After writing eight Soul Summoner supernatural thrillers and two standalones, which have all drawn an astounding number of reader reviews on Amazon, the incomparable, blue-haired Elicia Hyder is writing a roller derby girl novel. Yes, you read that right. A roller derby story—with a kick ass lead character who sounds a whole lot like . . . Elicia. We thought it would be fun to get to know the author behind that book, Lights Out Lucy, which goes on sale today, April 24.
And there is a lot to know . . .
We hear you researched this book firsthand, as a roller derby girl. Whatever inspired you to lace up those skates, Elicia?
In 2008, my first husband was one of the first recorded deaths resulting from texting and driving in the state of Tennessee. He was 25 years old. At the time we had two children. Canaan was four. Will was two.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, my life became chaotic, and several friends were very instrumental in helping me keep my sanity. One of them, my buddy Chuck, took me and his daughter to watch the Nashville Rollergirls play at Municipal Auditorium. I was hooked after that first bout.
Chuck and I went out that night, and over a few beers decided I would dress up as a roller girl for Halloween. AC/DC was playing on the bar speakers, and my derby name was born—eL’s Bells. He contacted a Rollergirl friend, Lady Fury, to see if I could borrow some gear for my costume, and her response was: “What? Is she too chicken to really play this sport?”
Yes. Yes, I was.
But several of the skaters on the team reached out to me, and one of them, Slugs Bunny, offered to take me skating. I was terrible from that very first day at the park, but when the Nashville Rollergirls offered a “Fresh Meat” training course, I signed up. Three months later, I made the team.
What are three things you learned as a derby skater that have helped you as an author?
The biggest thing I learned in derby that applies directly to my author career is tenacity, the magical art form of refusing to quit. Roller derby is hard. It’s painful. It will test your body and endurance in ways you didn’t know were possible. However, if you stick with it, all that work makes you faster, stronger, more powerful.
If anyone needs to have that lesson, it’s an aspiring author. The publishing business can be a scary place full of rejections, criticism, and failure. But if you don’t quit—if you stick with it, listen to wise feedback, and improve your craft—being an author has some of the world’s greatest rewards.
Rollergirls are some of the most disciplined athletes in the world. When I played, we practiced three days a week and trained off-skates on the days we didn’t practice. I skated so much I actually went up a pants size because of my thigh muscles! We also had scrimmages, bouts, charity events, and team meetings. This was all in addition to our normal lives. Most rollergirls work full time and have families.
Discipline must be cornerstone of any author’s career. Unlike a normal nine-to-five job, I work at home in my pajamas with no boss checking over my shoulder to make sure I’m meeting my word count instead of watching The Crown on Netflix. I’ve used those same old derby skills to balance my schedule—writing, promoting, feeding my family, walking my dogs, sleeping.
The world really opened up for me when I started playing derby. There are women of all shapes, colors, and sizes from different backgrounds and careers with different political views, religious beliefs, and personal convictions. They’re all thrown together on one track and allowed to knock each other around. Some of my closest friends came from that world—amazing women I probably never would have met otherwise.
Not only does that kind of knowledge help an author with basic things like character development, it also helps you think better from the point of view of your reader. It makes you more sensitive to issues in your stories, and it helps you realize that not every reader will perceive things the way you intend because they look at life through a different lens.
What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you while skating?
That’s easy. The funniest thing that ever happened to me was the night of tryouts to make the team. In one of our last tests, I fell (surprise, surprise) and pulled my groin. It felt like I’d given birth on the derby track. Blinding pain, I tell you! The rest of the night, I sat in a chair with an icepack on my hoohah. BUT I had enough points to pass, and I officially made the team!
You recently completed treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That treatment is not fun. Did your having been a derby skater help you fight that battle? Or are you basically a fighter at heart? How did fighting the C battle change your outlook or way of doing things in the long run?
As cliché as it is, cancer taught me to not take tomorrow for granted. I actually got my very first call from an agent with interest in my book, The Soul Summoner, on the same day my doctor called and said, “We think it’s cancer. We need you to come back in for more tests.” That will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life! I knew then that I needed to publish my book, and cancer gave me the push I needed to do it. All through chemo, I studied the publishing business, and on the day of my last treatment, I self-published my first novel, The Bed She Made. When it came time to publish The Soul Summoner, I turned down some nice traditional publication offers in favor of self-publishing. So I can honestly say having cancer was one of the best and worst things to ever happen to me!
How did you meet your husband?
Chris and I met in tenth grade biology class. He was the quarterback of the football team, and I was the girl with Metallica shirts and blue hair. (Yes, the blue hair goes all the way back to high school.) We became best friends. He joined the military, and I wound up in rehab, and fourteen years later, we got married. He literally proposed before our official first date. And, yes, we’re as happy as we seem. He’s still my very best friend.
You write novels, design your book covers, write your book’s back cover copy, produce your own videos/trailers, publish your books, do your social media work, and have five children, ages 11 to 15. What DON’T you do, besides sleep very much?
Just hearing that list makes me tired! Ha! Yes, I do it all. I’m learning to let some things go, but until I get better at it, there are lots of things I don’t do enough. Sleep is definitely at the top of that list. Exercise is up there, too. I also haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie, and I’m waaaay behind on The Walking Dead.
What is a question you do NOT want to be asked and why?
I do not want to be asked how many Andes mints I’ve eaten since Christmas. It’s too embarrassing.
Do you enjoy interacting with your readers?
I LOVE INTERACTING WITH MY READERS. It’s one of the highlights of my job. It keeps me busy, for sure, but it’s the one thing I’ll never outsource to anyone else. Many readers don’t believe that’s it’s really me posting in HYDERNATION on Facebook or responding to emails, but it is!
Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to chat with us today, Elicia. It’s clear you’re a Night Owl, like the rest of us here, and it’s been fun getting to know you. Good luck with Lights Out Lucy!
Thanks, Tammie. It’s been fun for me, too!