Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Ellie Whyte Interview

Ellie Whyte ~ Souls Inspirationz


By Dorothy Adamek

It’s my pleasure to introduce Ellie Whyte to Australasian Christian Writers today. 
New Zealander Ellie Whyte is a long-time supporter of Christian fiction. She has previously worked in the Christian book trade over the course of 13 years, the first half as a volunteer than as an employee in retail, and the last half employed in wholesale. 
She is the founder and owner/operator of “The Christian Fiction Site” which had its beginnings back in 1998 as “Ellie’s World of Christian Fiction” before being rebranded in 2002. In 2007 Ellie took a hiatus from the website due to work commitments, but relaunched it again as Soul Inspirationz // The Christian Fiction Site in January 2013. Aside from these endeavours, Ellie has aspirations for her own writing career, and has begun working on a project set in New Zealand in the 1850s.

Welcome Ellie. Tell us how Soul Inspirationz come about. Soul Inspirationz is the third generation of a website begun in 1998. I had not long started using the internet when I was shown how to create a webpage on a free service called “Geocities”, and thought I could showcase what I loved, which was Christian fiction. So I started with my two favourite authors at the time, Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris, and listed all their releases to date, as they happened to be back then. At this time, I called the site “Ellie’s World of Christian Fiction”.
It wasn’t long before I had exhausted those lists and thought I should showcase others. At the time I worked voluntarily in a local Christian bookstore, Timaru Christian Bookcentre, and had access to the publisher catalogues which the general reading public didn’t have access to. So, armed with the knowledge found in those, as well as scouring Amazon.com (which did exist back then, but only sold physical books at the time), compiled monthly new release lists of Christian novels, beginning in 2000. From 2002, the site was known as “The Christian Fiction Site”. Added to the monthly lists, were interviews with Christian novelists, most of whom I had corresponded with during my times of helping to host online writing workshops with The Dancing Word Writer’s Network. From early 2007, I took a break from updating the website due to my daytime job responsibilities, and never got back to it.
Then in 2010, I had the opportunity to sell bargain Christian fiction, so I started doing so online and on NZ’s auction site, Trade Me, and called my online store “Soul Inspirationz”. This went rather well until mid 2012, when sales dipped dramatically, and my main supplier changed their shipping costs, which dried up my bargain supply and crippled my venture. However, within a few months, I reconsidered relaunching “The Christian Fiction Site” using the new name “Soul Inspirationz” and after deciding on a website platform, relaunched in January 2013. I initially thought I wouldn’t need to showcase the monthly releases like I used to, as websites like FamilyFiction and Novel Crossing had new releases listed, so I focussed mainly on author interviews. However, by the middle of 2013 I noticed that the lists on those 2 sites weren’t giving the new releases a time in the spotlight like I used to do on the old site, and thought a monthly blog post doing just that might be a good idea after all. So, from September 2013, the monthly new release promos were established - one for CBA Trade fiction, the other for Inspirational Category Romance fiction. Combined with the recent addition of book giveaways kindly supplied by the authors, publicists and publishers directly, they remain the most popular posts on the site today.
And it doesn’t end there. I have plans for further expansion over the coming months – just have to wait for the initial funding to accumulate before I can work on it. So watch this space ;-) 
Your website includes a forum. How does that work and what keeps people coming back? The forum is a messageboard on the website divided up into genre categories, for readers to discuss their favourite fiction finds and find out about others recommended to them on there. It’s a basic setup, but hopefully over time it will become better and better as more people come to use it as another home for discussion of Christian fiction. The forum is the first phase in the upcoming expansion of the site. 
What's the most significant change you've seen in the world of Christian fiction since you started reviewing/promoting? The number of genres and subgenres that have emerged since the early days of conventional Christian fiction has been amazing to witness, as well as the shifts in the popularity of each. 
I remember when there was no such thing as Amish fiction. The Beverly Lewis wrote that incredible story, The Shunning, and the 2 stories that followed on from that one, and thus was birthed the beginning of Amish fiction. Wanda Brunstetter was also writing Amish fiction under the category romance label of Heartsong Presents, but it wasn’t until her stories were published in trade fiction, including republishing the ones that had first appeared in category fiction, that her popularity took off.
Another genre, romantic suspense, took off in popularity in the early 2000’s, with the publication of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Family series. Suddenly, readers couldn’t get enough of romantic suspense, and Dee Henderson’s work in particular. I’ve also seen the rise of ChickLit as a favourite genre, and its fall back to a minor position. The shift in popular genres has been interesting to watch – in the 1990’s historical fiction was popular, but with the rise of ChickLit and Romantic Suspense around the turn of the century, historical fiction waned in popularity and anything contemporary was preferred. Authors of historical fiction, and Biblical fiction in particular, found they couldn’t get contracts for their work as it wasn’t popular enough to sell. Those who persevered, however, soon found historical fiction on the rise again and their manuscripts were ready to go to fill the gap. 
What turns you off as a reader? Head-hopping. That’s my number one pet peeve. If I’m reading a scene through the eyes of one character, it jars me to suddenly be seeing the same scene through the eyes of another character, without a definitive scene break. Thankfully, the great editing that publishing houses and editors do means this is rarely found in traditionally published Christian fiction. The only exception is the omniscient point of view. It takes me a while to get into the rhythm of reading books with the all-seeing point of view, but once I’m on a roll it’s not so bad. Other things that turn me off are wooden or cliché characters, or books that take too long to get me ‘hooked” on the story. A literary reader, I am not ;-)

