Interview with Young Adult Author Elle Swartz

By: Hannah Dinnen

Elle Swartz never expected she would be a writer. Now she specializes in realistic fiction for young adults. She’s written five books, but the most notable include Smart Cookie and Finding Perfect. Originally from Yardley Pennsylvania, Elle attended Boston University to study psychology Then, Elle studied at Georgetown University School Of Law and became a lawyer. Regardless of her current job, Elle couldn’t help but be drawn back to writing. Elle claims when she opened a piece of Bazooka Gum and read the fortune stating “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature” she knew it was the right path. Last week, I had the privilege to interview Elle on topics ranging from her source of inspiration to her studies of trap shooters for her upcoming novel.  

How did you know you wanted to start writing?

I write because I have a story to be written. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I used to write in a poetry book in 4th grade, and I actually planned on using some of my poems in Finding Perfect, but they were not as good as I remember them being!

What is your favorite book you read in high school?

I remember one from the curriculum, but I loved reading Eloise, Pippi Longstocking, Ramona the Brave, Flowers in the Attic, or anything by Judy Blume.

Molly, the main character in Finding Perfect has OCD, can you describe the process you went through researching this?

I’m a firm believer that you should respect your readers enough to be credible, maybe that’s the lawyer side of me! When writing about OCD I have to be incredibly respectful and factual. This might date me a bit, but I would get sent VCRs about OCD for research, as downloads just didn’t exist at that time. Day to day, I read blogs about OCD, followed leaders in the OCD community on social media, and used the National OCD Foundation website. Finding Perfect took me 8 years to write, and I worked with an expert who would vet every page, and tell me if it didn’t seem realistic.

What is some of your inspiration behind your books?

Some people think more action based, but I’m quite the opposite. I usually have an idea of a character before the plot comes to mind. I really try to establish the personality of a character. The best fiction writing stems from what you know, meaning that my characters will have aspects of myself in them, but that they will also be their own person. I don’t just focus on the character physical appearance, but I put them through different “tests” and figure out how they might react. For example, how would Molly react if she found herself in the middle of a rainstorm without a raincoat? With Finding Perfect, I felt there was a real void in books about middle grade with OCD, and I really believe that every kid should see themselves on the page.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about writing and what’s the hardest?

Everything is the best thing about writing. I used to run before I hurt my foot, and I would always hear people talk about getting in this running zone, I never did, but that’s how I feel when I write. There is a moment when you’re so captivated by the characters and the story, and it almost is writing itself. The letters that I get from students make me cry, saying things like “you changed my life.” It’s truly incredible. The hardest thing about writing is when you have to be completely and utterly all in. When your character is in a dark place, you have to go there and give it you’re all. Sometimes, doing that is incredibly draining, but the more vulnerable you are the stronger your voice is.

What advice would you give to someone who loves writing?

Read! Reading is the best advice ever. Also, when you write, make sure you write something that matters to the heart. Write something authentic that you truly fear. I’ve had one hundred or so rejections in my career, and after my pity parties filled with Twizzlers and hugs, I knew I would get up and write again tomorrow. You don’t have to be good at it today, tomorrow, or even later. Love writing enough to hear rejection and keep writing anyway.

Ellie is busy working on her book Give and Take, which will be released in 2019.

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