Author Interview: Ekta R. Garg

By Ekta R. Garg, author of In the Heart of the Linden Wood, released 2/7/23, and The Truth About Elves, released 10/19/21

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

The first is to read. Read widely. Read in the genre you write and read outside of it. Exposing yourself to different types of work will show you how to handle things like pacing, point of view, character development, setting, and a variety of other necessary tools. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” So read a lot and read lots of different things.

Secondly is to learn from those who have more experience than you, whether this is other writers/authors or experts in writing/publishing. Social media and the internet make it so easy these days to stay in touch with people. Read their articles and interviews. Pay attention to the choices they made in their careers or the suggestions they make for writing challenges. Most importantly, stay open to ideas that don’t immediately resonate with you. Change can be hard, and the publishing industry—even though it moves at a glacial pace in the day-to-day routine—is changing rapidly. Even if you don’t want to change, you have to know what changes are happening so you can make choices for your career accordingly.

Third—and this might sound blatant and obvious—is to write. Try to write every day, but if you can’t do that give yourself dedicated time where you own that block of minutes and do nothing else. Just write. Then don’t feel guilty or sad about all the minutes or hours you aren’t writing. We all have responsibilities that are disconnected from our writing lives. Look at them as life experiences you can use in a story someday.

Most important of all: Respect yourself and your chosen path. Don’t let anyone, ever, tell you that being a writer is less important than other professions or career prospects. It’s hard and frustrating and full of setbacks and failures, but guess what? So is every other industry. Your challenges are no less valuable or no less worthy of fretting over compared to a lawyer or an engineer.

If someone (and this is almost exclusively people who aren’t writers) tells you that writing is easy or just a side hustle or hobby or whatever descriptor they want to insert into this part of the conversation, don’t give in to their sense of entitlement in being able to tell you about your work and your passion. If they’re not involved in it in any way, they don’t have the experience or knowledge to lecture you about it. Don’t let their “superior” line of work or opinion intimidate you into lessening the importance of your own.

How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

I read the review a couple of times. I cry. I question myself as a writer, and I wonder if everyone who told me that writing isn’t an actual career path—especially my well-meaning loved ones—was right after all. 

After 30 minutes or 1 or 2 hours, I go back and read the positive reviews. I ask myself the hard question of whether I really want to give up writing completely. Not in the melodramatic way of flinging myself on my bed and bawling my eyes out. I sit down and think about it long and hard. Should I give up writing? If I gave up, what else would I do? Did I write this book for this one person to give me a negative review or for all the people out there who gave it positive ones? Or did I write this book to share a story of my heart with readers and to put something good into the world to help others?

Then I do something that same day to actively promote my work, whether that’s pitching a blog post or researching possible review outlets or places where I can submit my books for awards, or something else. My goal, every day, is to work on something that will go toward this promotion process.

This is especially important after getting a bad review. For that reviewer, the book is one and done. But my efforts to promote my work and to keep writing and creating new stories and characters is ongoing. And if I keep doing all those things faithfully and with purpose, then one day that one-and-done review will hopefully be so far down the list that my ardent fans will look at it, roll their eyes, and send me a note on social media that they can’t wait for my next release.

All that to say, I allow myself to feel bad, to react, to accept that there will be people in the world who don’t like my work or don’t understand it. There’s nothing wrong with sitting with negative emotions for a short period of time. It’s healthy to acknowledge that we’re human beings and we feel sad. But I can’t let it stop me. There have been too many people in my life who I know and love and who love me who have, in well-meaning but misguided ways, tried to discourage me from writing or else been indifferent to it. If they didn’t stop me, why should I let some random person I don’t know and will never meet stop me?

How do you use social media as an author?

I use social media to connect with other writers/authors and industry members and also for promoting my work. I’m careful to make sure that the two don’t sound interchangeable. So I don’t talk about my books on other people’s platforms unless there’s a specific call to do so (like a writers’ lift.) Instead, I congratulate people on their successes. I comment on their funny pet videos and photos. I offer writing suggestions/advice when it’s requested. I make silly jokes about myself and things like the TV shows/movies I watch or goofy things my kids did.