Ellie at the Big Gumboot in NZ with Jen Orchard

Is there a writer in Ellie Whyte? I certainly hope so! Until I started the website, and began corresponding with authors by email, I had only ever considered myself a reader. But when another author suggested I should be writing, it’s always been on my mind to take it up. In the early 2000’s I attended and sometimes helped to host online writing workshops for Dancing Word Writers Network for a few years, and ‘met’ some wonderful authors –some of whom I was privileged to meet face to face while attending the Christy Awards ceremony in 2009 - and learned from them the importance of POV, showing vs. telling, creating dynamic characters, and other important aspects of writing craft. Even though I didn’t understand a lot of it as I wasn’t yet a writer myself, I still learned a lot from them and found that then transferred to what I was reading. The only thing stopping me from writing was a lack of story ideas. However, over the past decade, I have found that I have become fascinated with New Zealand history, and my family history, and now story ideas are beginning to flow. So again, watch this space! Thanks so much Ellie, we certainly will be watching and cheering for you. You’ve  It‘s great to know more about how you came to reviewing and what your heart’s leading you to next. 
*****
Please check out Ellie’s Soul Inspirationz site. She’s contributed so much to the world of Christian fiction over the years. Her efforts might introduce you to your next favorite author. 

How do you decide what you’re going to read next? Do you watch the reviewing sites for recommendations? Share books with a friend? Scoop up free books online and read whatever sounds appealing? 
*****
Dorothy Adamek lives in Melbourne with her Beloved and their three gorgeous kids. 
She's the winner of the 2013 FHL ~ Touched By Love Award. 
Enamoured by all things 19th century, she writes The Heartbeat of Yesteryear, Historical Romance - Aussie style. Come say G'day at her blog, Ink Dots. 


20 comments:

  1. Thanks, Dotti, for such a great interview. It was so interesting to hear about the background to all of Ellie's passions!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Anne! It's strange to be the interviewee instead of the interviewer, that's for sure! I've never had to really tell the story so it's a new thing for me, but am thrilled that people are interested to know how Soul Inspirationz all came about, and are excited that it's there at all.

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  2. Hi Dotti and Ellie,
    It was really interesting to read about the history of Soul Inspirationz. What a great read this post is. I love how you've been able to trace the beginnings of new Christian fiction genres, just by keeping up to date with your research for the blog.

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    1. Hi Paula! Yes, seeing the changes over the years has been incredible, and apart from a few years hiatus away from the site, have pretty much kept on top of it as an observer. Interestingly enough, the Christian fiction that was published in the late 80's and early 90's was riddled with head-hopping, so at one time I was used to it and it didn't bother me. It was, and had always been, the norm. That was also before I learned what head-hopping was and how to recognize it. Now, it is VERY obvious to me as a reader!

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    2. Had to smile at your comments on head-hopping. Although I had completed a fiction writing course before attempting to write my first novel, I knew nothing about point of view. I am so thankful for an editor at Zondervan way back in 1985 who asked me to do revisions to correct my head-hopping. Although she did accept it after what I now know were my rather feeble revisions, that Christian romance line ceased and my Search For Tomorrow had to wait until Heartsong Present's book club commenced and released it in 1993. God sure has shown me how HIS timing is perfect. Years later it was included with what became my Search series in one of Barbours 4-in-1 volumes, Australia, which became a CBA best-seller. And now, with the e-book phenomena, it is again available through their Truly Yours Digital Editions. That journey also taught me - as you also know, Ellie - that perseverance is one of the key factors for any success.

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    3. Mary, I have one of those 4-in-1's on my shelf, the contemporary one, AUSTRALIA, but have yet to read it. I would LOVE to find a copy of your historical 4-in-1... I've got it on my Thriftbooks wishlist ;-)

      For writing about Australian history to a target US audience, how did you make it work?

