Author Interview: Elise Stephens

A little about Elise:

I was raised by a very loving family who home-schooled me through most of high school before I moved on to college. My family’s encouragement to use my creative side was part of what led me to pursue a Creative Writing degree at the University of Washington. I started reading at age four, drawing picture story books at age six, typing stories on the computer at age ten, and I haven’t stopped since.

Can you tell us a little about your book Moonlight and Oranges?

My book is about a marriage that gets off to a rough start, due to unbridled curiosity and broken trust. I’ve intermixed a love-at-first-sight romance with a young bride’s challenge of trying to fix the mess she’s made of her own love story, while also facing threats from a mother-in-law who’s bent on the heroine’s destruction.

Where did you get the idea for Moonlight and Oranges?

To do that, I’ll have to get a little Greek myth nerdy… I was reading a book about myths when I stumbled on the story of Cupid and Psyche and suddenly I realized I had never heard the full story. If you know the myth, you often only hear how Psyche couldn’t bear that she was forbidden to see her husband’s face, so she lit a lamp and stole a glance at her lover while he slept. Then Cupid wakes, he knows he’s been betrayed, and leaves her. It seemed to be just a lesson about following rules that you didn’t understand…but then when I learned the second half of the story, I had to write it. Psyche’s second half of the story thrusts her into a series of harrowing tasks set by Aphrodite in order to prove herself worthy of Cupid’s love.

Suddenly, I had a story of young impetuous love, an awful mother-in-law, and broken trust that needed to be rebuilt. When I set that in modern day Seattle, the sparks really started to fly!

Moonlight and Oranges is a great name for a book. What were the thoughts behind it?

I’m glad you like it! I thought long and hard to get it. To be honest, this book underwent a couple title changes. Wax Tears and Pierced Art were two old ones that just didn’t work. I choose Moonlight because this is an influence that affects both of my main characters on a romantic level—their most importance scenes take place in the presence of moonlight. I choose Oranges because this is the initial prick of Cupid’s Arrow (another Greek myth reference) - a cocktail made of orange juice and vodka that they share at a party which serves to bond them together more than practicality would suggest is possible. I choose the title because it incorporates two themes that run throughout the entire book, and it gives the magical feeling that I wanted to go for.

What genre would you class your book?

I’d say that this book is a romance that is best for later women in their late teens through women who are twenty- or thirty- something.

The cover is beautiful. Who designed it and did you have much say in the designing process?

I’m pretty crazy about the cover, myself. The designer is Isaiah Qualls. He sent me an incredible mock-up after I told him what my book was about and what my main characters looked like, and fell in love with it. I had a lot of say in the design process and then the rest of my team weighed in and gave me direction, which I then communicated straight to Isaiah. I’m extremely pleased with how it all came together.

Why should we read Moonlight and Oranges?

Our world needs more stories that start where “Happily Ever After” stops. We need more stories that deal with the baggage we bring into our relationships and the challenges (however extreme) that in-laws contribute to complicate matters. And we always need a story that portrays true love against the odds.

If you love romance with a healthy dose of adventure and the drama of learning how to trust again, you should definitely read it!

What do you hope to accomplish this year with regards to writing?

I hope to make some stellar edits and revisions to my current work-in-progress. I have a habit of taking years to edit a piece, and I really want to shorten my timeline while keeping the process more creative and fun. I also hope to publish a few more short stories. I’ve been working on several of those.

Elise Stephens received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys seeing live theater, swing dancing, eating tiramisu, singing, and painting. She lives in Seattle with her husband James. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Visit her blog about relationships, life, and inspiration here: and follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Facebook


  1. This sounds like a great book! And the cover is gorgeous. I had never heard the full Cupid/Psyche story either. Now I'm intrigued. :)

  2. Randi, glad it caught your interest! Cupid and Psyche is a beautiful story--for me, I got obsessed enough I had to spend years telling it. :)