inkpopper of the Week: elizabethmay
Posted by inkpop on March 16, 2010
Like loads of other inkpoppers, Elizabeth May is a whip-smart multi-talent.
Originally from California, the writer-photographer is working on her PhD in social anthropology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. At only 22, her portraits have been featured on the covers of a number of books, including the Australian cover for Maggie Shayne’s Bloodline, the UK cover for Jayne Ann Krentz’s Obsidian Prey, and a German cover for L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries.
Here, elizabethmay talks about her “nice demon,” how her Web presence landed book-cover deals, and “thought vomit.”
inkpop: You’re a new inkpop.com member. How’d you discover the site?
elizabethmay: I was browsing a writing forum called Chronicles Network, and it mentioned inkpop as a sister site of authonomy. The post said inkpop is for young-adult writers, so I decided to join it instead. I’m glad I did—inkpop is an incredible community with so many talented people. It’s great to write for teens and join a community that has so many teen writers. They are the intended age group for my work, and as fellow authors, I consider their advice and critiques to be invaluable for my work.
How did you get your photos on book covers?
I put my work on a lot of networking and photography sites. I also have my work represented by Trigger Image, a stock photography agency.
Early last year, a Harlequin cover designer found my work on one of the sites I frequent and e-mailed me to tell me she was interested in using an image for a book cover. I thought she was joking, but she was legit!
The designer for the L.J. Smith cover also discovered my work through one of the sites I network through. It kind of snowballed from there, so now I have designers finding my name and contacting me directly through my Web site or the agency. I strive for professional interactions with them, so they pass my work onto others or think of me for other projects. I think the case here was in part having my work available through so many different sources, and word of mouth after that.
Projects tend to fall into my lap rather fortuitously. Most of the stuff I shoot is primarily fashion photography for stylists, or test shoots for model portfolios. My photos have been featured most recently in Photography Monthly and an ad in Design Week. I also have editorials in Kismet Magazine and Alt Fashion Magazine this spring. It’s all rather overwhelming, as someone who does not intend to have a career as a photographer!
How’d you come up with the idea for your inkpop book, Demon Made?
Demon Made came to me as unexpectedly as being hit by lightning. I was looking for something to distract me from writing my dissertation—I work best with at least two projects going on, but they have to be unrelated. I updated my status on Facebook, and said, “I need to write something from my dissertation! Something paranormal. Ideas?” And someone replied, “Demons!”
After reading the reply, I was struck with the voice of my book’s character, Astrid Fray—the voice is jarring and quite perky. It was like thought vomit, and Astrid’s rambling in my head went something like this: “My name is Astrid Fray. I like moonshine through treetops and stars and constellations, and Galileo is my hero. I like to volunteer in soup kitchens and one day see world peace! I’m a nice demon! Mostly.”
Taking that piece of Astrid’s personality, I plotted a story arc for the book. I realized that there was so much to write that I have started the plot for the second book. I’m not used to writing a heroine who possesses an inordinate amount of paranormal power, so I thought it important to juxtapose her demonic powers with internal conflict to add vulnerability to her character. It’s difficult to write a character with powers such as Astrid’s without making her too all powerful and untouchable. So I wondered what it would be like to be a perfectly normal girl who comes to realize that the part of her she has tried to keep hidden is boiling to the surface and threatening those she cares about.
The point of Demon Made is not just a story about a girl who happens to be a demon—it’s about what happens when that inner demon becomes too much to control.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother likes to tell me never to hold myself back or be afraid to take risks. At least then, I’ll know I’m trying my best to succeed.
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