Secret Library Podcast


Secret Library Podcast Episodes

#98 Elaine Castillo

Elaine Castillo broke my brain with something she said on the show.

The book she ended up publishing, her debut novel America is not the Heart, was not even close to the same length as the book she wrote. Let me say this again: Elaine Castillo sold her debut novel to a big 5 publisher and then got to spend a year and a half editing it because they believed in the book and wanted Elaine to feel satisfied by the end result.
As someone who has always felt novels got sold only when there might be an errant semi-colon or two floating around, this was nothing short of a revelation. Elaine is incredibly open and forthright in this conversation. I was delighted to really get inside her writing process, how she explored point fo view, and the way the characters came together for her. It was a joy to dive into America is Not the Heart, a gorgeous book that is already making waves with the critics. You're in for a real treat this week. Happy listening!

Discussed in Episode 98 with Elaine Castillo

  • The choice to begin in 2nd person as Pol, but move into 3rd in the second chapter.
  • Different characters have different amounts of class privilege & it was a challenge staying in one character’s POV for too long.
  • How Elaine first wrote a 600 page novel that was Greek myth fan fiction and then threw it away.
  • “I went off piste a little bit.”
  • On the purpose of her abandoned 600 page Greek myth fan fiction novel. “Sometimes you just have to write a book out of you.”
  • Her belief that “Any writer is really a reader first and foremost.”
  • On what she likes to read & what she likes to write.
  • “I’m the type of writer who needs to write the world first.” On her process and her 1,000 page first draft.
  • On the editing process that uncovers the novel inside all of the writing. “I think you can be ruthless but also protective.”
  • “I knew that I never wanted to write about someone who was in a position of importance.” On her main characters.
  • “I’m not hugely interested in writing about heroes.” How she chose her characters.
  • “I always really like writing people who are wrong about themselves.” The fun of writing an unaware character, rather than an unreliable one.

This episode brought to you by The Secret Writeaway, a retreat coming this October to Portland, OR