Elaine Neil Orr: Bringing Memories of Africa To Life

Elaine Neil OrrElaine Neil Orr is a trans-Atlantic writer of fiction, memoir, and poetry.  Themes of home, country, and spiritual longing run through her writing.

A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, her newest book, has been called by Lee Smith “as lyrical and passionate a novel as has ever been written.  [It] shines in the mind like a rare gem.”  Philip Deaver describes it as“[a] beautiful novel, exquisitely written, perfectly complex, true to the past, relevant today, unforgettable.”

Her memoir, Gods of Noonday, was a Top-20 Book Sense selection and a nominee for the Old North State Award as well as a SIBA Book Award.  She is associate editor of a collection of essays on international childhoods, Writing Out of Limbo, and the author of two scholarly books.

Orr has published extensively in literary magazines including The Missouri Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, and Image Journal.

Her short stories and short memoirs have won several Pushcart Prize nominations and competition prizes.  She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

She was born in Nigeria to medical missionary parents and spent her growing-up years in the savannahs and rain forests of that country.  Her family remained in Nigeria during its civil war.  Orr left West Africa at age sixteen and attended college in Kentucky.

She studied creative writing and literature at the University of Louisville before taking her Ph.D. in Literature and Theology at Emory University.  She is an award-winning Professor of English at North Carolina State University and serves on the faculty of the brief-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.

She reads and lectures widely at universities and conferences from Atlanta to Austin to San Francisco to Vancouver to New York to Washington D.C., and in Nigeria.

Elaine Neil Orr Interview

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Elaine Neil Orr Transcript

Tim Knox: Elaine Neil Orr is my guest today. Elaine is the author of the award-winning memoir Gods of Noonday, and her latest book A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa.

Elaine’s background that reads like a novel. She was born in Nigeria to medical missionary parents,  lived there through the civil war, and finally moved to the United States when she was in her teens to start her education.  She draws from that well of life experiences for her work.

Elaine has also been published extensively in literary magazines and has won numerous awards for her short stories and memoirs.

She also offers wonder insight to authors who are perhaps looking to write based on life experiences, whether you’re writing fiction or memoirs.

Here then is my interview with Elaine Neil Orr, author of Gods of Noonday and A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, on today’s Interviewing Authors.

Tim Knox: Hi Elaine. Welcome to the program.

Elaine Neil Orr: Thank you, Tim.  I’ve been looking forward to talking.

Tim Knox: I have been looking forward to talking with you as well. We’ve gone through all kinds of, as we say here in the south, hell and high water to get to this conversation. So wonderful to have you. I’m looking forward to it.

Before we get started if you will for those that aren’t familiar with your work, just give us a little background on you.

Elaine Neil Orr: Oh my goodness. Well, I’ve been writing and publishing memoir and fiction for about 15 years actually and before that and actually even now, I’m a university professor and I was writing scholarly books. But don’t hold that against me. OK?

And I do live in the American South but I was born and grew up in Nigeria. So that background is very present in all of my creative writing.

Tim Knox: Now, was living in Nigeria, did that get you accustomed to living here in the Great South?

Elaine Neil Orr: What I have discovered is that there are certainly links between the American South and the Nigerian South. I even read a creative non-fiction piece on that. It was sort of about the two Souths that I have grown up in because the Nigerian South is very different from the Nigerian North for example just like the US South and the US North that had significant differences.

So there are cultural links or historical links. Some of those are very difficult, part of our very difficult American history and some of them have been very creative and music and literature and arts. So there’s a lot to explore.

Tim Knox: There is. Well, I live in Alabama and we’re a university town here and we have a number of people who live here from Nigeria. I know quite a few of them. They’re like, “You know, this reminds me of home.”

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, yeah. I mean recipes, food, things that we eat that are typical of the South were brought here from West Africa. Then yes, there are some climate similarities. My mother used to say – my mother was from South Carolina, my mother and father. They were missionaries to West Africa, which is why I was born in Nigeria. She would often say that South Carolina was hotter than Nigeria.

So I don’t know if she just got acclimated or not. But she was making those comparisons when I was growing up.

Tim Knox: Right. Well, let’s talk a little bit about your childhood and your background a little bit. Were you a writer when you were younger? Did you write stories when you were a little girl?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, I did. I wrote a story called the Pony Express Rider and of course I was the pony express rider, and I wrote a few other stories that have been interesting to go back and discover as an adult. I wrote one about being homesick when we were on a furlough in the American South and I wanted to go back to Nigeria because I consider that my real home.

