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. She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress, and a speech-language pathologist. She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed numerous novels including The Other Side of Summer, Christmas for Juliet, The Christmas Eve Letter, Christmas Ever After, The Christmas Town and The Christmas Diary.
Douglas grew up in a family where music and astrology were second and third languages. He has worked as a graphic designer, a corporate manager and equities trader. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and played the piano professionally for many years.
Elyse and Douglas live in New York City.
Describe yourself in five words: A couple who write novels.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people? Doug is a vegetarian and I am not. Dinnertime is interesting in our house. We usually eat the same starch and vegetables, but Doug cooks a soy product or veggie burger and I eat chicken or fish.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear? We support and encourage each other. We meditate, acknowledge the self-doubts and fear and then replace those thoughts with more positive ones.
What scares you the most? For me it’s not being able to eat three times a day. For Doug, it’s not having decent music available.
What makes you happiest? When we remember to live in the moment and appreciate what is around us.
Why do you write? Because we have to. It’s as simple as that.
Have you always enjoyed writing? Yes and no. It’s hard work, but it feels wonderful when you express well what you want to say, and when others like the work.
What motivates you to write? The prospect of the end product… and having other people read our stories.
What writing are you most proud of? Doug really loves “Wanting Rita.” I especially love “Time Change.”
What are you most proud of in your personal life? That we’ve sustained a good relationship for more than 30 years.
What books did you love growing up? I loved “Little Women.” Doug loved “Lad, a Dog” and “By Wagon Train to Oregon.”
What do you hope your obituary will say about you? That we lived ethical, loving and creative lives.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live? We live in New York City, where we met. I originally came from Massachusetts and Doug from Ohio.
How did you develop your writing? We give each other honest and constructive criticism. Our readers often do too!
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? All three are difficult. At this point, we don’t start a novel unless we know how we will market it. And since we’ve gone the self-publishing route for many reasons, getting published is difficult only insofar as we have to do the mechanics of that process ourselves, working with designers, programmers, etc. Writing remains refreshingly challenging!
What marketing works for you? We have a mailing list. Also, BookBub Featured Deals, Facebook ads and Amazon ads are helpful.
Do you find it hard to share your work? Not at all.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you? Some do, some don’t. We have friends and family members who have read every book, some who have read one, some who have read none. People have their own taste and expectations for novels, so we don’t pressure anyone to read our books.
What else do you do, other than write? We do some consulting work in other professions, but our main activity is writing and producing the books. Doug walks and hangs out in cafes. I swim and take Tai Chi and Pilates classes.
What other jobs have you had in your life? Doug has been a musician and corporate manager. I’ve been an actress, English teacher and speech-language pathologist.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick? Since I’ve spent my life reading, I would probably explore the opposite: sciences like geology or entomology. Doug loves history.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Right here, in NYC, with vacations in Montauk, NY and Maine.
Tell us about your family? We have nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews and the siblings who produced those.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk? Doug usually writes at his desktop computer. I often start with pen and paper, often outdoors or on a couch, then move to my desktop.
How much sleep do you need to be your best? Seven to eight hours a night.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support? Doug’s father was a huge supporter of our writing. The most avid reader of our books on my side of the family is my sister.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you? At this point, we measure success in sales and positive ratings. We want readers to enjoy our books and spread the word about them. Luckily, they have!
Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it? Our readers expressed an interest in a sequel to Book 2, The Christmas Eve Daughter. They wanted to series to continue. This novel is another adventure for Eve and Patrick Gantly (characters we introduced in Book 1,The Christmas Eve Secret). The themes are redemption, self-discovery, and love at first sight that grows and endures.
If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask? We’d probably go for Shakespeare and Gandhi at the heads of the table, and then George Elliot, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Clara Schumann on one side. On the other side? John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax? We read. If our eyes are tired, we listen to recorded books. We also love to take walks and travel.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel? We hope our readers have enjoyed the journey we’ve taken them on and end up feeling positive about themselves and the world.
What do you write about? Our books are basically about love and the power of love. But it sometimes takes our characters a little time to have their hearts opened.
Do you have a specific writing style? We aim for a good, clean narrative style and dialogue that advances the plot and reveals character.
What are obstacles that come in the way of writing? Nothing gets in the way. We are quite disciplined. It is a job, and we write six or seven days a week.
What’s the most memorable thing asked/said by a reader about your work? “This is a story of life; heartbreak, grief and finally peace and love. A story to remind us to be good to ourselves and those around us, and that in life when doors close, windows open.” A reader’s review about Christmas Ever After.
How long have you been writing? I’ve written in a journal since I was eight years old and wrote my first novel in my thirties. Doug started writing novels in his twenties.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer? It’s been my goal since I read about Jo in “Little Women.” For Doug, it was a result of listening to his grandfather, a gifted storyteller from Kentucky.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing? We both work about five hours a day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Doug loves to have the cover designed before he begins to write a novel. The cover might be changed, but having it visible keeps him focused on the plot he’s already worked out in his head. I’m more exploratory and indirect in my approach. I write scenes and then gradually understand where I’m going.
How long does it take to write a book? At this point, it takes three to six months to write it and then at least another two for the rewrites, copyedits, and proofing.
Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer? Write nearly every day. Read every day. Analyze the writing of writers you admire. If you feel like your plot weighs 500 pounds and you’re struggling to keep it up, scrap it and try a different approach.
What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story? The greatest challenges are to create likeable characters and then keep the plot moving. Subplots can also help to enhance the tension and keep the mystery alive.
What do you think makes a good story? The best story is one that keeps the reader interested. The characters must be likeable and real, even if their situations are fantastical (like time traveling to 1884 by way of the light from an old lantern). Also important is to have a good antagonist. They help drive the story.
Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers? Thank you for being readers, and thank you for reading our books!
When did you first consider yourself a writer? We’ve always thought of ourselves as writers, but when your books start to sell and you’re making a steady income from them, then it’s easier to say it out loud with confidence.