Evocative Writer: An Interview with Elizabeth Sumner Wafler

Elizabeth Sumner Wafler is another author whose path I crossed because of Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA). She’s an active member of the organization and has a very specific want for the characters she crafts. She says, “I want you imbued with a sense of hope and possibility–with the magic that can happen when someone first pokes a toe out of her comfort zone and decides to make things happen.” Those characters draw her readers in and leave them wanting more, as evidenced by reviews of her books. One reviewer wrote, “[The characters] are people I want to spend time with,” while another said, “I leave this book with a familiarity and love for this cast of characters that I wish I could follow into the next decade of their lives!” High praise indeed. Most recently, Elizabeth has moved into the business of podcasting, a new passion that is sure to be as successful as her writing. With all the tasks Elizabeth has on her t0-do list, I’m thrilled she found the time to chat with me.

Christina: Congrats to you on the establishment of your podcast, The Evocative Author. How long has this been a dream of yours? What do you hope to do with this podcast? How can authors connect with you?

Elizabeth: My decision to create a podcast was two-pronged. I wanted something productive and writerly to do between books, and I needed to keep my branding out there. My focus was also two-pronged:

  • First, I would support other authors (I’m all in for #authorssupportingauthors) and give back to the writing community that has supported me. Featuring authors on my show not only helps them sell books, but my questions are geared to give listeners an intimate glimpse into the writer’s life—to get to know them in a small way. My favorite part of each episode is when I ask the author to read a favorite evocative passage from her book. Hearing an author’s authentic voice is super compelling, don’t you think? It really draws people in.
  • Second, I would provide a service to readers, giving them a sort of book report (without spoilers) on a book they may be thinking of adding to their tbr stack, or giving them the inside scoop on an author whose work they might fall in love with.

So, to me it’s a win-win endeavor. I have a vast network of fellow writers I know through WFWA and have had no problem filling my calendar. Sometimes I’ve reached out to them, and sometimes they send me an ask. And I’ve met so many new friends. I say, now that you’ve been on my show, we’re friends for life. I found my cover designer for TOPANGA CANYON, Kristina Parro, because she guested on my show.

Christina: In addition to podcasting, you write as well. In Robin’s Nest and Georgie Girl released in 2020, and you have a book coming out in 2023. Can you tell us a little bit about your publishing journey?

Elizabeth: I’ve been a bookworm all my life. I taught elementary school for twenty years, then “retired early” to try my hand at writing my own fiction. So, I made this career pivot at age fifty-five. It’s funny, I’ve been a guest of other podcasts and what they most want to hear is how I made that happen. I’ve met so many authors who decided to take up writing in their sixties and even seventies!

So, I queried two books—to no avail—and ended up self-publishing them. But with book three I finally landed a great one, one of the dealmakers with the highest sales. Oh, I had it made. It was the be all end all. My feet didn’t touch the ground for a week. But no.

With COVID and the current publishing climate, she was unable to sell the third or fourth manuscripts. SheWritesPress acquired my third book, A CLEFT IN THE WORLD, but it doesn’t launch until July of 2023! So, as so many people I know have done, with my fourth, TOPANGA CANYON, I’m going full-on indie. I even created my own publishing entity with an LLC—Evocative Publications. It will help with taxes and all royalties are mine alone. I feel kind of badass about that.

Christina: The theme of second chances is something that runs strong in your work. When did this theme become apparent to you? Was including it intentional? What message do you hope to send with the theme?

Elizabeth: I do love second-chance romances. A lot of people have the “one that got away” in their lives and fantasize about the “what if.” My first book—a swoony romance—is about star-crossed lovers who meet at a rock concert—The Eagles, my favorite band—and reunite thirty-five years later. But with GEORGIE GIRL, my coming-of-age story, the fourteen-year-old and her first love kept talking to me. I knew I wanted their story to continue. So, I wrote a stand-alone sequel, a women’s fiction, with Georgie at age forty-nine. How those two get together again is fabulous—I can’t say more than that. Yet.

Christina: You call yourself an evocative writer, saying “I bring strong images, memories, or feelings to mind. You will find my work filled with vivid metaphors, original prose and detailed descriptions that make you feel part of the scene.” You’ve mentioned that evocative prose is natural to you, so what is your writing process like? Is your first draft as evocative as the final product? Do you ever pull back on the evocative nature?

Elizabeth: I don’t think anyone’s first draft is filled with evocative prose. My first editor told me that, like her, I revise better than I write. My practice has been to write one full day, and the next, to revise it. Revisions are when the magic happens, when you see what the scene needs to make it pop. My parents said I’d had a great vocabulary all my life and that helps my prose. I don’t try to rein it in. Why? Because the books that satisfy me most are rich in prose and evocation. I’m just steeped in it.

Christina: Alliteration is also a favorite of yours. What’s so compelling about alliteration to you? 

Elizabeth: Alliteration. It’s delicious. Alliterative sentences add emphasis, and helps frame a memorable picture. For the reader, it helps with pacing–speeding up or slowing it down–or where you want it to. It also gives text rhythm and mood.

Christina: On your website, you have a lovely headshot with the caption beneath that reads: “My gray hair? Freedom and authenticity.” When did you go gray? Did you used to color your hair? If so, why? And if you colored your hair, what prompted you to stop?

Elizabeth: Haha. I colored my hair for twenty-five years and then decided I’d had enough. Enough of sitting for two hours in the salon every month, enough of paying for it. I cut my hair short and my stylist helped me by adding a few highlights. Now I’m free from getting anything more than a haircut. And I’ve never had so many compliments on my hair in my life. I feel authentic, because at sixty-two, this is the color my hair should be. And it’s sexy—I feel like I’m flying my freak flag.

Christina: What’s one thing your readers might not know about you by looking at your social media profiles and website or by listening to your podcast?

Elizabeth: This is one great and fun question! That one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. My hubby calls me The Sunshine Queen. I love sending cards. And giving little happies is one of my love languages. I’m also obsessed with Rifle Paper Company, and my office is filled with their file folders, note pads, my calendar. I even have their wrapping paper laminated at Office Max and line drawers with it! My family knows what to give me for Christmas.

Elizabeth can be found in multiple places!
Website: https://elizabethsumnerwafler.com/
Instagram: @elizabeth_sumner_wafler
Twitter: @ElizabethWafler

Thanks to Elizabeth for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.

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