Someone recently reminded me of the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. If I’m raising someone else’s “boat” with the “tide” of my interactions—like cheering someone up when they’re bummed out about a setback or offering an idea when they get stuck with a character/plot point—then eventually my own boat will rise too. It may take time for the tide to roll in my direction or to come back to me, but I believe wholeheartedly that it will. Because humans, by nature, are social creatures and most of us are also helpful ones.

Recently I decided to be more intentional with my social media use and follow an approach that I heard about that basically says to spend 10 minutes of dedicated time on each social media platform you have. By doing so, this theory goes, you can create meaningful connections and engage with purpose. This has a couple of different positive effects. The first is that if I decide to take my 10 minutes on Instagram, for instance, I don’t feel guilty about it because now it’s part of my promotion efforts. Essentially now it’s part of my work day. Also, it breaks up my social media usage for the day. I only use three platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—and I do my 10 minutes on each one at different points in the day. So I’m not staring at the screen for hours on end. And I end the day feeling like I connected with others.

Social media is great for writing prompts and many other things; it’s also an easy place to find yourself feeling like dirt because you wonder why you’re the only one who hasn’t “accomplished” anything. If you start feeling like that, that is your direct signal to get off your device and go either read or write something.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written four and published two. The first two I wrote are “drawer manuscripts”—as in, they’re not meant for public consumption. They did, however, help me learn how to stay with a project for a long period of time, and they let me cut my teeth on writing in general. I’m proud of the fact that I wrote them, although I don’t see myself sharing them with anyone else any time soon.

The two that have been published are my holiday novella, The Truth About Elves, and my original fairy tale, In the Heart of the Linden Wood. Both are for grownups, and I’m incredibly proud of both. Asking me which is my favorite is like asking which arm is my favorite, though. Both are special to me for so many reasons.

The Truth About Elves will always be my first book baby. It’s the book that made me an author and an award-winning one at that. It recently won the award for Best Novella in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I had so much fun writing Curtis, the protagonist, and his heart-wrenching story, and it’s a holiday story with a happy ending. What’s not to love?

In the Heart of the Linden Wood showed me that I could, in fact, write a full-length novel that has drive and purpose and characters to love. While Elves came first and, so far, has sold more copies, Linden has gotten more exposure in terms of trade reviews and other outlets. For me it also struck the perfect balance between the need for those fairy tales we read as kids with a grownup story about grief and loss, and it’s helped me figure out how much I love writing in that space and encouraged me to explore it more.

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

I had the good fortune of meeting thriller author T.J. Newman at a book event for her latest release, Drowning (a fantastic blockbuster of a book! If you enjoy sweeping epics like Top Gun, you’ll love her newest novel.) I only spoke to T.J. for a few minutes, but she immediately struck me as one of the kindest people I’ve met in a long time. I’d love to spend a day with her talking about writing and movies. She seems like the kind of person who would be a lifelong friend.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

In the first version of In the Heart of the Linden Wood, I wrote a subplot about a minor character. I put a lot of time and thought into developing this character, her back story, and how she would interact with King Christopher, the protagonist. However, I ended up having to cut her out completely. Even though her back story was interesting to me, ultimately her presence in the book wasn’t serving the overall plot. This became apparent to me very quickly when I pulled her out and the book didn’t change at all.

Readers and reviewers have both asked if I’m going to write another book in the Linden story world. I don’t have one planned at the moment, but I am open to the idea in the future. If I did, it would definitely be about the character I had to cut so I can follow her story.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Get the first draft down. Don’t worry about story structure or character or flow or voice or anything else. Just put your vision on the page so you have a semblance of an idea of what it is you’re attempting.

Next, take a break from your manuscript. A couple of weeks is a good start. A month or two is even better. Don’t look at it. Don’t open the file or the journal. Pretend it’s on vacation (and, if possible, take a vacation yourself.)

When you come back to the manuscript, brace yourself: it won’t necessarily be as brilliant as you may have thought when you were knee-deep in writing it. Also, give yourself the utmost of grace: it won’t be as bad as you’re expecting. It’ll be a first draft with its own issues and challenges and holes. Wince, make notes, and then write on a notecard or a sticky note a couple of sentences about what you love about your story. Put that card or sticky note where you can see it every single time you sit down to work.