Tim Knox: Now your parents were missionaries in Nigeria?

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes, yes. But I was born there. So my first memories of the US don’t occur until I was six years old and we came to the US and it was a very segregated experience. So my initial impression of the US and Winston-Salem, North Carolina was that it was very white and I was really much more comfortable in a black world, because that’s how I grew up.

Yeah, and so we were in traditional towns. They might have been large but they were very traditional. So, we didn’t have skyscrapers or banks or – we had big, huge open markets and drums at night and a lot of Yoruba dancing and singing and so on and so forth. So that was my comfort zone, not American shopping centers.

Tim Knox: Exactly. You didn’t have too many malls to hang out at.

Elaine Neil Orr: No, no, not too many movie theaters.

Tim Knox: Now, were you a big reader when you were young? Because I assume you didn’t have 100 cable TV channels either.

Elaine Neil Orr: I would not necessarily say I was a big reader. I was a reader. I loved the girl mystery books, for example Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew and those kinds of things. I loved Pippi Longstocking because she could – she grew outside the lines and she still somehow managed to be loved. That seemed to be me. I seemed to be already drawing outside the lines, which is not hard to do when your parents are Southern Baptist missionaries. If you’re just a little bit different, you’re going to be perceived that way. But my parents were very generous and loving friends.

Tim Knox: Well, I’m a Southern Baptist. We do have the best fried chicken.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, yes. That’s the sort of thing we had on our dinner table in Nigeria. We did not have hot pepper dishes. We had lima beans and fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Tim Knox: Well, you can always tell a Southern Baptist missionary because they’re the ones looking for the KFC.

Elaine Neil Orr: Oh, I see. Well, actually I think we were – my mother still kept frying her own chicken.

Tim Knox: Oh, wonderful. So growing up there, I mean it must have been very impressionable on you. At what point did you – did you want to be a writer or did you – I know you went into the academic world. What was your life path from there growing up?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, let me backtrack just a little bit and say that rather than being a voracious reader, I was incredibly consumed with the outdoors. I wanted to go swimming at the river. We had this crystal clear cold river basically in our backyard where I grew up. I loved climbing trees. So my passion as a girl was to be outdoors in the Nigerian wilderness.

So when I came to the US, I spent a great deal of time just simply trying to acclimate and become an American girl. That was my focus and that took about 15 years. I’m joking a little bit but actually it was rather an amazing requirement to become a white American girl. I had been a white African girl.

So in college, I majored in art actually and I think I did that partly as a way of acclimating to the US and then I began to write poetry and read literature. I think I followed the academic track because I thought it would be more likely to provide me with some security than just sort of becoming a poet and handing out my poems on street corners, which was my view of what I would be doing if I followed a track in creative writing.

So it actually took into my 40’s when I encountered a major potentially mortal illness that I turned back to writing creatively and I published a memoir and followed that with a novel.

So that’s sort of how that happened. Really being faced with potentially my end. I thought, let me write the story of my life and I did.

Tim Knox: So you really were facing a potentially fatal illness and you wrote the memoir kind of as a way to lead the story.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, I had end stage renal disease in my early 40s after having diabetes for approximately 25 years and so a person can live on dialysis for a while, but it’s not really a very good way to live. I was able through Duke University Hospital to get on the transplant list and I got a kidney and a pancreas, so I got two new organs. I no longer had diabetes or end stage renal disease. That was 14 years ago and so I basically have this new life and I am devoting it to writing.

Tim Knox: So the memoir, was it – you wrote it while you were undergoing the illness?

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes. I began to write it about the time I was diagnosed and I wrote it during the period I was on dialysis and then finished it up after the transplants. In my first iteration of it, I did not include the illness. I simply wanted to write about my Nigerian girlhood.

But my agent Joelle Delbourgo read it and she said, “You know, something mysterious is missing. There seems to be another story but I can’t quite grasp it, what it is.” So I confessed that I was ill, that that was what was the catalyst for this writing. She said, “Oh, well that has to be in here.” So that became the jumping off place for the memoir.

Tim Knox: What was the name of the memoir?

Elaine Neil Orr: The memoir is titled Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life.

Tim Knox: How did you go about getting that published? You had never written before. Did you know how to go about such things, about getting published?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, I had published two academic books and as I said, scholarly books. You mustn’t hold that against me, listeners.

