There’s an excellent New Writers’ Scheme run by the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association, and I’ve written before about the invaluable help the scheme provided when I wrote my first novel. I’m excited to say that for the next few weeks I’m going to be meeting some of my fellow 2013/14 NWS graduates!
First up is author Elaine Everest, whose first novel was released last year. Besides writing romance, Elaine has written several books on training and showing dogs, and in fact Elaine has come here fresh from Crufts last week, where her Polish Lowland Sheepdog won second place in his category. How exciting is that!
Normally when I have visiting authors round I present a relaxed picture on my blog of us sharing a pot of tea and biscuits and a cosy chat. If anyone actually does visit my house in reality, then I’m afraid the situation is sadly different, as my rescue dog hates strangers with a passion, and barks loudly and intimidatingly whilst I’m trying to welcome them on the doorstep. But today Elaine takes everything in her professional stride, and doesn’t stand for any nonsense. In no time at all we’re all sitting quietly, the two of us drinking tea and my dog chewing a bone.
Thanks, Elaine, and good to meet you!
Where is your favourite place in the world? Kent in England. It’s where I was born and have lived for many years. It is also where I set my sagas. You might say it’s my patch!
There are so many beautiful parts of Kent. Lush green countryside and pretty beaches. It’s steeped in history and has played a big part in protecting England throughout the centuries. It’s also the gateway to Europe. What’s not to love about it?
The garden of England! I lived in Folkestone in Kent for a year, and loved walking along the white cliffs, where you can see over to France on a clear day.
Being a writer is a great job. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? There was a time when I wasn’t earning enough as a writer to make it my full time occupation. I had given up my profession in accountancy so temped when I felt there was a need. I recall one very wet and cold November. The engine had died in the car so I was having to walk a long way to the bus stop – and the bus was always late. The job was situated on a miserable grey industrial estate and I was paid to collect overdue debts from people with deep pockets. The company was next to the local tip so there was always a savoury odour in the office – at least it put me off my lunch and helped my waistline. I was the only female. The rest of the staff were young salesmen. The air was blue with risqué jokes and the washroom full of ‘lads mags’. I trained myself not to go too often. On this particularly dark and stormy day with a mile to walk to the bus stop I was drenched by a lorry that drove through a puddle – even my underwear was wet. My spectacles were knocked from my face and as I bent to pick them up cars tooted and someone laughed. I continued my journey knowing I had to catch the bus as it was wasteful to call a cab. I sobbed – as it was dark and still raining no one noticed.
Finally, reaching home I changed into dry clothes and switched on my computer. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A publisher had accepted my proposal for a non-fiction book for dog owners, I had sold a short story to an Australia magazine and a pitch to a magazine had been accepted. Some ‘up there’ was looking out for me. I never returned to the temp job. This made me realise I just had to work harder, pitch more articles and write books. It also made me realise that I had to do something about my dream of becoming a novelist.
Well, you’ve summed up the drudgery of the nine to five in an eloquent way. What a miserable experience. Good for you for following your dreams – and for escaping!
What book do you wish you’d written? There are so many. Every book I read I wish I had written it. As a child I wished that I’d written Little Women as I wanted to be Jo and also write more stories for her. Several years ago it was The Apothecary’s Daughter by Charlotte Betts who won the Joan Hessayon Award. I read the book after watching her receive her award at the Summer Party and fell in love with her characters and setting. At the moment I’m rereading The Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine and would love to be able to write such an enthralling book.
Writing more stories for Jo is a great idea. I remember being gutted when she stopped writing!
What’s your favourite song? I’m a sucker for World War Two songs. It’s the period I like to write about. A Fred Astaire Musical and I’m singing along and tapping my toes. A Vera Lynne CD while I working means I’m ‘In the Mood’. I’d have to say that The White Cliffs of Dover is my favourite. A patriotic song that makes us proud of our country and encourages us all to fight on – just like my charters in my book, Gracie’s War.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them? I’d love to see my mum once more. She died a week before my eighteenth birthday when she was forty. Even now I live my life as she would have wanted me too. I’d really like to say, ‘Mum, look at me. I’m a writer!’
Oh, she’d be so proud of you!
What’s your happiest childhood memory? Sitting in the kitchen listening to my mum tell me about her life as a child. She was born in 1931 so grew up through the war years. She told me of her childhood living with the family fair and how hard it was for youngsters who would be bullied at school for being different to children that lived in houses rather than caravans – even though they were spotless and homely. She told me stories of my family and how she was almost swept away in the 1953 floods only a month before her wedding day. My mum may have been gone a long time but I only have to close my eyes to be there with her once more.
It’s lovely you have such a strong recollection of your mum. You’ve obviously inherited her gift for story-telling
If you had to marry a fictional character, from film, television, or books, who would it be? Ssh! don’t tell my husband! It would have to be Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy character in the Bridget Jones movies. He is vulnerable and kind of shy but fought to get his girl.
Oh, the lovely Mark Darcy! *sigh*
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? That if you want something you have to go get it and to be strong and in control at all times.
An excellent philosophy for a dog-trainer!
Gracie’s War was published by Pulse (Myrmidon Books) in October 2013. It follows Gracie as WW2 starts and she falls head over heels in love with Colin. But Joe wants her at all costs and Colin has gone away to war. Can a girl stay strong and be good when her world is collapsing around her?
It is available for download from Amazon
I blog as part of the WriteMindsWritePlace team. We are five RNA members who also sell short stories to the Womag markets.
I also run The Write Place creative writing school
Facebook: Elaine Everest
Elaine, thanks so much for coming and giving such thoughtful answers, and best of luck with Gracie’s War. My dog is behaving perfectly now. Please stay and live with me!
If you enjoyed Elaine’s interview, and have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!