“A Scent of Gardenias,” the most recent book from Author Elena M. has gone live on ebook and paperback retailer sites. I had the good fortune of being approached by Elena prior to its release to preview “A Scent of Gardenias” and, having been so touched by the life the author developed in her lead character, Sarah Ann Baker, I have been anxiously anticipating this moment where I could help in promoting “A Scent of Gardenias.”
Sarah Ann Baker starts off with a child’s idyllic life, in a home by the seashore surrounded by loving parents. It’s not long before it’s all ripped away from her and Sarah is forced to begin a journey of discovery – of her strength, of her freedom, and finding love.
If you think it’s just your typical love story, you’re wrong. Elena M. weaves within the pages, a mystery of the paranormal kind. Sarah Ann Baker was born with a unique gift of sensing bad things to come (you’ll have to find out how she receives this foreboding in the book); but, what she doesn’t see coming is a suspicion that she is not the only one to share the home in which Sarah hoped to finally find peace.
Elena M. pulls you into the story and won’t let you go until the end. The mark of a good storyteller is when you can experience the emotions of the characters. Elena M. is a good storyteller. You will feel anger, shame, grief and failed expectations but are rewarded with joy, laughter, surprises and elation.
I asked Elena a series of questions so you can get to know her better. I’m pleased to introduce to you, Elena M.:
First, I want to thank you, Gail, for the invitation to be interviewed about my new book, “A Scent of Gardenias.” It’s a pleasure to be here.
What was your inspiration for “A Scent of Gardenias”?
I wanted to write a ghost story, however my story evolved into something more along the way. There is always a story in the news unfortunately, about one child bullying another. And, how bullying can be instrumental resulting in a tragedy like Columbine or even suicide.
I wanted to explore how with the support of a loving family and, perhaps a friend or two, a child could overcome these threatening roadblocks in life.
From start to finish, how long did it take you to finish the piece?
I started writing this book three years ago, and set it aside partially finished because of writer’s block.
At the time, I was taking a Creative Writing Class hoping to free the block. However, because of the subject matter in class, I got involved in another storyline that resulted in my other book, “Lake Charm,” a murder mystery that takes place in a trailer park alongside Lake Charm, Florida. The trailer park is fictitious, as is the story.
I became friends with a well- known FanFiction author, Jane Harvey-Berrick who wrote, “Fifty Shades of Grey and The Story Continues,” and many more published works in her own right. I told her about the book I started at the time entitled, “Bailey’s Cove.” Jane encouraged me to complete it.
By then, another author by the name of Sylvain Reynard came along with his bestselling books, “Gabriel’s Inferno” and “Gabriel’s Rapture.” He spoke about faith, love, grace, hope and redemption, which was like a light bulb going off in my head. At that point, I knew how I wanted to continue my unfinished story of Sarah Ann Baker and her struggles through life.
Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon?
Yes, in fact I do, however, I’m undecided about the name because I’ve only just begun. It’s another murder mystery.
While A Scent of Gardenias is mainly romance, it did have a bit of paranormal in it, specifically ghosts. Can we expect more from you in the romance/paranormal sphere?
Perhaps one day I will. I rather enjoyed Hazel Mueller’s ghost. I have a fascination with the spirit world, and know people who have experienced things after a loved one has passed away.
You made the scenes of domestic abuse amazingly real in A Scent of Gardenias. Have you been touched in any way by that in the past?
I thank God I haven’t. I was fortunate to come from a very close and loving Italian family. However, I knew of some school friends who experienced some domestic abuse. There are many stories on Lifetime TV that deal with this issue as well.
Do you have a favorite all-time book or author that influenced you as a writer?
Yes, Sylvain Reynard is my very favorite author. I have never been addicted to an author’s writing as I am to his. He touches my heart and soul with his brilliant prose. His characters actually become part of your life, and you never want the stories to end. He not only entertains you with a wonderful story, but he educates you in the process. His stories are based on the Italian Renaissance, and the famous love story of the poet, Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari. However, it is in current day form. He makes me want to write better.
You’ve written three other books under the name of Ellen Totten. Why did you decide to use a pen name with A Scent of Gardenias?
That’s an excellent question, Gail. I decided to write it under my real name, which is Elena Marie, because I felt this was the best book I’ve written. I feel I have grown over the past few years as an author. Writing was something I took up when my husband and I retired. It was actually on my bucket list with golf. I learned to play golf first.
What is your favorite line from A Scent of Gardenias?
I guess it would be the following when she reflects about John:
“He promised to keep in touch and always love her when she had to move away. Now she felt they were empty words that people did not intend to keep. They bandied them about as conversation fillers and nothing more.”
I think this is probably true with many people. Have you ever experienced this when you had to move away or out of state? I think we all have.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I can’t remember the essays I wrote in my English classes, because it was too many years ago. My first attempt to write a book was when we moved to The Villages. The book was “Fatal Choices.” I’m rueful of the day I allowed certain people to influence me on the storyline, as well as the editor I chose. I was embarrassed with the result. I relied too heavily on someone’s recommendation.
What was the hardest part of writing A Scent of Gardenias?
I guess the abuse scenes were difficult because I had to act it out in my mind.
Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m a native of Boston. In 1967, I was transferred to Washington, D. C. because of my job and based at National Airport with Delta Air Lines. It was there I met and married my husband, Jerry, who worked for Naval Sea Systems Command. Because of our work, we were able to travel the world and meet some wonderful people who became lifelong friends.
After my career of thirty years, my husband and I retired to Florida in 1992 where we both took up the game of golf, and I found I had a love for writing.
Thank you so much, Elena. It has been such a pleasure to have you here.