Tim Knox: Well, I will tell you, my daughter just started her first day of college and I can’t tell you how much I spent on textbooks today.

Elaine Neil Orr: Oh my goodness.

Tim Knox: Congratulations for you.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, these were literary critical studies of American women writers. So they were not relevant to being a writer. I learned a great deal by analyzing fiction.

So I knew something about the publishing world though academic publishing is a little different from publishing memoir and fiction. So one of the first things I did was go looking for an agent. I got lucky and Joelle took me on and we did publish it with the University of Virginia Press, which was a very beautiful press to publish the book and has brought it up first in hardbound and then in paper and it did very well. It got wonderful reviews and we were very, very happy with that first book.

Tim Knox: Well, when you wrote that book, did it all of a sudden occur to you, “Well, geez, I’m a writer now”? You had not really – other than the academic books, had you ever thought about becoming an author?

Elaine Neil Orr: I had not really – as I said – well, I really glossed this a little bit. But when I was doing my MA in English before I did a PhD, I did write poetry and I published a few poems but again, I didn’t see that anyone was going to pay me to do that.

So I thought about myself as a writer but not in a major way. In other words, I thought of myself as a professor. OK? And yes, when the memoir came out, there was a kind of seed change, a real shift in my persona. I had a kind of audience. People thought I knew things about writing and that I could teach workshops for example and memoir writing and that I ought to be brought in to read or talk at universities for my work.

So it was a wonderful shift in my identity and was kind of a rebirth to use a metaphor from let’s say our Southern Baptist roots, a rebirth of who I was and a very joyous rebirth into that new identity.

Tim Knox: Well, it was almost like a rebirth – you came through the illness.

Elaine Neil Orr: Oh, absolutely! So I had – yes, I set a new life and then a new way of being and spending my time and one of the things that drives my writing is that much of it I get to spend time living an African world in my mind because in writing that memoir, I was able to get home and revisit all those memories and recreate the places of my childhood, that terrain and recall so many sensory images. So it’s a luxury. It’s just amazing to be able to dwell in those really spiritual realms I would say of memory.

Tim Knox: Right. Now after you got the clean bill of health you ever think about maybe redoing the memoir a little bit? Did you – how did it end? Did it end happily?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, it ended with the transplants but it also – the actual – there’s a kind of – oh, I hate to give it away internally but I will just say there’s a kind of a – oh, metaphorical I will say, imaginary ending in which I dive back into that river I was just telling you about. That’s really how it is. But the reader knows that I have had to transplant some of my – and that I’m – I’ve had that wonderful and miraculous …

Tim Knox: Right. I’ve talked to a couple of authors who had written memoirs early in their life and one of them said, “You know, if I knew how it was going to end up, it would have been a different book.”

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, yes, and I did write a few things about – I wouldn’t say they were especially critical. I would say they were simply realistic about my parents, of being sent back to the US without them when I was 16 and being sent to boarding school and so on.

They’re just sort of frank and sometimes now that my – both parents have died, I wonder if I could have been that frank. Some people think that they will write with greater frankness after people have died. I will wait and write that after everyone is dead.

But actually I think you might not write it later. So my philosophy, I did – my parents were incredibly supportive. They had all kinds of conversations with me. They read my book. They applauded me. But I would say write with blinders on and tell your story and do it now.

I don’t mean that you write a memoir about your divorce in the middle of a lawsuit. But I mean when you’re ready, when you’re ready. Don’t wait for people to die or whatever.

When you’re ready, do it because people do have stories to tell. You know what is – the most amazing discovery to me about writing my memoir was that I did not even know what my life was until I wrote it. I really believed that to be the case, that we think we know how we had lived and why. But until we write it down and research it and see our lives in the context of the larger history of our country and so on, we don’t really know.

Tim Knox: That’s such an interesting point. I was going to ask you what you learned from writing this memoir.

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes. Well, that’s the main thing. I mean I learned for example how profoundly the Biafran War had influenced my life, the Nigerian Civil War, which I lived through and we were sheltered from. I thought, oh, that was not that big a deal in my life. But it was huge in my life and I discovered that by doing research and learning. Oh, the day that such and such happened in the war, that was the date we moved or that was the date that some other very large thing happened in our lives. I could see that the two – it wasn’t a coincidence, but there was a cause and effect.

