Please give a brief bio to introduce yourself.
Thank you for inviting me to your lovely blog. I’m a big fan! I live in Swanley, NW Kent with my husband Michael and Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry. I’m fortunate to be a full time writer as well as running my writing school, The Write Place at the Mick Jagger Centre in nearby Dartford. My writing life started properly in 1997 when I gave myself a stern talking to. At that point I was selling the odd short story and article but decided that if I wanted to work from home and not have to worry about grumpy bosses any longer I had to be more professional about my writing – and cash flow.
Could you tell us a bit about the sort of books you write?
As a journalist I swayed toward the life I know well – dogs – preferring to write about the canine world whenever possible. My work was spotted by a publisher and after a few chats I was commissioned to write three books, Showing Your Dog, A Beginners Guide. Canine Cuisine and A Puppy in the Family followed afterwards. However, my novels were calling and gradually I was moving from short fiction to much longer fiction. After another stern talk to myself I focused on novel and turned down offers to write more non-fiction books.
I started out as a member of The New Writers’ Scheme. After graduating to full member and being short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award I thought life would mean I could ‘just’ write all day. However, I was invited to join the committee (what a fab bunch of ladies!) two years ago and took over the RNA blog ably assisted by Natalie Kleinman. The blog is available for all full members so I’m contacted often for a blog spot. We have at least two blog posts each week but at busy times it can be more. Earlier this year I blogged five days each week for four weeks so we could feature this year’s Joan Hessayon Contenders. It was a great experience. I oversee most of the RNA Social Media so you will often find me getting involved in #TuesNews and posting as @RNATweets. Our latest project is the RNA Facebook group that is open to all levels of membership and is both helpful and fun. Apart from my regular RNA work I’ve volunteered for the past two conferences to help out organising the one2one’s. It is very enjoyable to link members to the right appointments with industry professionals. Hearing news after conference about book deals, positive feedback and agents signing up members is heart-warming.
Do you belong to any writing organisations outside of the RNA?
As a journalist I was a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) but left as my writing work changed. I now belong to the Society of Authors (SOA) and have found their advice invaluable. I also attend my local RNA Chapter in London whenever I can. Running my writing school which is attended by many novelists also keeps me in touch with.
How important a role do you think these organisations / groups play for writers?
We often hear it said that writing can be a lonely profession so any chance to speak and socialise with fellow writers is most welcome. However, support, advice and guidance is also welcome. The NUJ was not really for me as I’m not really a banner carrying protester but it did mean I was able to meet other journalists and many are still friends today. The SOA is like a friend I can turn to when I have a problem – and very helpful they are too. I’ve yet to attend any of their talks but I will soon – I promise! Where would I be without the RNA? We joke about wine and shoes but I owe so much to so many members who have welcomed, encouraged and befriended me. I wouldn’t be where am today without the RNA.
Tell us a bit about your forthcoming novel, The Woolworths Girls.
I’m still pinching myself! I met my agent, Caroline Sheldon through the RNA and she had enough faith in me (and a few lines of a plot) to sign me up to write sagas. With a synopsis and three chapters she sold not only The Woolworths Girls but one other book to Pan Macmillan. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful editor, Natasha Harding, who has held my hand and led me towards publication explaining the process along the way. TWG starts in 1938 when three young women meet as they start work at Woolies and become good friends. The story follows them through the first few years of WW2. There’s love, heartbreak, crime, weddings and death all experienced in real time. The story is set in Erith, Kent and encompasses all that the town had thrown at it during those years. It was a joy to write. Hardback is published March 3rd 2016 followed by ebook and mass market in April.
And what are you working on right now?
The Butlins Girls. Hi Di Hi! The story starts in 1946 when Billy Butlin reopened his holiday camps after the war. I’m enjoying getting to know my new ‘girls’ and also reintroducing one of my Woolies girls. Deadline is looming and I break out in a cold sweat each time I think of it. I never realised how insecure I was until I became a writer.
Writers are expected to wear promotion and marketing hats as well as weave stories. How do you deal with that side of things? Do you have any personal favourites for promoting yourself?
I’m getting used to it but like many writers I’d rather be writing. I love radio. I have done quite a bit over the years from chatting to Jenni Murray on Womans Hour about redundancy and having a husband under my feet to arguing with the RSPCA about pedigree dogs. I’ve also chatted about my books. I’d rather chat than have to tweet and post ‘buy my book!’
What is your favourite genre to read? And do you have a preference for setting?
I love to read sagas – if I didn’t how could I write them? I’m also a fan of romcoms and devour Carole Matthews books as they are published and also those written by the lovely Milly Johnson. I have a romcom collecting dust on my hard drive that I wrote many years ago – haven’t we all? I’m also a closet criminal. I’d love to write crime and you will always find some form of crime in my sagas. My favourite crime author is Dick Francis. I was once told by a well known agent that I had the potential to be ‘the Dick Francis of the dog world’. I think it was a compliment. Looking back at my choices I can see that setting is really important to me. Not only does it help paint a picture for me to step into but draws me to the story in the first place. Mention an interesting setting in the blub and I will buy the book! As writers if we have a good setting most stories will work.
And finally, if you had to give one piece of advice to a writer who was in the early stages of their career, what would it be?
My advice would be to try writing different genre and see not only what works for you but what you enjoy writing. We all make mistakes on the road to publication. It’s part of the learning process. Did I mention that novel on my hard drive…?
If you’d like to find out more about Elaine, her writing life and her books, visit her on Twitter and Facebook and by using the links below.
Thanks again, Elaine. It’s been lovely having you as a guest.
Helen J Rolfe.
Facebook: Elaine Everest
The Write Place: www.thewriteplace.org.uk