I resumed my old hobby of writing around Christmas 2013 when I was house-sitting for my parents. They were visiting family in the Midwest; I was watching the dog and the house… and burning old journals. Yes, burning them. I didn’t want my mother stumbling across those twenty year-old things in the basement!
But while I burned, I realized two things:
- I missed writing.
- Some of my writing wasn’t half bad.
Staying up late, watching Spider-Man on mute in the background, I started drafting my first novel, The Portal & the Panther. A year later, I published it and its sequel, The Girl Between Worlds, together. In 2015 and 2016, I published three more novels — The Rook & the King, Playing With Fire, and Mind Games.
By spring 2016, I was burned out writing young adult sci-fi / fantasy. To make a long story short (if you want the whole story, sign up for my mailing list), I wrote my first contemporary lesbian romance / drama between spring and fall 2016.
To Have Loved & Lost has been more popular and wildly more successful than any of my previous books. And on top of that, it feels like writing it was doing something good for the LGBTQ community. Given the current political climate, that feels important. It’s not much to offer, but it’s something.
The Real Eliza Andrews
I knew I needed a new pen name to focus on LGBTQ fiction, because my YA audience is mostly straight women living in small town USA. I pondered a name for a while, and finally decided on “Eliza Andrews,” per the suggestion of my mom (such a rebel, that one).
The original Eliza Andrews is my ancestor — my great, great, great (+great?) aunt. In fact, my grandmother used to refer to her as “Aunt Fanny.” Eliza / Aunt Fanny was quite a lady. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about her:
Eliza Frances Andrews (August 10, 1840 – January 21, 1931) was a popular Southern writer of the Gilded Age. Her works were published in popular magazines and papers, including the New York World and Godey’s Lady’s Book. Her longer works included The War-Time Journal of a Georgian Girl (1908) and two botany textbooks.
Eliza Frances Andrews gained fame in three fields: authorship, education, and science. Her passion was writing and she had success both as an essayist and a novelist. Financial troubles forced her to take a teaching career after the deaths of her parents, though she continued to be published. In her retirement she combined two of her interests by writing two textbooks on botany entitled Botany All the Year Round and Practical Botany, the latter of which became popular in Europe and was translated for schools in France. Andrews’s published works, notably her Wartime Journal of a Georgia Girl along with her novels and numerous articles, give a glimpse into bitterness, dissatisfaction, and confusion in the post-Civil War South.
Eliza was a novelist and an essayist… but she was also a die-hard racist and an upper-class elitist. She and her siblings supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, and she only started working because she refused “to marry below her station” (my grandmother’s words).
So appropriating her name to write lesbian fiction… ha! It’s just my little bit of civil disobedience and my way of saying that I will rewrite (literally!) my family’s heritage of privilege and abusing others.