Weston Elliott is the author of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
LDSP: Hi, Weston. What a unique name? Did you parents give that to you? Or is it a pen name?
Weston: I was born with the name Weston, but it’s not my given name. It’s my maiden name. There are two men I’ve loved most in this world, one was my father and the other is my wonderful husband. Each of them shared his last name with me. Those are the two names I am proudest to wear, and those are the names I want the world to know.
LDSP: What a cool story. I'm glad I asked about it. Tell us more about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Weston: I grew up in Oregon. We moved several times, but the one place I consider my home town is Cottage Grove.
LDSP: What a great name. I’d love to live somewhere with such a charming name!
Weston: It's kind of a podunk place, but I love it. We used to run over to the coast for the day, play in the sand, splash in the ocean. I love the ocean. When I'm there I feel like I'm more connected to the universe, somehow.
LDSP: Reminds me of the lyrics to that song, I Hope You Dance. The ocean has a way of grounding us to the earth, doesn’t it? Are you still in Oregon?
Weston: No. My husband and I moved to Utah a year after we got married, and I wasn't very happy about it. I told my husband I would stay for five years for him to build his career, then I was going back with or without him. That was fifteen years ago. Utah grows on you.
LDSP: Yes, it does. ☺ What were your favorite books as a child and teen?
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson is an absolute favorite. I pull it off the shelf every couple of years and read it again.
LDSP: That’s a classic. The movie was good, but the book is amazing. What else do you like?
Weston: The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey are also fantastic books. I love them because they are about a young woman who makes her own way in the world, but she's not cocky about it. She's just doing what she knows needs to be done. I love that.
LDSP: I’m a McCaffrey fan as well. Love that trilogy!
Weston: I am absolutely in love with the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, all seven of them! (Well, actually six out of the seven, because I can't read the last one. It makes me angry and a little sick to read because it deals with the end of the world.) I think of myself as Lucy, and always have. If I could find the wardrobe to let me into Narnia, I would be a happy girl! I love them most because, when you're a kid and you read them, they're just a great adventure. But when you read them as a grown up, you start finding all these lessons that you didn't know were there before. It's not just an adventure, it's a parable of life. We learn about our Savior by coming to love Aslan. We learn about repentance from Eustace Clarence Scrubb. And the list goes on. That, to me, is a treasure.
LDSP: Agreed. Your story in the Checkin’ It Twice anthology is Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. What inspired you to write this particular Christmas story?
Weston: There is a park in downtown Salt Lake City that is a main hangout for the homeless people here. That park was the basis for this story. You see the homeless whenever you go downtown, and wonder why they're there. Did they choose that life for themselves or are they victims of some tragedy? I know a lot of people who think that the homeless are that way because they want to be, and for some that is true. But they are still our brothers and sisters in this world, and God still loves them. He gave His son for them, too. I set out to write a corny, gorpy story about a no-good bum, but the story took off without me. I learned something from it myself as I wrote it, as it turned out to be this beautiful story of goodness and forgiveness, the things Christmas is really about.
LDSP: I was particularly touched by your reluctant hero. You did a good job letting us into his mind and heart. Do you have a favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?
Weston: I love Christmas, I love everything about Christmas! (Except snow. I hate snow.) It's hard to choose just one memory as a favorite. When I was a kid, we lived up in the woods. One year, snow fell so hard on Christmas night that it went from two inches to four feet overnight.
LDSP: Wow! Seriously?
Weston: Yes! We had to leave our home and stay with a family in the valley—it was either that or be snowed in for months. When we finally went home, I think it was the next June, our Christmas tree was still standing, decorated and green as ever, in the living room. It was like Christmas had waited for us all those months we were away.
LDSP: Wow. Now, that could be the basis for a story for this year’s contest! Aside from Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, do you have other published stories or books?
Weston: Not yet, but I will!
LDSP: If your short story is any indication, I’m sure you will! When and why did you begin writing?
Weston: My husband and I had been married about three years when we found out we would probably never have children. It broke our hearts. As a woman, when you don't have children or a career, it leaves you at a bit of a loose end. I felt like I had nothing to offer. I started writing to do something good in the world. I thought, if I wasn't raising children then maybe I could influence the world for the better by writing good, wholesome literature. It was my way to leave my mark on the world, I suppose. Then—surprise!—my son came along. He came with troubles, so for three years I stopped writing completely so that I could concentrate totally on what my little boy needed. It was a hard three years, but worth it. Now he's in school all day, and I have time for me again. So I'm getting back in the swing of it. Winning the contest that put my story in this book was just what I needed to light the fire under me. I'm writing full time again!
LDSP: Wonderful! That’s the purpose of my story contests. To get people excited about writing again. What are you working on now?
Weston: I'm working on a chick-lit, excuse me —women's literature— novel. If I'm not careful it's likely to head toward romance, but I refuse as a matter of course to be a 'romance novelist'. It's about a divorced mom and a cowboy. That's all I'll say about that. For now.
LDSP: Well, good luck. And personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the lable, chick-lit. ☺ One last question for you. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Weston: For years I went to every writing workshop, conference, writers group meeting—everything I could get to. And the one thing I learned the most is this: You can talk about it, you can study it, you can go to classes to learn how to do it right, but you're never going to be a writer until you sit down and actually put words on paper (or screen). Someone said once: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." And talking about writing fits in there, too. It's one of those things that you'll never really, fully understand until you DO it. And the more you do it, the better it gets. So do it!
LDSP: Great advice! Thank you for coming by for a chat. Have a great holiday season with your family.