Elizabeth Maddrey is a semi-reformed computer geek and homeschooling mother of two who loves a good happily ever after.
She began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of computers, math, and organization steered her into computer science at Wheaton College, she always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. This continued through a Master’s program in Software Engineering, several years in the computer industry, teaching programming at the college level, and a Ph.D. in Computer Technology in Education. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity.
She lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s be a little less formal.
You say you read voraciously, what, precisely, does that mean?
I tend to read between 110 and 140 books a year. I’m not a genre snob at all, my only real requirement is a happily ever after at the end, and even then I’m not too picky. There just has to be some hope, some sliver of redemption. I like realistic (to a point) as well. But, if I’m reading romance, all that’s off the table. Happily ever after or bust.
What types of activities have you learned to do while reading?
All kinds – I can change a diaper (with an e-book on my Kindle at least), cook dinner, feed a baby…you name it, I’ve likely tried it.
Why a PhD in Computers?
Fantastic question. I asked myself that a number of times during the process of finishing it. It really all came about because of the challenges my husband and I faced starting a family. I reached a point where I decided that, if I wasn’t going to get to be a mom (my #1 dream since childhood), I would make my second dream of being a college professor come true. Just before my final term of classes, we were blessed to adopt our eldest son. Four years later, we were blessed again by the adoption of our second son. In the summer of 2013, I finally stepped down from the adjunct teaching position I held with an online school so I could focus more on the boys and writing.
Any favorite books?
Too many to list! There are some I go back to time and again (the Anne of Green Gables books and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey leap immediately to mind), but there are so many other wonderful books out there – I just hope I have a chance to discover as many as I can.
What about TV?
Our TV viewing has slowed down quite a bit lately, but I enjoy reality competitions like The Amazing Race and The Voice (really just those two) and NCIS, Elementary, Sherlock (on BBC), Dr. Who, Big Bang Theory, and Person of Interest. And when I look at that list…it doesn’t seem like it’s actually slowed down all that much. But we tend to DVR everything and then skip commercials and often things will pile up for weeks on end and then we’ll have a little fest on a rainy evening.
Might as well throw the last one in, how about movies?
Well, I love all the usual suspects when it comes to romance: The Princess Bride, While You Were Sleeping, Notting Hill, French Kiss, Sleepless in Seattle. But I’m also a sucker for a good action movie, or even a really cheesy action movie. Oooh – and I really do enjoy The Usual Suspects! And then you have sci-fi…oh how I love sci-fi movies! Basically I like movies…please don’t make me choose an all-time favorite.
Purple. But it’s not that I want to be covered in it from head to toe.
Why do you write what you write?
I honestly try to write stories that I would want to read. And one thing that I’ve always wanted were stories of real Christians living in the world and struggling not to be of that world. The Christian walk is hard, and I love that my characters are like you and me – they mess up, they don’t always keep the faith, they struggle with what they believe and why they should believe it, but at the end of the day they come back home to God’s grace. And sure, there’s a happily ever after in my romances (see above for how non-negotiable that is!), but it’s hard won and sometimes tainted with just the lingering hint of consequences for sins committed. I had a friend tell me the other day that the people in my books were her friends – it was the best compliment I’ve ever received – it’s exactly what I hope people feel when they step between the pages of something I wrote.
Where do you get your ideas?
I’m an unapologetic people-watcher. You can get a lot of story ideas just from watching people when you’re out in public. (Now, I should say, I don’t recommend staring. That often gets you in trouble. Try to be somewhat discreet.) Some of the other themes just come from life. I spent 20 years in various capacities at a crisis pregnancy center (today they’re mostly called pregnancy resource center, same thing) and the women that I met there profoundly impacted my life. In Wisdom to Know, Lydia comes from an amalgam of the women we helped with abortion recovery – so many people believe that Christians don’t have abortions, and it’s just not true. They just don’t talk about it, making their suffering that much harder. Lindsay in Courage to Change is another of the many women we met at the center. Even the struggles with abstinence and sexual purity discussed in Serenity to Accept come from seeds of conversations at the center and with my adult single friends. But I think I, like most writers, am just an observer of life. And I love to watch a scene unfold at a restaurant or the mall or wherever and make up my own story to go with it. Sometimes, those turn into real stories.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
The publishing world is a fluid place. So my advice is to learn to write the best story you can write. Study your craft. Then, if you get to a point where you think about publication, study your options. The traditional route of agent and then publishing house is just one route these days. Smaller presses will often work directly with the author. And self-publishing is something to consider as well. There are pros and cons to each option out there – figure out what they are, weigh them, pray about where God would have your stories go, and then go that route.
Anything else you want to add?
Just to say that I’m so grateful to God for giving me the life that I have – being home with my boys, homeschooling, and getting to see my stories in print – it’s amazing. And I’m so grateful to everyone who spends some of their time with the words I’ve written – I know how precious time is in today’s world.