At 17, Elle Greco was a senior in high school planning on a career as an actor, a craft she started studying at 12 at the Tony Award-winning regional company Trinity Rep. But a chance assignment from her theater teacher — to write a play to submit to a national playwriting competition — changed her trajectory. The play won, and it was produced at the Kennedy Center in DC. So Elle changed course and studied playwriting in college, now intent on writing for the stage.
But day jobs have a funny way of taking control. After heading to New York and working a day job as a beauty and fitness journalist, she gravitated back to entertainment and took a job in public relations. Writing took a backseat to the demanding work, and her reputation for crafting compelling stories for her clients that landed them media attention grew exponentially. Clients ranged from Avant-Garde theater companies to independent bands to bona fide celebrities, taking her from grungy clubs like The Mercury Lounge and CBGBs to elegant red carpet events like the Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit Awards.
“It was hard work and I was on call 24/7. The news never sleeps. Sure, there were glamour parts, but I was feeding the Hollywood and media machines,” Elle explains. “Sensationalism and celebrity sell ‘the news.’ And often super talented artists get overlooked because of this.” The nature of the work also meant that she abandoned her dream of writing plays and novels. “It wasn’t even a ‘maybe someday’ situation. I honestly thought what I was doing fulfilled my creative impulses, even though that was far from the truth.”
Then her mother got diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a rare form of Frontotemporal dementia that strikes at a young age. The disease is genetic, and it robbed her mom not only of her golden years but also her middle ones.
“She had the diagnosis for several years before the genetic testing was available,” Elle says. “So I was only about 15 years away from the age she was when the doctors first diagnosed her. Before it was just some random thing that happened. Now I was faced with a 50/50 chance that I’d have it, too. That’s when I began to think about regrets. What would I regret not doing with my life?”
The answer was clear: not giving her writing a shot.
“I decided to live my life like I had only 15 years left. Carpe diem, and all,” she says with a laugh.
So, she wrote, late at night, after putting her daughter to bed and on her commute into Manhattan. She started writing urban fantasy before deciding to focus on the romance genre.
“I was never told that writing genre novels were an option,” she recalls. “The books I loved reading as a kid — Sweet Valley High, Interview with the Vampire, Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins — I was told those weren’t real literature – that’s Literature with a capital L. I was told I needed to write something of ‘value.’ Which turns out to be bullshit. Genre fiction has value — I would argue it has more value because it reaches even more readers. Escapism is wonderful. Adventures are wonderful. Falling in love is wonderful. And I get to do that morning when I sit down in front of my computer.”
She also gave up part of her jet-setting life, refocusing her career on clients that kept her in New York. “There was a point when was on a plane to LA just about every month,” she recalls. “I had my young daughter at home, a husband I rarely saw holding down the fort, and a mom a few hours away who was getting sicker and sicker. Something had to give.”
Elle now divides her time between New York and her native Rhode Island, where she returned to spend her mother’s last few years. “When she passed away, I had no regrets about leaving that part of my career behind to focus on my family. I was able to spend a few years with her before she died, and that was important to me to have that time with her.”
“I am still a journalist and a publicist,” she adds of her day job. “So I’m lucky that I get to spend my day conjuring up words and promoting people who do work that bring me, and so many others, joy.”
Of course, Elle hopes one day she can transition to a full-time author, “but the most important thing is that I focus on staying physically and mentally well and that I keep writing. It’s where I feel most connected to myself. It’s what I was meant to do. Even when I have a plot point or a character that I am struggling with, it still feels like a gift to be able to tell that story.”