Tim Knox: Right. There were milestones that you associated with that war.

Elaine Neil Orr: Exactly, exactly. My adolescence, I turned 13 when that war began. So many things that occurred, for example our sending – by our, I mean my mother, father and I sent my sister, my only sibling to the US to be separated from us for a year on the day the first shots of the war were fired.

So there was this trauma in the country at the same time that there was this trauma in the family. So those are the kinds of discoveries that just really astonished me.

Tim Knox: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about the process of writing a memoir because I think a lot of authors try and fail to write a memoir. Any tips? If I was …

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, a nearly mortal illness can help you get started.

Tim Knox: Well, I guess that would be a good kick in the pants.

Elaine Neil Orr: But if you want to avoid that, I did – I think I tried to start at the beginning often and that was a mistake. I would say don’t start at the beginning. Start with vivid memories and I was compelled. I think almost as a lifeline to begin to conjure some of my most vivid memories and so I wrote these actually in notebooks, unwind large notebooks, pages at a time.

I fell in love with it. I just completely fell in love with my own life and with calling myself back to the places of my beginning. Now, not everyone is going to write a memoir about their childhood. So it really depends on what you’re writing but I would say begin with memorable scenes. Don’t worry so much yet about the structure.

The thing is, first of all, to get your – to create your own passion toward the project, to feel your passion about your life and even if it’s painful. Mine was often painful to recall. I think it’s very valuable to have readers and to read aloud to a group or to distribute it to people and be willing to read their work as well.

That’s how you begin to get some sense of structure because you may not want to just write your memoir chronologically for example. In my case, it turned out that I sort of had two stories, the story of my adulthood and the story of my first 16 years and I don’t mean my adulthood. I mean just my illness, the immediate present that I was living in, my illness.

That story and then the story of my past, and I was going to weave them together but I didn’t learn that until I was well along in the process. So those are two things I would recommend writing – first of all, if you don’t want to write in journals long hand, write on your computer whatever is the best method for you to get words on the page.

The way it works with me is that I wrote those scenes in those journals and then when I got ready to write the book, I just excavated huge passages that I had already written and then suddenly I would have pages and pages and how it’s wonderful.

Something I do think might be true about writing by hand or free writing even if you do it on a computer is you’re not censoring yourself and you’re not even saying, “This is my book.” You’re just saying, “This is some writing.” So you feel like you’re not yet on trial, right? I mean it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re taking pleasure in it.

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Tim Knox: I find it very interesting because I’ve had other authors tell me that they love writing longhand because they find it more freeing.

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes. I think it’s more – I feel more liberated and I think part of it is that I don’t feel yet that it has got even a semi-permanence of being on a computer. I mean of course it’s at least semi-permanent. It’s not permanent because it’s ink on a page, which is more permanent I guess than something in virtual reality, but at least as real. But it does seem to me that maybe you – there’s a certain rhythm to it and you turn the page and you look up from the page and you take a sip of your coffee or tea. You can carry it into lovely spaces and out to the park.

I love my writing to be beautiful and I don’t just mean the writing itself. I do love for the writing itself to be beautiful. But I like the experience of writing to be beautiful.

So now, if I’m getting ready to sit down and work on my next novel at my computer, I go out in the morning and gather some flowers. I really want the process to be lovely.

Tim Knox: I really do love that because it seems that the process really is – it’s just so mechanical now.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, it can be. I mean it can be if you’re cutting and pasting before you’ve even finished writing. You’re like, “Oh, no, no. This should be over here,” whereas if you’re writing in a journal, you’re probably not literally going to cut the page up. You’re just going to let it keep coming until you get to an epiphany.

Tim Knox: Right, right, right, very good. So …

Elaine Neil Orr: That’s what you’re in it for.

Tim Knox: Right. So the memoir was well-received. What came next for you? Did you immediately start thinking about the next book?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, I did. I thought I needed a new book project and I sort of had this idea that I was a bit afraid of and it centered around a 19th century diary that my mother had given to me as I was working on the memoir. It was the diary of the first female Southern Baptist missionary to the entire continent of Africa. She happened to go with her husband to what would become Nigeria. She happened to have found with her husband the mission that I would be born into.

So 100 years before my parents went to Nigeria, she and her husband met and my mother had a copy of her diary. She gave it to me and one of the things I – well, I was in my former life as an academic scholar was a feminist critic, and I guess I’m still something of a feminist writer.

