Ellaura Shoop is a pillar of the Kindle Vella community with a number of Vellas and other writing related connections. You have no idea how much information you are about to receive. Take a deep breath and buckle up. This is an amazing ride!
Please keep all hands inside the vehicle at all times.
How did you know you had this series in you?
I’ve always been a teller of stories. Since I could talk and draw squiggly lines, I was making up tales that got more elaborate as I grew older. I’d create master plans on how my relatives, and I would sneak off to Disney World (often involving me riding my razor scooter the hour and a half to their house and the airport beyond that *insert laughing face emoji here*). The biggest obstacle I came across with those plans was the distance, since I’m located in Pennsylvania, not that my six-year-old self minded the challenge.
When I phased out of the run-away-to-Disney schemes I moved on to world-building. I started playing a game where I’d take my jungle animal toys and my dinosaur toys and have them exist at the same time, which of course led to a world rife with conflict. I’d always been interested in animals and nature facts so even at that age I tried to make the story as plausible as possible. Soon after that I watched the show Meerkat Manor on the Animal Planet channel for the first time and fell in love with it. I became obsessed with meerkats, even boasting to my mother that I would write a book about them someday. It took twelve years, but I eventually published my first book about meerkats, a collection of adventurous short stories entitled Perilous Ground.
At age eight I began writing short stories about a cheetah cub and a lion cub who were friends, with one of my aunts. Since then (or maybe I should trace the origin back to Disney’s The Lion King since that was my favorite childhood movie…?) I knew I wanted to write about Africa’s big cats. I made my first attempt at writing a book at age twelve. I was going to call the series Pride and wrote 30 pages before I lost steam. Finally, at age twenty-one I was inspired once more to tell a story about a lioness, a leopard, and a cheetah. Jiving with my younger self, I kept the series entitled Pride and the first book as Falling Storm.
Now that I’ve given an impromptu autobiography, I suppose I knew I could write a series because the ideas have always lived within me. I’ve been telling stories for years, it was just that recently I realized they needed to be put to paper. I’m currently in the middle of two series for ages 8-12 (middle grade fantasy fiction) right now. One is about meerkats, The Meer, and has three titles published in paperback on Amazon: Perilous Ground, Blaze, The Meer Coloring and Activity Book, as well as two available exclusively on Kindle Vella for now (though eventually they will be made available in paperback): Silence and The Blood of The Desert. The single book that’s out in the Pride series, Falling Storm, is available in paperback and ebook forms on Amazon as well as on Kindle Vella. I also have the first book in a new young adult/new adult trilogy on Vella entitled Mortals of Ruin.
It’s Vella Time
Why did you choose to use a series format?
Falling Storm was the first book I released on Vella. I was intrigued by the idea of serialized fiction as I’d enjoyed it myself at times. I was notified that Amazon was going to launch Kindle Vella because I had already self-published Perilous Ground with them. At first, I dismissed the platform because I’ve always preferred reading physical copies of books myself. Then I started o think of the benefits of such a platform and how successful some serialized fiction authors were. Once I realized that publishing on Vella was something I should take advantage of I had to figure out what I could publish.
I already had several works started and half written at the time but none of them seemed to divide into episodes without degrading the integrity of the work. Then I found the outline I’d made a year earlier for Falling Storm. I’d already been planning on writing each chapter in 2-3,000 word chunks to reflect the perspective of each of my three protagonists in a single chapter. I realized that this method word work perfectly for Vella as the chunks were already episode-sized and that since I had already planned to write the book in this way the transitions between episodes would be smooth.
In general, almost all of my books turn into series. I don’t know why but as soon as I have one good idea my brain shoots out a hundred more pertaining to the first idea and I can’t fit them all into one book. Another big chunk of my desire to write series is that all my favorite books are within series. I can’t tell you my favorite stand-alone novel because there isn’t one (not that there aren’t any stand-alone novels I like). I just don’t gravitate towards them. I hate saying goodbye to my favorite characters so at least in a series I get several books to prepare myself.
What is your greatest challenge in writing?
The hardest thing about writing is focusing on one idea at a time, or one work at a time. I am rarely ever able to focus on the same book for more than one day in a row. I like to flow between works, working on the sequel for Falling Storm one day, a random short story the next, the first book in a different/new series the next, and then circling back to whatever needs finished first (right now it’s a spin off series to The Meer, of which the books Blaze and Silence are a part of). I always have too many ideas bouncing around my brain to concentrate on only one, which can be overwhelming but freeing and fun all at the same time.
What surprised you in the writing process?
What surprised me most was the ease I feel when I write. I get so totally lost and consumed in my stories that all my worries melt away. Not that writing is always easy or a stress-free process for me, but it is definitely a cathartic experience even though I write fiction that has little to nothing to do with me as a person. In a way I’m surprised I love it so much. It really is a lot of work, but I’ve surprised myself by sticking with it and for the most part enjoying it.
It also surprises me how supportive the writing community has been, and is, especially when it comes to Vella authors. We really work to help and support each other, and I really appreciate that.
We do a great job of raising our community!
Is there something that you found particularly helpful?
