Interview with Deb Elkink & Win a Free Kindle Fire HD!

When author and city-slicker Deb Elkink fell in love and married an introverted cowboy, she moved from her bright lights to his isolated cattle ranch far off in the prairie grasslands. Still—between learning to pilot a light aircraft, sewing for a costume rental store, and cooking for branding crews of a hundred—Deb graduated with a B.A. in Communications from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN; she also holds an M.A. in Theology (both summa cum laude).

Her award-winning debut novel, THE THIRD GRACE, is set in the contrasting locales of Parisian street and Nebraskan farmyard, and incorporates Greek mythology and aesthetics with the personal search for self.

Her writing has been described as “layered and sumptuous,” “compelling,” and “satisfying.”

Visit her website at

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea for The Third Grace had been drifting, unformed, through my imagination for a while before I first went to Paris. In 1989, I found myself standing before the marble statue grouping of The Three Graces in the Louvre, enchanted by Pradier’s rendition of the mythological Greek goddesses of the banquet, the dance, and all the arts. They stood in easy camaraderie, a trinity of sisterhood, their rounded bellies and dimpled buttocks of pearly grey skin denting under mutual caresses. I could almost smell the heat of their flesh. They were the personification of grace, and I knew I’d found my motif for the women’s relationship fiction I wanted to write.

Of course, as a girl I’d fallen in love—haven’t we all?—and this aspect also informed my novel. My main character, Mary Grace, succumbed to the charms of the French exchange student visiting her parents’ Nebraska farm the summer she was seventeen. François whispered dark secrets into her ear, filled her heart with longing for something other than her parent’s simplistic life and faith, and renamed her “Aglaia” after one of the Three Graces, icon of his seduction. Ever since then, Aglaia has been remaking herself in the image of sophistication. Now she’s a successful Denver costume designer on her way to Paris, where she finds herself searching for her lost love and for her true identity.  

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

The easy part was traveling to Paris—which I do as often as I can! My difficulty centered around timing; I’m not a multi-tasker, and my energy for years after graduating university was focused on raising my family. That completed, I knew I needed further education to kick-start my writing, so I took my master’s degree in theology in 2001, and then edited doctoral dissertations and wrote for a quarterly magazine for a few years to hone my skills before completing my novel. I don’t regret a moment of living purposefully in the roles of wife, mother, student, editor, and itchy-footed traveler—because I’ve found the words of one of my university profs to hold true: “Don’t fret about not writing if you’re too busy living; it will all come out in the end.” And so, with the joy of publishing my debut novel now finally realized, I’d encourage other writers to fully engage their circumstances at every stage, as these unique experiences will eventually make up the content, emotions, and message of their books.    

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

The Third Grace was published in 2011 by a small press introduced to me by the agent I first met at a writers’ conference. Greenbrier Books specializes in high-quality eBook production, though the print version with its dynamite cover art is lovely and a satisfaction to hold in the hand.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

After I signed the contract with the agent, the first thing he said to me was that I needed to almost double the length of my manuscript! Here I’d mistakenly thought that a short novel would have a greater chance of publication. Even more surprising to me was the specific input I received regarding revisions, which was very helpful and made the novel much better in the end. But most astonishing was winning the prestigious 2012 Grace Irwin Award (of $5,000) just this summer. How wonderful to know that there’s still room for new writers in the publishing world!

Q: Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?

I was alone driving in my car after visiting my rural post office, with the package of advance reader copies still sealed shut on the seat next to me, thinking I’d wait till I got to town to fondle the book. But I was trembling with anticipation and decided I’d better stop speeding and just pull over to open the box—and to phone my husband as I did so in order to share the moment with him. When I caught sight of the glossy cover art and flipped the pages of that first copy there on the highway, with semi-trailers screaming by and shaking the wind out of me, I couldn’t hold back—I whooped and danced with pure, unmitigated delight at seeing that novel in print. It was glorious!

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

My second novel is plotted and the drafting begun. It’s not contracted yet, so as to who will publish it—well, your guess is as good as mine. In this story a Minneapolis salesclerk with a secret heritage is on the verge of her first house purchase while her best friend is tempting her to spend the money instead accompanying her to “sacred sites” around the world. As with The Third Grace, my second novel again considers women’s relationships and internal values in the context of a gripping plot that involves international travel!

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

In the epigraph to The Third Grace, I quote G.K. Chesterton: “Man has always lost his way. He has been a tramp ever since Eden; but he always knew, or thought he knew, what he was looking for.” Chesterton was alluding to that craving we all have deep inside to find where we really came from and to get back there again—though it seems we are stymied by taking wrong turns. The Third Grace is a novel of self-discovery—or, actually, of re-discovery. As my readers see Aglaia running from herself, stumbling over the “Mary Grace” she thought she left behind, I hope they will reflect upon where their own past is rooted, and where their own faith springs from.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I place tremendous value on the written word, and so I’m deeply honored that The Third Grace has been added to our culture’s body of literature. Thank you, at Writer’s Life, for your part in furthering the library of our world! 

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