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    4. How did I make it work? To start with, I already had a readership with the Search books through Barbour's Heartsong Presents book club. They published two contemporaries and two historicals every month. The editor was not receiving as many historical manuscripts and was rather relieved I think when I mentioned writing one. However, he did tell me Americans would expect convicts in an Australian historical. LOL. There is more to this story of course, but quite frankly I believe it was all just God doing HIS "thing" of controlling my writing I had - and still do - commit to Him. My Great Southland series is out of print now but were released again as e-books last year by Barbour through their Truly Yours Digital Editions division.

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  3. Ellie, I am delighted to learn so much more about you. Thank you Dottie too for having you on ACW. I remember the Dancing Word writers during my years being published in Heartsong Presents and learnt there first how to join chats. You were all so patience with this internet challenged writer! In those days I had very little contact with other Christian Fiction writers and it was such a delight to share there. With all you ups and downs in your various ventures for us, I do honour you for your perseverance over so many years and do look forward one day to being able to read one of your books. Thank you so much for all you have done over these years.

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    1. Oh Mary, you would be one of the few who know and remember what IRC chatting was all about! (Internet Relay Chat). No such thing as Facebook in those days, and regular chat rooms were also unheard of... at least ones that could record the conversation to create transcripts, anyway. Instant messaging was still new, and email was the usual method of connection. Yes despite such primitive "conditions", the workshops happened, eager authors contributed and learned from one another, and despite my being more of a reader than a writer at the time, ended up learning more than I realised. I recall those were the days when Susan May Warren was still living in Siberia as a missionary, yet the workshops allowed her to participate and on her return to the US it wasn't long before she was published, and now she is passing on her knowledge of writing craft with My Book Therapy, and is a Christy Award winner! Small beginnings should never be underestimated, as they do lead to greater things. And you are right, they were a joy to be a part of at the time and we were all constantly amazed at how we could be conversing in one place, yet be stretched out all over the globe.

      Thank you for your kind words, Mary. It is indeed a passion that will not let me go. And, I hope I will one day be able to deliver that story for you to read :-)

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  4. Ellie and Dotti, great interview! I've enjoyed learning more about Ellie's background in the Christian fiction world. It's exciting to hear Ellie is writing a NZ historical novel :)

    I love Soul Inspirationz! A fabulous site with great resources for readers. The monthly giveaways that Ellie organises for the new releases are excellent. They provide readers with a wide range of book drawings that they can choose to enter. Well worth a visit if you're a Christian fiction fan.

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    1. Thank you Narelle! Glad to know you are looking forward to an NZ historical from me - does that mean you would read it? hehe

      And thank you for your support of Soul Inspirationz. The giveaways are a great draw card for readers to visit the blog, and in the process learn about the new releases they would otherwise not even know existed. And, as used to be the case with the old site, I hope it's a resource that even libraries begin to use once again to fill their requests to acquire quality inspirational fiction for their patrons.

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    2. Ellie, yes! I 'd love to learn more about NZ history by reading an Ellie Whyte historical :)

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    3. Thank you Narelle, I'll hold you to that! LOL

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  5. Thanks Dotti for highlighting Ellie and the fabulous work she does for the Christian authors and readers' communities. I'm a big fan of Ellie's work. Soul Inspirationz is such a great website to access so many different authors and Ellie provides a very objective perspective across all genres and authors. Ellie is always trying new things, eg, her latest 'snapshot' of the Christy Award finalists.

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    1. Thank you Ian! I am always uplifted by your active support of the site, and your encouragement for the "new things" I try with it. I do rely on visitor feedback to figure out what works and what doesn't! LOL And glad you like the 'snapshot'! ;-)

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  6. It was so great to get to know you better, Ellie. Looking forward to meeting you in person some day. We historical nuts need to stick together, right?

    Who else understands the 'need' to dig into yesteryear and emerge with a story? Bless you in the writing of your NZ based books :)

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    1. We sure do, Dotti! There is untold potential for "Down Under" historicals, and every new bit of history I learn about both New Zealand and Australia piques my interest just that little bit more.

      Thanks so much for featuring me! I had no idea anyone would be interested, so I'm glad I was wrong :-)

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  7. What a great interview! Loved hearing more about the background behind Soul Inspirationz. I've love chances to chat with you Ellie via email and appreciate very much how you encourage and promote Christian authors. And look forward to seeing some of your writing one day!

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  8. Hey Ellie,

    I'm late to the party but loved reading about your beginnings! Of course, I knew you back then and way before I started my own blog, I followed Ellie's World of Christian Fiction :) Love that you are back in action with your fabulous new site!

    Thanks for the great interview, Dotti xo

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  9. Ellie, I appreciate Soul Inspirationz so much. Thank you for bringing new books to the forefront! My go-to page for sure.
    Historical Fiction is my very favorite genre. I will be watching for your stories!! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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