This week’s interview is with Eliza Nellum, whose debut novel, ALL THAT’S BRIGHT AND GONE, tells the story of Aoife Scott as she tries to solve the mystery of her older brother’s death and bring her mother home. Below, Eliza tells us about the best money she ever spent as a writer, the story behind her book’s title, and books she’s looking forward to reading. Enjoy!
Raised in the Detroit suburbs, Eliza Nellums now lives with her cat in Washington DC. She is a member of Bethesda Writer’s Center as well as the Metro Wriders, a weekly critique group that meets in Dupont Circle. ALL THAT’S BRIGHT AND GONE is her debut novel.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I went to the Thrillerfest conference, and I actually met my agent at their Pitchfest. I had to save up for a year to pay for the trip to NYC and the ticket to the conference, but it was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad I did it.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
I am in a writer’s group that meets every week, and they are always my first readers – a lot of times I even share outlines / synopses before I start writing, and we talk about it together. I think the more books I write, the earlier I want input from readers – I used to want to finish the whole draft before I shared it.
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
Yes! My next book is set in Key West, Florida, and I got to travel down there and visit the botanical gardens and bike around the shore looking for the site where the story takes place. I also chatted with everyone who was a local – the cab driver, the hotel owner, and the bartenders – to find out what it’s really like to live there.
Tell us about the title of your book. What is the story behind it?
I had a very common experience publishing, which is that the title was changed by the editor of the book after I had sold it. Luckily, I was not at all attached to the title we sold it under – it had already changed many times between the first draft and my agent submitting it, and I never thought what we had was perfect. I was happy to let the marketing experts weigh in. And I love that the final title speaks to both fireworks, which are an important part of the book as well as the cover image, and also childhood itself.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to reading
I’m in the middle of E.A. Barres’ THEY’RE GONE, about two very different women who are connected by the simultaneous murders of their husbands, and I’m eagerly anticipating an advanced copy of Melissa Colasanti’s CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK, which will be out in March; it is about a case of mistaken identity and a long-missing daughter in a small town.
WHAT THE REVIEWERS ARE SAYING
“[An] impressive debut…Through the honest, winning, and convincing Aoife, Nellums provides ample evidence that the most important mysteries are those that lie closest to home.”
—Publishers Weekly starred review
“Both a murder mystery and a coming-of-age story…Perfect for fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, All That’s Bright and Gone goes to the heart of what we are prepared to do to keep our family safe, from dangers within and without, and to bring them home.”
—Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Book Review
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) January 1, 2021
“Aoife’s poignant and endearing story will linger long after the final pages. This family-forward debut is one to be savored and shared.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Eliza Nellums All That’s Bright and Gone brought me to unashamed tears…This book is sure to touch the hearts of many people..Highly recommended.”
“This first novel blends elements of literary fiction and domestic thrillers to explore the power of secrets, the resilience of children, and their ability to understand matters far beyond their years, if given a chance.”
“Gripping, funny, enormously affecting, it is a book about the deepest mysteries of all, and it will knock your socks off.”
“The reader is fully engaged in Aoife’s point of view as Nellums pulls the reader into the world of this child.”
—Midwest Book Review