So I was quite taken with this diary and something that I had been aware of and as a writing project or that I had seen some other writers do was take women’s diaries and explore them, flesh them out to research, and give them a life. So I was going to try to do enough research to flesh out this very, very brief diary into a work with creative non-fiction.

I was completely captivated by some very sad passages. For example, the longest entry in this whole diary covered three years. It went something like this.

Today, our dearest earthly possession took her flight. Our dear baby is dead. Sadness fills the house.

Tim Knox: Wow.

Elaine Neil Orr: That’s it. That’s it!

Tim Knox: That was the intro.

Elaine Neil Orr: Then the next day, she wrote, “Recommence the study of the language,” and I was just astonished with this woman. Had buried her child and gotten up the next day to study Yoruba. So I thought there is an entire book in just this one entry of three sentences and so I was mesmerized by this and captivated by it. I thought it might be also an avenue to learn more about my own mother who was a missionary and who was a pious, believing woman whereas I was always much more like Huck Finn. I tried to pray but it didn’t really work.

Tim Knox: I love that.

Elaine Neil Orr: So I latched on to this. But you know what? After a while, Tim, I realized that it had to be a novel because I had to make things up. There was – I wanted to make the character a little different from the historical person who began to emerge and I did want to bring my mother into the story. I wanted to use some things I knew from her life. I just plain wanted to make things up.

So I did. Now I tried to stay – I don’t know if you would say true to those historical records. I didn’t stay true to the historical record. I tried to stay – I tried to keep it not just plausible, but historically possible, right? For the things that happened that I had happened.

I loved writing fiction. I mean it was like taking the lid off the box. It was just – or the roof of the house. I don’t know. It was incredibly exciting to be able to create a world.

Tim Knox: And the book became – this was A Different Sun.

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes. This became the novel A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, which came out in 2013.

Tim Knox: How did it do?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, it has done really well.

Tim Knox: There you go. Brag on yourself a little bit here, Elaine.

Elaine Neil Orr: I don’t think we have gotten a negative review unless it has been on Goodreads and we have – some readers were a little surprised that I had so much scripture in the novel. I’m thinking, well, they’re missionaries. So occasionally they do refer to Isaiah or something like that.

But it has been just really a joyride, I have to say. It has been marvelous for people to take pictures of this novel in bookstores around the country and to be in the airport and see the novel in airport bookshops and for people to send me pictures of themselves reading my novel in Paris and things like that have been really very, very fun.

I’ve just reached so, so many more readers than I did with the memoir, the second book, and especially a novel, especially with Berkeley Penguin Press really got us at a different level. So it has been inspiring and I’ve just been so grateful to readers for going along on this ride with me in the 19th century in Africa. The letters that I’ve received and the comments have just been wonderful.

Tim Knox: The one thing that I noticed, I read some of the excerpts on your website. You have a really beautiful writing style, very poetic. I knew there was a poet in your side there, because … The poet who’s now making a living as a fiction author. But you know what I mean. It’s just your style of writing has an air of poetry about it.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, thank you very much. I do think that it may have been that my most natural gift as a creative writer is poetry, but it just so happened that when I got around to it, what was waiting for me to write were memoir and fiction.

Now that I have learned the craft of fiction by writing a novel, it really excites me to write the second. I feel like it’s not going to take me quite as long to come out with the next novel.

Tim Knox: Are you working on that now?

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes.

Tim Knox: Can you give us a little …

Elaine Neil Orr: I have about 150 pages.

Tim Knox: Can you give us a little insight into what that is?

Elaine Neil Orr: I will give you a little bit but not much.

Tim Knox: OK.

Elaine Neil Orr: I’m not going to give away the title because I really like it. But it’s 100 years later in 1959 and 1960 and set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is that town I lived in, in the – when I was six years old and first came to America.

It does have a West African back story. So I will – it has a kind of originating moment in this back story. I don’t know if I should go into that or not.

Tim Knox: Yeah, you don’t have to give too much …

Elaine Neil Orr: Yeah, I think I won’t tell you too much. But I’m wanting to sort of continue in this vein. I guess it’s a vein that might be a niche. I’m mixing my metaphors but of writing transatlantic stories, even if the – in the case of this novel, the West African back story won’t take up nearly as much room in the book as the African story in A Different Sun.

