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An Interview with Elizabeth Conte


Elizabeth Conte is a women’s fiction writer bringing what she loves about 19th-century literature to the 21st-century reader. She writes poetry, short stories, and novels, with her award-winning debut novel, Finding Jane, released in Spring 2022, and Chosen Mistress in Fall 2023. Other published work includes anthologies, The Truths That Can’t be Told, The Truth That Can’t Be Told 2, Love Is In The Air, Let’s Begin Again, Summer Fireflies, and I Have A Dream. Her writing is featured in The Pangolin Review, Sad Girls, Platos Cave, Lost Coast Review, Lake Forest Writers Roundtable, and PennWriters.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I started writing because I couldn’t find what I wanted in the marketplace. My love for 19th-century literature–rich descriptive details, layered characters, intricate plots, witty dialogue, and profound romance–wasn’t being met by contemporary offerings. While classics like Pride and Prejudice are widely admired, few people delve into its pages. In our current era of quick-paced narratives and cinematic styles, the art of nuanced storytelling seems to have been sidelined, and I really missed it. My goal was to reintroduce the allure of old-world literature in a manner that modern readers would want. Works like Jane Eyre, Out of Africa, The Thorn Birds, and Pride and Prejudice were once staples of women’s fiction, blending literary depth with romantic fervor. However, the label of ‘romance’ became confined to a genre with formulaic plots and rigid conventions, alienating readers who sought character-driven narratives intertwined with romance. Many enthusiasts of romantic stories bypassed ‘romance’ novels yet still yearned for stories infused with passion. I like to think of my work as ‘restoring the romantic’ to romance, reviving or introducing a literary style that has been overshadowed—narratives where love intertwines seamlessly with profound storytelling.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

When you dive into writing a historical novel, you realize just how much research goes into it. It’s not just about the big events or famous figures;it’s about the everyday details that breathe life into the past. Like, how did people actually go about their daily routines in the 1830s? How did they cook their meals, keep themselves clean, or even set the table for dinner? And let’s not forget about the kind of books they read back then!

My first novel, Finding Jane, is set in 1830s England, and the research was eye-opening. I stumbled upon countless fascinating tidbits about the Victorian era that shattered the pristine image often portrayed. It made me question the notions of civility and purity associated with that time.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

In Chosen Mistress, the essence of the story is unveiled: two cousins, bound as tightly as sisters, pledge unwavering support to each other. When one faces the desperate need to salvage her failing marriage, she turns to the other with a bold request—to assume the role of her husband’s mistress. Hence, the title: Chosen Mistress.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Anything Gabriel Yared, the most beautiful composer of cinema!

Describe your dream book cover.

As an interior and garden designer, I have a keen eye for color, texture, and detail. When it comes to book covers, I don’t have a fixed template. Each story is unique and deserves a cover that reflects its essence. For Finding Jane, which revolves around a museum exhibit on historical clothing, I opted for a period dress on the cover. In the case of Chosen Mistress, set in Victorian England, I aimed to capture the concealed sensuality of the era with a striking portrait by 19th-century painter Henri Lehman. My goal is to create covers that exude beauty, enticing readers to not only pick up the book but also proudly display it.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I began my career in corporate America, starting in the fashion industry, and moving into consumer products industry, specializing in sales and marketing for renowned corporate giants such as BARBIE and Phillips Van Heusen. With the decision to start a family, I transitioned into entrepreneurship, establishing my own garden design and interior design businesses. Eventually, I embarked on a new journey as a writer. This is my way of saying…never give up on your dream, and you can always move into a career that makes the best of you!

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I have a voracious appetite for reading, spanning across diverse genres such as philosophy, sci-fi, metaphysical studies, history, and fiction. I always stress to aspiring writers the importance of reading as a cornerstone of their craft. My own reading habits reflect my wide-ranging interests, as I explore classics, New York Times bestsellers, and everything in between. Over my decade-long writing journey, it’s challenging to pinpoint books “throughout my writing process.” but I can highlight the profound impact of authors like Amor Towles, whose work continues to inspire and resonate with me as a writer.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

For me, the essence of writing is simple yet profound: to craft stories that leave an indelible mark on readers’ hearts and characters that linger in their minds long after the final page. Who could forget the timeless allure of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, or the poignant emotions stirred by Wuthering Heights My aspiration is to create books that transcend the fleeting moment of ‘The End’ and instead carve out a lasting legacy, ensuring they are cherished and remembered.

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