Thursday, September 15, 2016

Interview with Billie Tekel Elias, Author of Pearl's Party...And You're Invited

Thank you so much, Billie, for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! One of my favorite aspects of interacting with authors is finding out what inspires them to write the novels that they do. Every author seems to have their own unique approach to their craft and learning that process really helps me, as a reader, get a better appreciation for the end result. So I can’t wait to learn more about your process!
Your book, PEARL's Party...and you're invited, sounds quite fascinating and promises to showcase an incredible woman’s life. What prompted you to tell Pearl’s story? 

It’s a pleasure to be here with you. Let me start by saying the book is not a work of fiction: it is a memoir about the fascinating life of my late mother, Pearl. After she died, as her only child, I had the job of clearing out her home and putting it on the market. What I found sprinkled throughout the rooms were trinkets and bits of ephemera that held stories about the life she lived. They were too unusual to let them die with her; I felt they needed to be told!
With all the fun and poignant aspects of your mom’s life that it sounds like you included in the story, is there anything that you had to leave out? If so, why did you decide to cut it (story flow, continuity, story length, personal reasons)?

As well as I thought I knew Pearl, her friends knew other things about her. Some of that was a bit off-color, and hearsay from my perspective. Clearly there were things my mother wasn’t proud of and shielded me from. I did uncover legal documents and photographs that would not have painted a favorable picture of her, and I thought she deserved, even in death, to have that privacy. There was so much to tell without it.

While I’m sure you learned many of the stories directly from your mother, did you have to do any research, whether that be into your mom’s stories or into the history of the time periods? Did you learn anything shocking during the research or writing process?

Yes, I did a fair amount of research. 

Part of my mother’s life revolved around Atlantic City, the closest beach to Philadelphia, where she lived. I had my own recollections of the town from childhood, but I needed to research things like ticket prices for the Bobby Darin concert on Steel Pier that she took me to in the early 1960s. I even had to research Donald Trump’s Atlantic City presence. I recalled how Pearl used the Vera Coking case as part of her negotiating strategy in a real estate deal with a casino. Coking was an elderly lady who was the last hold-out on her block, refusing to sell her home, so Donald built his Trump Plaza casino around her.

What I learned that shocked me? Many things. The rent on the lease of her first business. The law suit that she (and my father) brought against a home builder. The stipulations in her divorce papers.

I absolutely love all this history, whether that be historical fiction or nonfiction. Do you include any people or events from history as part of the backdrop to your mom’s story?

Certainly. The big immigration wave of the early 20th century, the Great Depression, the economic cycle of Atlantic City, “the playground of the world,” are some of the historical elements that are touched on.

What does a typical day (if there is one) look like for you? How do you balance writing and the rest of your life?

When I made the decision to write the book, I dedicated myself wholly to it, writing for several hours or so every day. Part of my process involved organizing my primary source material, which takes up 3 linear feet and establishing a time line to place the materials on. Since I opted to self publish, my husband patiently functioned as my pseudo-editor and sounding board. He listened to me read passages to him and he’d make suggestions for how to improve them.

A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?

That’s not exactly my approach. I’ve only given away a few books…one to a celebrity who I had hoped would love the story and help me promote it, another to a book store that wanted to read it before they’d carry it, and another to my college alumni magazine who I wanted to write a review. I have a fan page on Facebook and a presence on Instagram and Pinterest. My blog is probably the place that gets the most attention.
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I tend to enjoy memoirs, but to be honest, I haven’t been a voracious book reader since I was a child. I recently re-read The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal since like my own book it was a generational story woven around a group of objects.
Can you tell us anything about the book(s) you’re working on now?

Two years after my mother died, I lost my 94-year old dad. He was very different from Pearl: an erudite world-traveler who worked on the Manhattan Project and trained many chemists during his career as a college professor. In all fairness to him, I promised myself that I’d write a book about his life, too. I’m also working on a quaint illustrated children’s book about how Dad’s family made their way from a small Ukrainian village to India, Japan and China over a hundred years ago. I own many century-old photographs that children today will marvel at.
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Pub. Date: December 4th, 2015
Pages: 300

Let Pearl show you how to mambo through life. In this daughter's homage to her colorful mother, you'll jump on the rollicking ride of a foxy, voluptuous young divorcée who started unconventional businesses, loved casinos and martinis, and who was hip enough to be adored by gays and people half her age. Even dogs sensed her unique aura.

Her style made her eight decades interesting and fun –for herself and for everyone around her. She let nothing get in her way. Plagued by diabetes and riddled with cancer, she stayed upbeat. She knew how to party!

You may think you know someone well, until you sift through the ephemera they leave behind -- matchbook covers, airline tickets, hotel keys, restaurant menus. Each has a story to tell, and the music Pearl listened to brings those stories to life.

Part nostalgia, part fun; it's a crazy party...and you're invited.

Praise for Pearl's Story...and You're Invited


"In this delightful book, Billie Tekel Elias tells the story of her adorable, fun-loving mother, a woman who believed in enjoying life and set about proving it with a vengeance. By the end, not only will you wish you had known Pearl, you'll feel like you actually did. Descriptions of the good times mother and daughter shared together will be especially meaningful for those who have fond memories of the famous entertainment spots in the Philadelphia/Atlantic City region, but their excursions brought them to many other places as well. Pearl's Party is a fun read that is sure to bring back a memory or two, and make you wish you could have been there." - Robert Rawlins, Amazon reviewer

"Billie Tekel Elias chronicles her life and pure bliss as the daughter of her strong, feisty, sassy and fun-loving mom who broke through all barriers of her time. Have fun strolling down memory lane with Billie and Pearl and let the songs and images stoke your own memories of family in days gone by." - VDrescher, Amazon reviewer 

Purchase Pearl’s Party…and you’re invited at Createspace, Amazon or Kindle.


About the Author


Billie Tekel Elias grew up in Philadelphia. Her parents divorced when she was young and she grew up with her artistic, business-minded, Auntie Mame-like mother. Her father was a Chemistry professor at a local university. After graduating from the top all-girls high school in Philadelphia, she spent her college years at Columbia Engineering, followed by graduate school at Stanford. She began to travel extensively in the 1970s, including a 9-week European backpacking adventure, two cross-country motor trips, and a self-directed family sojourn to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Her career as an engineer, first with the world's largest paper company and later with an international

Marriage and the birth of her child put her wanderlust on hold. Billie shifted gears again, embarking on a new venture, working from home as an educational toy consultant. This enabled her to grow a toy business alongside her growing child, and to take time to play with him. It turned out that high quality and prolonged interactions with a parent spurred the intellectual development of her child, a recent graduate of MIT.

Writing a book marks Ms. Elias' fourth "career."
money center bank, spanned seven years. Not aspiring to give the corporation the best years of her life, she quit her career to wander around Africa for a couple months. With the entrepreneurial spirit she inherited from her mother, she was determined to start her own business that would include lots of (tax-deductible) travel. She launched her own costume jewelry import business and now counts 40 countries and 5 continents as places she has visited.
To find out more about Ms. Elias go to her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


  1. Wanted your readers to know they can get the ebook of #PearlsParty (memoir of my late mother) for free from 1/24 to 1/27 at