multiple projects, there are usually a handful of projects in various draft stages, and then some more in editing or galleys. Scriptwriting usually requires a much tighter turnaround than books, so when those jobs come in, they take priority. Sometimes, I just have to stay up later or get up earlier to get it all done.
What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?
Cried. Tears of joy, but I cried.
What was the publishing process like? How long did it take?
Months, of course. For me, there’s generally been one major edit from the editor’s initial notes and discussion, and then one to two more rounds of edits with the editor, with a tighter turnaround. Then, the copyeditor is brought in, and we have those edits and galleys. When I have unusual people names or place names or phrases in other languages, I submit that with the draft that goes to the editor and the copyeditor, so they can help me stay consistent.
For the series I write, keeping the Series Bibles updated is vital, too. As soon as a book is out of final galleys and headed for release, I update the Series Bible. I use tracking sheets for details that may change within drafts, but once it’s finalized, I update the Series Bible. That way, an inconsistency is a plot or character choice, not a mistake.
Are you currently working on anything new?
Always! The radio plays are getting a lot of traction right now, and I have four stage plays to finish this year: one on the painter Canaletto’s sisters; one on the gun violence epidemic; a collection of monologues called WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST that’s a follow-up to one of my most popular plays, WOMEN WITH AN EDGE; and a play about two famous women authors. Plus, I have to keep up with the series I’m writing — The Gwen Finnegan Mysteries, The Coventina Circle Paranormal Romantic Suspense Series, the lighter Nautical Namaste Mysteries, and a few one-offs. Plus client work. So I’m always, always working on something new. This is my passion, but it is also my business, not my hobby. It’s how I keep a roof over my head.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?
Still working on Broadway, as a dresser. Or, if I hadn’t gone down the theatre/writing path at all, probably an archaeologist.
What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?
Don’t let others define you. Define yourself. And realize that your life and your career are always a work in process.
What is your favorite book, genre, or author?
I don’t have just one of any of them! My favorite, favorite book, the one I’d need on a desert island, is THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. I never get tired of Shakespeare. I also love POSSESSION, by AS Byatt. Genre would probably be mystery. I find it often the most satisfying, although, as a writer, I like to mix it with other elements of other genres. Author? I don’t have a single favorite. Again, I always go back to Shakespeare. But it was Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe who were the big inspirations for me to write. And Mildred Wirt Benson, the original writer of the Nancy Drew books as “Carolyn Keene.” She did another series, under her own name, with a heroine named Penny Parker. Penny is such a brat, but she’s hilarious.
I collect juvenile series mysteries from the early twentieth century: Beverly Gray, Vicki Barr, Judy Bolton, all of those. The racism in them is shocking, but it’s also a good snapshot of what was considered “normal” at the time and why we should know better now (but far too often don’t). You get a heroine like Ruth Fielding, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century heroine, who did all these great, adventurous things solving her mysteries, and then went on to a career writing in Hollywood, in a happy marriage. A lot of these heroines showed girls that there was more than one definition of “good” — and that it wasn’t a terrible thing to be smart, and show it.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Put your butt in the chair every day and do the work. Books don’t write themselves. Plan time off as you want/need it. Don’t let the writing slide. And don’t blow first rights posting material from your drafts online or on social media if you want to sell the polished/finished work. There’s a world of difference between throwing out a rough draft and sharing an excerpt of a piece that’s contracted.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Find your tribe. Find other writers you like to hang out with and talk to. Read each other’s work. Support each other. Every time one succeeds, it helps everybody. Jealousy and envy are a waste of energy. Learn the craft — craft is as important as art. Do the work, build the community, and you’ll start to see results.
About Devon Ellington
Devon Ellington publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction and is an internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. She has eight novels published, several novellas, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of articles. She worked backstage on Broadway and in film and television production for years and teaches both online and in-person. Her main website, http://www.devonellingtonwork.com, will lead you to the websites for the different series, and her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee, is at https://devonellington.wordpress.com
Buy Devon’s Books
The Nautical Namaste Not-Quite-Cozy Mysteries (As Ava Dunne):
Savasana at Sea