There are a lot of tools out there that I’ve found helpful, but I have to say at this point in my career that I use PowerPoint the most. I use it to plot and outline all my novels. I have a slideshow for each book, and I write out my notes, lists, and what’s going to happen in each chapter on a slide. It’s a highly effective tool for me that allows me to organize my thoughts.
I know we tend to write what we know, but did you need to do research for this book?
Research is a must for me no matter how well I feel I know what I’m writing. I predominantly write fiction about animals, so I research their behavior to make sure that the characters and plots are as plausible as possible while remaining a work of fantasy. I once read a quote (who said it or what the exact quote was I can’t remember now) that writing fiction well meant writing believable lies. Lies are more believable in my opinion when mixed with a fraction of truth. Plus, I want my readers to be not only entertained by my works but also come away knowing a little more and wanting to be more compassionate towards the creatures we share the world with as well.
What I find most interesting about my animal research is that most of it has made me realize how similar animals are to us. In my mind my research has only confirmed my strong belief that animals have emotions just as we do and that they deserve to be treated with respect. I hope to convey that message through my writing.
What else can you describe in your writing process?
I thought I’d be fun to give you my step-by-step process for writing a book start-to-finish since it’s a bit unorthodox, but it seems to be working for me.
- The seedling of an idea explodes to the forefront of the mind (often at night, forcing the forestallment of sleep to entertain said idea)
- Name the book
- Make cover for the book
- Decide whether the book should be a in series (probably a YES)
- If yes, title other books in the series
- Create the covers for the other books in the series
- Do any research that’s needed
- Create a slideshow outline for the book
- Format the unwritten manuscript (choose font types, create illustrations, ect.)
- Write half of the book
- Take a break, write another book for awhile
- Repeat steps 1-9 for a new idea seeking your attention
- Return to the original book idea and edit what you have written so far
- Develop writer’s block and doodle for longer than strictly necessary
- Complain about writer’s block
- Talk up your unfinished book to anyone with ears
- Finally return to the document and finish the book
- Edit the book
How do you know your piece is ready to be shared/complete?
After I’ve ordered a proof copy and edited it. Sometimes I try and wait for beta readers to give feedback, but my mother reads too slowly *insert laughing face emoji*. I trust my gut and my skill. Once I personally feel its ready, I publish. One of the great things about self-publishing with Amazon is that if I find a mistake in my document later on all I have to do is upload the newest version of the manuscript at no extra cost. I try not to be too hard on myself about little grammatical errors here or there, I read plenty of New York Times Bestsellers that are chock full of mistakes. But I don’t want to be too lenient either in case I were to miss a plot hole or continuity error while editing. It helps that I’m an avid reader, I’ve learned a lot just from reading other books in the genres I write.
Reading is the most important aspect of writing. I truly believe that.
Who is your expected audience?
Pretty much everyone and anyone, I hope. I believe whole-heartedly that anyone, adult or child, could enjoy my middle grade series The Meer and Pride, as well as a spin-off novel Escape From Kitty City that will spawn another mini-series (two more books). The only books I stress an age limit on are my adult fiction/new adult fiction works Husk, OtherWorldly, and Mortals of Ruin because they contain graphic descriptions that may be disturbing and inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Who has been your strongest supporter?
Can I give you a list? There isn’t just one.
My late great Aunt Delores and Aunt Joanne always supported me before they passed away. Aunt Delores loved meerkats and would listen to me rattle on and on about them when I was little. She even knitted scarves for my stuffed animal meerkats. And my Aunt Joanne helped me write down some of my first stories ever when I was young. Falling Storm is dedicated to my Aunt Joanne while The Blood of The Desert is dedicated to my Aunt Delores.
My mom and dad have always supported me as well as my Aunt Dawn and Uncle Mark. All four of them have inspired and encouraged me throughout this process.
If you could have any author (alive, dead, or fictional) read your book, who would you like to read it?
Victoria ‘Vicky’ Holmes, the creator of the Warriors series by the Erin Hunter team.
What author, or book, or series most influenced you?
The Warriors series by Erin Hunter was my biggest inspiration. I didn’t even like to read until I stumbled across that series. Once I read it I thought that it would be an amazing thing to motivate, inspire, comfort, and entertain people just as that series did for me. Now, I hope my books will accomplish the same.
My son loved that series!
If you hadn’t noticed, I love animals! Right now, I am the proud mother of six fur-babies: two dogs, two cats, and two guinea pigs.
What else is important to share about your book?
The most important thing that I want people to know about my books is that my goal is to inspire, educate, and increase compassion towards each other and other creatures. I honestly love to write, and I really hope that is convey in my works. I absolutely love feedback and welcome readers to reach out to me with questions, comments, or even theories as to what will happen next in one of my books!
When can we expect more from you?
Very soon! I plan to release more books this year, some on Vella and some in ebook and paperback on Amazon. Also, most of the ebooks I’ve published right now are available for free with Kindle Unlimited. And I’m offering a free digital copy of the newest novella in The Meer series for those who sign up to my newsletter!
Give us some links!
Where can we find your books?
(links to my kindle vella works)
Contact: Contact – The Meer Series