How Big Skye Littleton was born – Elisa Lorello

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By Elisa Lorello

For a time, Big Skye Littleton (my eighth novel) was known simply as “Book 2” because it was the second of a two-book contract I’d signed with my publisher, Lake Union, in 2015. I didn’t have a title when the deal was made — or even an idea!♥

A lot was going on when I started writing it a year later: I had barely finished its predecessor, The Second First Time, and couldn’t take a break because the deadlines were already set. I was still adjusting to the cross-country move to Billings, Montana, from Long Island, New York (which had taken place the first week of 2016), to live with my then-fiance. We were also in the midst of planning an October wedding, on Long Island, which required me to fly back several times.

I like to write what I know — I don’t necessarily mean that in literal terms, but I derive inspiration from memory and experience combined with imagination, and I usually like to flip those things on its head. My reception in Billings couldn’t have been better — my husband had been living there for almost ten years and was well known and well liked. His friends and colleagues embraced me immediately. Moreover, because he is an established author (Craig Lancaster, of the bestselling 600 Hours of Edward and more), I was able to get in the door when it came to speaking or book signing events; it wasn’t long before I was able to create more opportunities without his help. Also, having never been so far west in the United States, I was quite taken with the vastness of Montana in terms of land and sky — especially the sky.

I decided to have a little fun and turn my story of making a huge move to be with the love of my life completely upside down — instead, this woman would upend her life only to find her lover wasn’t who he said he was, and she’d have to start from scratch with a bitter taste for Billings.

The title is multi-faceted. I liked the contrast of big and little and the play on Montana known as “Big Sky Country.” Likewise, Billings is the largest city in Montana that sometimes has the feel of a small town. And Skye dreams big, yet feels little in terms of her self-worth. Yet as the story plays out, that too gets turned on its head.

The first draft of the story was terrible — Skye was a little too bitter. I’d wanted her transformation to be drastic, but I’d aimed too high and made the character unlikable, someone a reader wouldn’t want to root for. Thank goodness for my developmental editor! She pointed out that major flaw. However, the first round of revisions still weren’t working, and I’d already extended my deadline twice. I was afraid the story was never going to work, and I didn’t know what that would mean for its publication.

And then — eureka! I printed out the manuscript, sat down with a pen in hand, and began to read, making notes in the margins. Doing so usually gives me a fresh perspective. Sure enough, by page 10, I knew exactly how to fix the story. I called my editors and begged them for one more deadline extension. Then I completely overhauled the manuscript, especially the first half. Success! The result was a novel I quite enjoyed, as did my editors. I hope readers will feel the same.

Elisa Lorello grew up on Long Island, the youngest of seven children as a bona fide member of Generation X. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and taught rhetoric and writing at the college level for more than ten years. In 2012 she became a full-time novelist. TElisa has written and published eight novels, including the bestselling Faking It, Ordinary World, and She Has Your Eyes, a memoir about her lifelong love for the band Duran Duran, and The Writer’s Habit for aspiring authors.

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