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Ellen Denton

Hiding on the Dark Side, fiction, Issue 30, March 1, 2015

Ellen is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and two demonic cats who wreak havoc and hell on a regular basis (the cats, not the husband). She’s had a rich and varied life working as a circus acrobat, a CIA spy, a service provider in the Red Light District, a navy seal, a ballerina on the starship Enterprise, and was the first person to ever climb Mount Everest. (Editorial note: Some of the above may be fictional.)

Get to Know Ellen...

Birthday? May 3, 1950
When did you start writing? It was about four years ago. A traveling circus came through town. I applied for a job there, but they wouldn't have me. They felt I wasn't agile enough for trapeze work, and since I can't even get my two housecats to behave, didn't feel my attempting a lion taming act would be a winning ticket. There were only two, logical, alternate job choices for me: 1) Sign up for work as a Jedi knight or 2) Write.  
When and what and where did you first get published? It was a few years ago--a non-fiction story to a national gardening magazine called Greenprints. This wasn’t a journalistic, informational type story, but a human interest one--what I later learned was called "creative non-fiction." I was very, very inexperienced as a writer than. This gardening story was one of the first I’d ever written (I hadn’t even attempted to write fiction yet), consequently, when I received a contract in the mail for the story, AND there was check for $100 included in the same envelope. I almost fainted.

What themes do you like to write about? Many things when it comes to fiction. I probably write more sci-fi and horror (both psychological and supernatural), than anything else, but since I’ve started doing this, I’ve written and gotten sold and published stories in other genres and on a variety of themes. My viewpoint is that it really stretches a writer’s creative wings to be able to take any subject, theme, object or concept and weave a story around it, even if it’s not a particular area of interest. As an example, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in reading about dragons, and even less in writing a story about one, but I did, and ended up selling it to a publication that paid me pro-rates for the story. I’ve written other stories with themes and  genres that you couldn’t pay me to read about, but which I was able to successfully write a story about. I wrote those “no-interest” stories just to see if I could--to challenge myself. And once I pushed through the initial resistance to doing it all, and got the thing going, then it DID become fun and something I liked doing, while I was mid writing it. Even if a story never sells, it’s the exercise of the ABILITY to write it that leaves a writer with something valuable, and in fact, grows his or her writing ability.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why? How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? Similar to the above, too many to even list out. There is SO much good writing out there. For horror, I love Stephan King, but I also love Edgar Allen Poe, and others.  For spy thriller espionage there’s authors like Robert Ludlum, for legal thrillers there’s John Gresham, and others. Then there are the great classics from days of old – The Pulitzer Prize winning As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin, Arthur C. Clark’s 2001 Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End. There are just so many great books and so many great writers out there, each which has resonated with me for different reasons, and in different ways.

Of course, the down side to this is that when I look at these great master’s of literature, I realize how uniformly crappy I am as a writer in comparison. Oh well. It gives me something to aspire to.

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