Discover more from Read More Books
A Few Bookish Questions With Elle Griffin
Elle Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief at Utah Business during the day, but her real passion lies at the intersection of literature and the modern creator landscape. As such, she’s running a newsletter about writing/creating, publishing a serial novel, and more.
She took some time to answer my questions about what she’s reading, the modern publishing world, and her all-time favorite books.
1. Your gothic novel, Obscurity, is being published one chapter at a time on Substack. Can you give us a brief definition of the gothic genre and a few examples of your favorite gothic works?
Gothic novels are slow, haunting novels with just the tiniest bit of creepiness. Mostly they are all about an aesthetic: 1700s era Europe, dark castles, secret histories, philosophical characters. Think: The Count of Monte Cristo, Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, A Picture of Dorian Gray—which are all my absolute favorites.
2. You also write about writing and the difficult work of making a living as a creator. Do you have any favorite books about writing, creating, etc. that have really stirred and motivated your own work?
I hate books about writing because they change how I write and I don't want to limit my creativity to only what certain people have found worked for them. I've only read one such book: The famous Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (who, funny story, used to be neighbor and I read it with her right next door and never told her about it because I was such a fangirl). The book outlines the most commonly followed book writing advice: write a crappy first draft, then go back and completely re-write it. I did that for a YA novel in my 20s and the book was so bad I didn't even want to give it a second draft.
For my second attempt: I decided to write one perfect chapter then another perfect chapter then another perfect chapter so that by the time I reached the end, the book was completely done in one draft. This was much more my style and I'm doing that again for my second novel. This is why I can follow the Counter Craft newsletter without unsubscribing, because he writes the same way I do and thus reaffirms my own process rather than challenging it!
As far as inspiration that has motivated my own work: I turn to fiction and art. I make reading lists that are essentially studies in certain areas. For a long time I only read classic novels because I wanted to read all the greats and I wanted to write something like that. Similarly, I also went through an English literature/Jane Austen/Bronte phase.
Now I'm reading children's literature (including Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the Narnia books, etc.) and all the surreal fiction (Kafka, The Anomaly, Island, etc.) I can get my hands on because I want to get my mind into a more imaginative state so I can write the surreal fantasy novel I have in my head. I'll actually be sending out my complete reading list (with every book I've read since 2017 and all of the books I'm going to read next) to my newsletter subscribers in the next month! (Subscribe here if you want to get it!)
3. I know you're a bit of a newsletter junkie—can you share a few of your favorites?
Ah, yes I definitely am. I autodirect them to a newsletter folder in my inbox that I read every morning in the bathtub before I start my day. It's like my own personally curated magazine. My current favorites are:
Your Big Read (because I am currently reading War & Peace).
Culture Study features deep dives on topics you never knew you were already emotionally invested in.
Incense and Orris goes deep on the histories of perfumes and it is completely fascinating.
Dearest is about all of the jewels going up for auction soon with pictures of them and why they are a big deal. These are very fun to browse.
4. What do you read in your "off" time? Have you been reading gothic lit while writing your own book in that genre? Or do you need to read something totally different while you're in a season of writing?
I definitely read in the genre of what I'm writing. It's how I "stay in character." That being said, I also pick what books I want to write based on the world I want to live in while I'm writing it. After all, writing a book takes several years so I want it to be in an area that I will have fun exploring for several years. This is why my first book turned out gothic and my second book is turning out Utopian.
5. You're obviously bullish on the future of self-publishing and patron-sponsored creators. Why is that? What's gone wrong in the modern publishing industry? (I know this could be a long one; feel free to be brief!)
No one reads books (you’re better off putting your content on social media or in video format).
As a result, books don’t sell (in 2020 only 268 books sold more than 100,000 copies in 2020 and 96 percent of books sold less than 1,000 copies).
If most books sell 1,000 copies, most authors are earning $2,250 if published traditionally or $4,200 if self-published (which is not a lot for several years of work).
And if a book has 1,000 fans, a better model would be to figure out how to get those 1,000 fans to subscribe to an author monthly, rather than to get them to pay $9.99 every three years when a book comes out.
Following the wisdom of the creator economy: it only takes 1,000 true fans spending $100/year for a creator to earn a salary of $100,000/year. Theoretically then, an author could release a new chapter every week, charge subscribers $8 or $9 a month, and earn $100,000 a year—from only 1,000 readers. This idea deeply appeals to me because some of my favorite novels were written as serials—including my beloved The Count of Monte Cristo—and they were wildly successful. Dumas earned about 10,000 francs ($65,743 today) per installment for his books.
I'm just curious if that could work again today—it's already working for some people.
6. What are you reading and enjoying right now? What’s next on your list?
THE ANOMALY IS SO GOOD—seriously one of the best books I read in years. Its surrealism meets philosophical complexity meets pure entertainment. Love books like this.
7. Are there books you find yourself referencing, thinking about, and/or recommending over and over again? Basically, do you have any all-time favorites that have shaped your life and your thinking?
Les Miserables. Nothing can top Jean Valjean's struggle for redemption in my book!
Read More Books is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.