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Interview: Elyse Douglas, Author of Wanting Rita

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Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the married writing team Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse grew up near the sea, roaming the beaches, reading and writing stories and poetry, receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University. She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress, and a speech-language pathologist. She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed three novels: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Wanting Rita and a Christmas novel to be released later this year.

Douglas grew up in a family where music and astrology were second and third languages. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and played the piano professionally for many years. With his wife, Elyse, he has helped to pen The Astrologer’s Daughter and Wanting Rita.

When asked how they write a novel together, Doug often answers,

Well… If Elyse is dismissive and quietly pacing, then I know something’s not working. If I’m defensive, dramatic and defiant, then I know Elyse will soon be scowling and quietly pacing. We remind ourselves of Rita and Alan James in our novel, Wanting Rita. How the books get finished, I don’t know.

Elyse Douglas resides in New York City.

To learn more about Elyse Douglas and their work, please visit the following links:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Could you please tell us a bit about your book?

Wanting Rita is a love story about a nerdy, sensitive rich boy and a radiant, volatile small-town beauty queen from a poor family. It’s a story about the obsession of first love and the later, shattering, tender journey of an all-consuming love affair.

The story?

When his high school sweetheart experiences a devastating tragedy, Dr. Alan Lincoln reluctantly returns to his Pennsylvania hometown to see her. It’s been 15 years. Rita was his first love whom he has never forgotten. They’d formed a strong connection during their senior year, but Rita married someone else, and the marriage ended tragically.

Alan’s marriage of three years is disintegrating, and he sees in Rita the chance to begin again with the true love of his life. Rita has been mentally and emotionally shattered, but she reaches out to Alan and fights to build a new life with him. During a passionate summer, however, the past and present converge and threaten their rekindled love. Alan and Rita must struggle with old ghosts and new secrets.

The characters?

Rita Fitzgerald is a beautiful, impulsive and intelligent young woman who shoots to small-town stardom after winning a local beauty contest. Her family is poor and her father has a dark past. Rita carries emotional scars from that past. She falls in love with Alan, a smart rich kid, but believes that nothing will ever come of it. So, she marries someone else.

Alan James Lincoln is a highly intelligent snob, who falls for Rita in their senior year in high school. She excites him and baffles him. Her beauty awakens a young passion that engulfs him. Through his persistent and loyal love for her, he grows both as a boy and a man.

How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?

The title was a natural outcome of Alan’s passionate and persistent love for Rita.

The cover design is from an oil painting by Elyse’s mother, Monique Parmentier. It hangs in our living room. We realized that it depicts a scene in the last part of Section One, when Alan James is watching Rita, painfully aware that he has lost her and she is going to marry someone else. Since we self-published, we were able to choose this design.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?

The following is an unabashedly romantic scene, but it is one of our favorites. Alan and Rita are 17 years old and this is the first time that Alan is finally alone with Rita.

I couldn’t speak. Rita took me in for a moment, searchingly, and smiled. When she kissed me, her lips damp and soft, I shivered. My heart throbbed with the first wildness of true love, and suddenly and unexpectedly, I cried. All my defenses were breached and my senses were stung by a sweet and wicked bliss. My eyes were fully open and Rita saw the tears. She touched them in wonder and surprise, and kissed them, as the shadows danced around us. Feeling hopeless and ashamed, I looked away.

“Hey…don’t turn away from me, Alan James. No, no, don’t turn away. No one has ever cried for me before. Ever. No one.” She took my head in her soft hands and looked deeply into my eyes. “It’s okay. It’s okay to want me. Wanting me is okay.”

What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?

Blogs, articles, reviews and the virtual book tour.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Douglas and I work 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. Douglas might work early and I might work late, depending on our schedules.

What are some ways that you like to relax?

Elyse and I love the New York City parks: Riverside Park, Morningside Park and Central Park. We stroll, talk and bird watch. We also love hanging out in cafes. Elyse loves to travel, so whenever she can escape on a cruise or to a beach in Florida or Montauk, she goes and I tag along, laptop in hand.

What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?

Steve Kluger, with his Last Days of Summer. Celine Keating, with her Layla, a beautiful novel that deserves a broad mainstream market.

What author would you most like to meet and why?

We would like to meet Jane Smiley. We loved her book, Private Life. We also enjoyed her biography of Charles Dickens. She explores themes that one could discuss for days. It would be fun to sit and talk about writing, characters and Charles Dickens.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?

We have two Christmas novels that will be coming out in the fall.

What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?

We believe in reincarnation and feel certain that we have been together for many lifetimes.

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