Then start on your revisions. Don’t expect revisions to be done in one or two rounds, and don’t let that fact discourage you. Writing is hard work. Everyone may be trying to do it, but not everyone can do it well. Make yourself stand out by taking time and care to revise and polish your manuscript to the best version it can be. If you find yourself feeling like you can’t keep working on the book, read that notecard or sticky note. Remind yourself why you love your story. Then get back to it.

Most importantly, don’t think you’re alone. All of us are in the same place you are. Even the most prolific, well-known authors sometimes feel like they’re churning out dreck. Reach out to the writing community, online and in person. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t give up on yourself. Ever.

What are your favorite blogs or websites for writers?

There are so many amazing experts out there! Here are the ones I’ve followed for years or referred to over and over for advice about writing and publishing.

For craft help:

Kristen Lamb—

C.S. Lakin—

Nate Hoffelder—

Writers in the Storm—

For news on the industry:

Jane Friedman—

Nathan Bransford—

(By the way, both Jane and Nathan offer fantastic craft articles too. For my own personal purposes, I rely on both of them as much, if not more, for industry news.)

What inspired the idea for your book?

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a copy of The Night Circus by the ethereal Erin Morgenstern for my birthday. After I finished reading the book, I thought, “That felt a lot like a fairy tale. I wonder if I could write a fairy tale.” Instantly, I was compelled to try.

I knew, though, that I didn’t want to write the standard “…and they lived happily ever after” kind of story. I asked myself, “What happens after the ‘happily ever after’ anyway? Does Cinderella go home and throw a load in the laundry?”

All joking aside, the first question made me start brainstorming. I knew I had to balance between what people expect from fairy tales—kings and queens; a quest; magic; strong antagonists—with strong writing and characters. And I was curious about that after the “happily ever after” part. In fact, I use that idea to get people’s attention at book events. I decided I needed a king who thought he’d gotten his happily ever after and then break his heart. Shatter it into a million pieces and then see what happened to him next.

In the very first chapter of In the Heart of the Linden Wood, King Christopher loses both his queen, Lily, and their unborn child in the middle of delivery. This is crucial for Christopher. During his life before marrying Lily, his evil father, the former king, essentially knocked Christopher down. Vincent convinced his son that he’d never have the skills and the ability to rule. Then Vincent died, and it was up to Christopher to do just that.

Lily was the first person to believe in him wholeheartedly. She was goodness personified. To lose her meant Christopher had lost something precious, something vital, to his existence. What were to happen, I thought, if we took that away from him? What would he do? How would he react? How would he rule? Answering those questions (as well as many more that came up during the writing process) became the backbone of this novel.

I also wanted to offer other grownups a piece of their childhoods to them in a story that was very much aimed at their reading and emotional level. We’ve all read books when we were younger that were fairy tales or had fairy tale qualities. Classic Western fairy tales promise adventure, action, possibly romance, a life lesson, and a happy ending (the modern versions anyway.) I wanted to give my readers all of those things, because while re-reading our children’s books is fun they’re also aimed at children. Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we stop loving these books; we just need them directed at us.

I enjoyed the process of writing Linden so much that I want to keep exploring possibilities in the fairy tale space. Eventually I’d like to try that book about that secondary character and also create new lands and new characters for readers who want to read these sorts of things.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

In all honest, I’m only two books old, so I’m still trying to figure out my writing process. Even the most experienced authors say they feel like they’re learning to write all over again with every single project, and I completely understand that challenge now. I feel the same way!

Part of the difficulty is getting started, because I get to know my protagonist too quickly right off the bat. I have the unfortunate knack of figuring out my character’s deeper motivation first, which makes it harder to construct their surface-level motivations. Essentially I have to reverse engineer a character and story, which is pretty challenging. Usually that part of writing is the discovery phase for authors. I manage to do the deep discovery first—dive straight to the bottom—and then have to slowly swim my way to the top to see what I missed along the way.

However, I also know that the only way around this is to sit and just do the work on the schedule I set up for my writing. I’m hoping that as I go along, I’ll be able to do the deep dive but also enjoy the swim back up to the surface and then back down again (because it’ll take multiple dives to fill in all the blanks for readers.)

Your social media links (Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, etc.,…)

Author website:

Writing/editing blog:

On Twitter and Instagram: @EktaRGarg



Amazon links for both books:

In the Heart of the Linden Wood

The Truth About Elves

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