E.M. Chapel is a speculative fiction author and teacher. E.M. Chapel is the author of The Weight of Silver. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she can be found practicing martial arts, reading, or spending time on the water—all with a cup of coffee in hand.
You can buy The Weight of Silver here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I first started writing as a cure for hiking. I grew up in the Colorado foothills, so hiking was often on summer camp agendas, but it was certainly not at the top of my to-do list, but neither was eating the celery part of “ants on a log.” When was on these hiking excursions as a kid, I found that instead of focusing on the burning muscles, the heat, and the bugs, I would make up a story in my head and see how far in the story I could get, which would distract me from the hike itself. Later, when I took creative writing classes in middle and high school, I found that I could employ my version of escapism, meditation, stress management, whatever it was in the moment, on paper. I was lucky to have two incredible language arts teachers in 11th and 12th grade, Milo Carpenter and Mark Sherman. It was in my 11th grade English class that Mr. Carpenter gave a writing assignment back to me and asked, “So, you’re going to be a writer?” Throughout my senior year, Mr. Sherman insisted on calling me: “Elena Temple, (my pen name at the time) future author.” Not only did my teachers’ classes inspire me to read and write, but the teachers supported me in a dream I didn’t even know was on the table. Now I can introduce myself, not as future author, but as E.M. Chapel, author.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I have been a teacher for over ten years. In that time, I have taught language arts, social studies, GED reading, writing, history, math and science, and most unexpectedly, gym. I have led 10th and 12th graders on multi week camping trips, driven a mini bus full of high schoolers through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, run student government and creative writing clubs at two different schools. I have loved learning and teaching since the day they made me leave school for summer break after kindergarten.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The title of my book was the last thing I wrote for the novel. I am fortunate to have a great friend who let me talk at her once a month about my novel—plot, characters, structure changes, word choice, and no matter the topic of the month, I would always end our call with a new (usually terrible) title idea. She would laugh and hang up. And then send a cry-laughing emoji via text, and the cycle would repeat. It was not until one of my final days of editing that I finally sat with the title seriously. One goal of my novel is to demonstrate through magical realism the power and weight of insecurity that many women experience, so the phrase “the weight of…” sprang to mind. Within the novel, silver is a significant motif, so the two nestled together nicely, and when I called my friend to have her check out the new title, she happily agreed that it finally fit. She does still laugh at me about some of the previous ones though.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
The excitement of seeing the book cover was multi-faceted for me. Not only was it my book—my book!—that I held in my hands, but the cover also gives me a special sense of joy. One of my friends, a recently published author herself, designed my book cover, so now not only do I see the joy of my work living behind a beautifully designed cover, but it is also a reminder of my writer community workshopping together, supporting each other, and rooting for each other.
Holding my book in my hands is still surreal. I don’t know if I will ever process the fact that the story I wrote is there, in my hands and not still swirling around in my head.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
This would be the general soundtrack of The Weight of Silver in about the right order.
“Lovely” by Billie Eilish and Khalid
“Soul Meets Body” by Deathcab for Cutie
“It’s Time to Come Home” by The Rentals
“Bury a Friend” by Billie Eilish
“Forgive Me Friend” by Smith and Thell
“Coming Undone” by Korn
“Down by the Water” by PJ Harvey
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
One of the big pushes in writing this novel was to tell the story of insecurity, pressures, and anxiety that so many women experience daily. I have been and continue to be inspired by the women in my life–friends, family, students. Seeing some of the strongest, most talented and beautiful women (as well as experiencing it myself) pulled down into the depths of insecurity and anxiety, inspired my novel and I hope to convey to my readers that they are not alone.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
The most meaningful part of publishing my novel is the innate beauty of seeing something that I created in my own mind as a tangible physical reality. It would, I think, be like taking invisible ingredients that only you (and a few select others) could see, chopping, simmering, sautéing, mixing, mashing everything together, and after months, there on the table would appear a delicious pie for anyone and everyone to take a slice of. That’s pretty cool, I think.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I am currently working on my MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing through Emerson College. In addition to my coursework I am currently working on my next novel, which will explore the depths of friendship and the dangerous power of the fear of loss. I am also working on a few short stories, which I hope to submit for publication to various journals in the near future.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.