Elise Kova: Writing Fantastic YA For All Ages!

Aside from enjoying an absolutely delightful visit with Elise Kova, I learned some extremely valuable wisdom that has helped me better understand, not only the author, but the incredible world of Young Adult fantasy that has completely taken over the universe! In reading Elise’s books, one never even considers the age of the characters because the conflicts, worlds, and relationships are so rich and nuanced.  It’s not age, but the outlook of discovery, the endless opportunities for growth and greatness amidst conflict, and the journey that takes us there that makes her books so riveting. Read on and you’ll understand why Elise is setting the match to this fire and making an awful lot of friends (including us) along the way! 

InD: So, Elise... growing up, what were you like as a child?
I have never been asked that before! Hmmm, I definitely think I was precocious. I was stubborn, in some ways probably to a fault, determined, in others. Some of that mellowed over the years, or has been trained out of me by the real world. I was not good at spelling - I’m still not, which seems to surprise many people given my profession. I remember I had a spelling test in 4th grade and I said spelling tests no longer needed to exist because my generation would always have spellcheck. My teacher did not appreciate that. [laughing] But that was the sort of kid I was. I was definitely outgoing. I was into theater, performing, and public speaking; those sort of activities as well.
InD: The vast majority of authors I meet are introverted. You are one of the exceptions!
: Yeah, my Myers-Briggs says I am ENTJ, and I am a very high E [extrovert].
InD: Yet, in your career, you are in a room by yourself forever, writing.
: True, but I have lots of company. They are just fictional.
InD: Were you a big reader growing up?
: Yes, very much so. One thing my parents always emphasized was reading and education. Their philosophy was, “Go, do, and try! We will be your biggest cheerleaders in whatever you decide to pursue when it comes to education.” They were also very much of the mind that no book is off limits... although I am sure I could have found something if I had tried. [both laughing]
InD: If you would have jumped right into Erotica at 10 years old, they might've said something.
: That might have been the moment they said, “Okay, let's find something else.” But my parents were very much of the mindset that if you pick up a book, it captures your attention, and you understand the language, then you are old enough to read it. The only rule was to talk to them about the book. “You can ask us anything, can have discussions with us, and we can talk about what you are reading.”
For example, I read "Timeline" by Michael Crichton when I was around 4th grade and I absolutely adored it. That sparked a deep interest in theoretical physics and quantum mechanics for a very long time. So I was always a big reader, mostly Fantasy, but I would definitely pick up other things off of the shelf and think, “Oh, that looks interesting and it’d expand my horizons in unexpected ways.”
InD: What an incredibly good rule your family had, that you could read anything, but you had to discuss it with them and have conversations about what you read. That is a fabulous way of handling it.
: There were definitely times I would read things and, because I read them, they prompted discussions that happened very naturally about life, anxiety, sexuality, all those things that were not the “normal” types of conversations and can cause awkwardness. It made it so I didn’t have to worry about the pressures associated with uncomfortable topics because we were talking about them in the context of fictional characters. At the same time, I was learning some of those lessons without feeling I was being told them.
InD: That’s a wonderful analogy right there of reading as a whole. When you are reading a story, you learn so much without it feeling like it is an educational thing. Whether it is history or fantasy or, like you say, quantum physics. You never sit down and think, “I wanted to learn quantum physics on my own.” What a perfect example of what reading does and gives a person within the microcosm of your own family, which is incredible.
Books transport us to different places, ideas, and peoples — that is part of the magic of them.
InD: Yes, absolutely and it teaches us so much we would never have thought about had we not have been reading a story about it. So, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Melbourne, Florida. Most people aren't familiar with it. At the time I grew up, it was just a small beach town south of Cape Canaveral and an hour east of Orlando. It’s grown a lot since I left.
InD: Did you enjoy growing up there?
Yes and no. It’s one of those things that I look back on as an adult, and the things I thought I could not tolerate growing up are now actually quite charming. When I was a teen, we had a joke that it was called "Mel-boring" because there was nothing to do after 9 PM on any day of the week. The most exciting place was the movie theater. When we got a coffee shop that was open until 11 PM on weekdays and 1 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, that was suddenly the coolest thing to do for all of us. It was a high school haven and all of the parents were fine with us being out later there because it was just a coffee shop. We couldn’t get into too much trouble.
InD: At least you are not going down to the bar...
Yes. There was nothing scandalous about it. The most scandalous part could've been open mic night because you never knew what someone might say. It was usually someone reading poetry or some dude playing his guitar. Nothing offensive. But that was the high school home-away-from-home hang out. It was a very quiet town and I lived on the outskirts, in horse country, so I grew up riding horses through the woods and mucking stables in exchange for riding time.

Read the entire fun and informative interview in the June 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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