But it’s pivotal to what happens with the characters. So I don’t know that everything I like will have to have two continents. But maybe it will, because that’s who I am. I really am a writer from two continents. So I’m interested in people who have been back and forth across the Atlantic and I’m interested in what it does to the psyche and what kind of person develops, who has had that experience.

Tim Knox: Right. Well, you’ve had that experience that you can call on. You know that.

Elaine Neil Orr: Yes, right, exactly. That’s my sensibility as a writer and Gertrude Stein has this wonderful passage in a little book she wrote called Paris France, in which she says – this is probably a not exact quote but every writer must have two countries, the country she lives in and the country to which she actually belongs, something like that.

So in a way I feel like I actually belong to Nigeria but I live in the US. So even if I write a book that never – that does not have West Africa in it, it’s still going to have that sensibility, because that’s what I have.

Tim Knox: When was the last time you were there?

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, unfortunately it was 2007, so it has been a few years. I need to go back, because I have friends there and I want to keep up with people. But I’ve just not been able to go back since 2007. So actually in much of my adulthood, I did not go back at all because I was trying to – I had a young family. I was trying to make my way as a professor and get tenure and promotion and all of that.

So there were 20 years that I did not go back. Then after my transplants, I was determined to go back. So I went back three times since 2001 I think.

Tim Knox: Very good. So now you are firmly hooked on being a fiction author. In the couple of minutes that we have left, let’s talk a little bit about your advice to other authors because the – by and large the audience for this show are authors who want to do what you have done. They want to write a book. They want to get an agent or maybe even self-publish it. What is your best advice to these authors?

Elaine Neil Orr: On New Year’s Day, take out your calendar and mark it with the times you’re going to get away to write and make it at least quarterly that you will be gone for a week in solitary, in some solitary place that you’re going to write.

Now if that’s not plausible given your job, I would still get out my calendar and market the times whether it’s going to be weekly. Maybe you can only write on Fridays or you can only write on Saturday. But you’re going to give it 12 hours or maybe you’re going to have to do it even in smaller increments.

But actually put it in the calendar on the page, 7:00 to 9:00 AM, Monday, Wednesday, Friday or 7:00 to 9:00 PM, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Put it on the calendar and do it before anything else, so that when someone calls you, I don’t know, your mother, your sister, whoever and says, “Can you go to dinner on Friday evening?” you can look at your calendar and you can say, “Actually I already have an engagement,” and it’s your engagement with yourself.

Tim Knox: So schedule the time to write and stick to it.

Elaine Neil Orr: Schedule it before anything else. That’s – I guess then – so my next comment will not surprise you because my next comment is write. Don’t wait. Write regularly and if you fall behind or you miss a couple of weeks or you even miss a month, OK, you just observe that. You say so – you know, I didn’t stick with that. But I’m going to start back.

So you will simply forgive yourself and you don’t say, “This is impossible. I will never do it.” You just start the next day and I have to do most of my writing in the summer and during those significant breaks that I get, because actually being a college professor is not a bad gig. I get a fall break. I get a spring break. I get a long Christmas break and I have summer. But I still write all during the year in smaller pieces of time.

Tim Knox: When you’re not writing, do you miss it?

Elaine Neil Orr: When I’m not writing, I’m not really sure what is this about.

Tim Knox: I love that.

Elaine Neil Orr: So writing I would say is my – writing is where I find peace and contentment and joy. Actually even as wonderful as it is to publish a book and as fabulous as it is to get some attention, writing is more joyful. The greatest joy is in the writing.

Tim Knox: All right. Elaine Neil Orr, this has been wonderful. The book is A Different Sun. Where can the audience find out more information about you and your work?

Elaine Neil Orr: ElaineNeilOrr.net is my website.

Tim Knox: Very good. Do you spend any time on social media?

Elaine Neil Orr: I am on Facebook. I have an author page and I have a sort of regular old me Facebook page and I think my phone number is on my website. My contact information is there and so – and I do a blog on my website and people can respond to my blog posts and I’m sort of available in the world.

Tim Knox: You really are out there more than most authors are.

Elaine Neil Orr: Yeah, yeah. I teach at NC State. So you can look me up at NC State, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Tim Knox: You keep going. You’re going to have people sitting on your front porch when you get home, Elaine.

Elaine Neil Orr: Well, I haven’t yet given out my address.

Tim Knox: Very good. This has been wonderful. When the next book is out, will you come back and talk to us?

Elaine Neil Orr: Absolutely. It won’t be long.

 

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