Ellen Totten in addition to being a lovely human being is also an amazing writer. I just finished her latest work A Scent of Gardenias in one sitting (no less). I was entranced by the story of Sarah Ann Baker, a young woman who’s early beginnings were rooted in happiness and love only to be tainted by tragedy and lost. As an adult Sarah is faced with even more adversity and heartbreak, but her optimism, force of will, and her never wavering belief in hope serves as a guiding light on the road to happiness, reconciliation and survival. A Scent of Gardenias is not only a love story, but also a mystery with the mystic woven throughout. You see, Sarah has the gift of a sixth sense- a sense of foreboding and knowledge of bad things to come.There’s enough suspense in A Scent of Gardenias to keep you guessing up until the end. Overall a stellar read. Ellen was gracious enough to consent to an interview. We discuss her life and work.
Hi Ellen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
First, I want to thank you, Tosha, for the invitation to be interviewed about my new book, “A Scent of Gardenias.” It’s a pleasure to be here.
I’m a native of Boston. In 1967, I was transferred to Washington, D. C. because of my job, and based at National Airport with Delta Air Lines. It was there I met and married my husband, Jerry, who was with Naval Sea Systems Command. Because of our work, we were able to travel the world and meet some wonderful people who became lifelong friends.
Has writing always been a passion of yours?
1. After my career of thirty years, we retired to Florida in 1992 where we both took up the game of golf, and I found I had a love for writing. When we moved to The Villages in 2006, I took classes in creative writing at our Life-Long Learning College and joined a writing group. During these sessions with the group, we read chapters and receive feedback from the members, some of whom have backgrounds in journalism and editing.
Describe your writing process?
I do most of my writing in the morning; however there have been times I’ve written late at night because of poor sleeping habits and my mind won’t shut off. I love listening to soft classical music without lyrics when I write.
Your latest work titled “A Scent of Gardenias” is paranormal romance, which you wrote under the pen name Elena M. Tell us a bit about the novel and why you opted for a pen name?
I wanted to write a ghost story, however my story evolved into something more along the way. There is always a story in the news, unfortunately, about one child bullying another. And how bullying can be instrumental resulting in a tragedy like Columbine or even suicide.
I wanted to explore how, with the support of a loving family and, perhaps a friend or two, a child could overcome these threatening roadblocks in life. It’s a story about a woman who finds the power within herself to rise above a lifetime filled with ridicule, loss, abuse, and courage to love again.
I chose to use my real name this time, Elena M (M stand for Marie), because I felt this was the best book I have written so far and wanted to separate it from the others. Although, I was pleased with my second novel, “Lake Charm.” I wrote it under the name of Ellen M. Totten.
In the book the main character, Sarah, endures some horrific abuse at the hands of her husband. What prompted you to focus on the theme of domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a cancer in our society that continues through generations. The only way it can be broken is if women can find the courage to leave and seek help. Often times, children are born into this despicable environment and later become abusers themselves. A man who truly loves a woman would never subject her to such violence. I wanted my story to be dedicated to these women and inspire them to find their way out and seek help.
On a lighter note, what authors inspire you?
The author that inspires me like no other is Sylvain Reynard. I have never been addicted to an author’s writing as I am to his. He touches my heart and soul with his brilliant prose and compassionate heart. His characters actually become part of your life, and you never want the stories to end. He not only entertains you with an amazing love story (I refuse to call them erotic because they aren’t), but he educates you in the process. He inspires me to be a better writer.
Is there any book you have read and thought “Darn, I wish I had written this?”
No. Being a novice writer, I can’t say that I have. I only aspire to improve what I write in the future.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
I would say to them never be afraid to start. Write for yourself and what is in your heart. If you have a favorite author or genre, read as much as possible to find your style.
Please tell our readers where they can buy your wonderful books.
My books can be found on Kindle, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Books-A-Million in paperback for those who prefer to hold a book.