April 16, 2012

Author Interview: Elise Stokes

Please welcome to A Three Way Tie, the lovely author of the Cassidy Jones Adventure Series, Elise Stokes!

Please tell us a little about yourself. 
I’m the author of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula and Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, the first two books in my superhero-themed series for middle grade and young adults, Cassidy Jones Adventures. I live in the Seattle area, with my husband and our four children. I was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. My teaching experience and children inspired the creation of this series. My goal is to motivate tweens and teens to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence while enjoying a fun, fast-paced, action-packed story.

When and why did you begin writing?
Trixie Belden gave me the writing bug. I devoured that series in fifth grade, and then decided to write a mystery series of my own. I still have the first book written on lined paper in pencil, a proud 150 pages front and back. I wrote a couple short stories for my high school newspaper and a couple more my freshman year of college, but then got caught up in the busyness of life and put my passion to write on the back burner. 

Twenty years and four kids later, I read an article about Stephenie Meyer and learned that she had written Twilight with three little boys underfoot. Right then and there, I decided if Stephenie could find the time so could I. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula is the result of that decision. It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? What is the easiest?

The easiest part of writing my series is when I have a few uninterrupted hours to sit at my laptop and actually write. Having said that, the hardest part will come as no surprise: finding a quiet moment to do it.

What music do you listen to while you write?

I don’t listen to any music. Not only do I have a lot to distract me from writing, I’m easily distracted. If I were to listen to music, it would probably be my “Elise’s” track that my husband created for me. On it I have a variety of genres, from Queen to Adele.

What inspires you?

All of the stories tumbling around in my head. Aside from numerous Cassidy Jones storylines, I have three other novels I mentally write before falling asleep every night. Someday, someday.

Do you have any hidden talents?

None, and I certainly wish I did!

What are your current projects?

I’m working on Book 3, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant. It has been a blast breathing life into characters that I’ve thought about for two years now. I’m chomping at the bit to get this one wrapped up and out for Cassidy fans. It’s a fun, fun story.

What made you decide on self-publishing?

Like most new authors, I was completely na├»ve about the publishing industry. I thought I would send out a few query letters and get snapped up immediately. I couldn’t fathom an agent not falling in love with my story. Foolish newbie.J Eight months and two hundred query letters later only three agents had read the manuscript. Two enjoyed it but not enough to rep me. When investigating the agent who did want to sign me up, I discovered the publishers she had gotten contracts from were ones that accepted un-agented manuscripts. So what would be the point? I didn’t need her.

Before I had begun down the Traditional path, my entrepreneur husband had encouraged me to start my own publishing company. After researching the publishing business model, he declared it broken and not worth pursuing. Eight months and two hundred rejected query letters later, I had to agree with him. So I went for it, started JACE Publishing, and had my book on shelves a few months later. I have no doubt if I hadn’t found a way around the roadblocks I would still be sending out query letters. Like the music industry, the publishing industry is a mess.

Do you have a professional editor?

Yes, William Greenleaf. I can’t recommend Bill more highly. The greatest disservice a writer can do to his/her novel is to not pass it off into the capable hands of a professional editor. From my observation poor editing is the major criticism that indie writers who had decided to skip this crucial step receive. So give your novel a fighting chance. Invest in a reputable editor.

Do you edit as you write or wait until your book is finished?

I usually go through a chapter after writing it and do light editing. My goal is to keep the storyline tight, and I find it saves time in accomplishing this to edit as I go along as opposed to waiting until I have completed first draft.

What book are you reading now?

I read very little when I’m writing, due to lack of time and the fact that my writing style isn’t set in stone yet. It can be easily influenced by what I’m reading. When I do get a moment to read, I’m working on Noah Of Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease. It’s a fantastic sci-fi for middle grade readers. The protagonist, Noah, has a wonderful sense of humor and is handicapped. He doesn’t let the fact that he can’t walk hold him down, however. Noah is a very courageous, “real” character and a great role model.

Quick: Vampires or Shapeshifter? Why?

Shapeshifter, hands down. Having the ability to shift into another species would be so cool (Mystique is one of my favorite Marvel characters). As my eight-year-old puts it, “Who wants to be a vampire? That’s gross!”

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Whether you’re Traditionally published or self-published, you quickly learn the easy part is writing the book. The real challenge is driving awareness and sell thru. With this in mind, do not disregard the power of teamwork. In other words, make friends with fellow authors. My writer friends have been a tremendous blessing. Trying to get traction in this competitive industry is daunting and depleting. Like most situations in life, the people who understand what you’re up against best are the ones in the trenches with you. 

To find other authors, join writer groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Goodreads, and follow writers on Twitter. To find writers who really understand the spirit of teamwork, read Alan McDermott’s post, Authors Helping Authors, (http://jambalian.blogspot.com/2012/03/authors-helping-authors.html) and participate on Derek Blass’s #AmazonLikes thread on Twitter. Alan and Derek are both fantastic thriller writers and men. It’s amazing how their efforts have helped build a community where a writer who is new to the world of social networking can find support.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Where do I begin? I can’t express how much it means to me that you’ve joined me on Cassidy’s journey. Your words of encouragement, feedback, and reviews are so appreciated. Don’t think we writers are unaware of your efforts to support our work. Our days are made when we learn another reader enjoyed what we pour our hearts and soul into. So when you discover a great read, please write a review. There is no better way to root your favorite authors on.

Fourteen-year-old Cassidy Jones wakes up the morning after a minor accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist to discover that her body has undergone some bizarre physical changes. Her senses, strength, and speed have been radically enhanced.

After exploring her newfound abilities, Cassidy learns that the geneticist, Professor Serena Phillips, is missing and that foul play is suspected. Terrified that her physical changes and Professor Phillips' disappearance are somehow connected, Cassidy decides to keep her strange transformation a secret. That is, until she meets the professor's brilliant and mysterious fifteen-year-old son, Emery. An unlikely duo, they set out to find Emery's mother, who is key in explaining Cassidy's newly acquired superpowers.

Their lives are put at risk when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous, action-packed adventure. Soon they are forced to confront a maniacal villain willing to do anything - including murder - to reach his own ambitious goals.


  1. Thank you Elise!
    I absolutely LOVE your Cassidy Jones adventures! Once I start... I can't put them down.
    You inspire those of us juggling full home situations to "keep moving forward" and never give up.
    You ROCK!

  2. My daughter LOVES the Cassidy Jones series which has inspired her to write just like the Trixie Belden series did for Elise. Isn't that great! We need more positive girl heroines who value themselves over and above their sex appeal. To paraphrase Marilyn--keep rocking, Elise.

    On a side note, Elise is very accessible to her fans. My daughter was thrilled to be able to communicate with Elise. I never could get in contact with Carolyn Keene:)...

  3. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Charmaine and Marilyn!

    @Marilyn-I forwarded your comment to the author! I'm sure she is tickled pink to hear that you are a huge fan of her books. :)

    @Charmaine-Absolutely! We definitely need more authors like Elise Stokes to promote posistive images of young girls everywhere.

    I'm so glad you're a huge fan of the series! :) I'm sure Elise is stoked to hear that!

  4. Great interview -- good questions. :-)