Today on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Ellie Gray. Sit down, Ellie, and make yourself comfortable, while we turn the spotlight on you. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit…
First things first. When did you start writing?
I think I first started writing not long after I had my first child, when I was working part time. It suddenly occurred to me that, all those stories I had written in my head, the ones that kept me awake at night, carefully planning and constructing, should actually be put down on paper! I’ve been ‘writing’ ever since I can remember but, up until that point, it never really occurred to me that I should physically write them down.
Yep, always useful to put the words on the paper! What genre do you write in, and why?
I write contemporary romance, erring on the sweet side, with strong male and female characters who have the same flaws we all have – no-one is perfect! I love writing about their hopes, fears and struggles and, best of all, helping them get to that happy ending; something that is not always guaranteed in real life. I also enjoy writing young adult novels with a fantasy-type edge.
Like Sharon, Alys, and Jessica, you’re a Yorkshire lass. Is setting important in your novels?
I think setting is really important and I love setting my novels in Yorkshire. I think readers like to ground the characters they are reading about, to know about where they live and how that affects them. I try to give enough description to enable the reader to really picture the surroundings, without being too prescriptive and degenerating into sounding like a travelogue! Although my debut novel is set in Yorkshire, my current work in progress is set in the exotic surroundings of Egypt and the Nile.
Exotic, indeed! When do you write? Tell us about your writing day.
That’s a tough one. Like many writers, I also have a full-time job and a family to work around. I am also studying for a Masters degree, just about to start my dissertation (gulp!) so it feels like a real juggling act. I try to write on a weekend and, if the writing itch gets too itchy to ignore, I’ll do a couple of hours on an evening, but I really do try to limit my evening writing during the week and spend some time with my family, and to drag myself out of the writing cave after an afternoon’s writing on a weekend.
Yes, we can all relate to juggling writing time with family time. As authors, we also have to get to grips with social media. How do you feel about that?
I know that social media is an important way of raising an author’s profile and I am building up a profile, using Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest etc. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about how best to build up a following without shoving the ‘buy my book’ message down everyone’s throat. I do worry about how best to utilise social media, particularly when there are so many authors out there promoting their work. How do you get heard over the crowd? I don’t know the answer but it is something that I’m willing to work at and to learn from others.
Do you read much? What books do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?
I love reading. With reading comes the guilt complex, though – when I’m reading, there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I should be writing. However, I know that to become a better writer, I also need to read as much as I can – so that’s what I tell that little voice when it whispers in my ear. I like to read a range of genres – contemporary romance, of course, but I also like to read the classics, Austen and Du Maurier, horror such as King, Herbert and Koontz, and I love the Harry Potter and Tolkein books. Oh, there’s the Sharpe series, I love those, and Elizabeth Peters with her Amelia Peabody adventures.
All of the Write Romantics were, at one time, members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Indeed, that’s how we met, so we’re very grateful we were accepted onto it. You were a member of this scheme. Do you feel it helped you? Would you recommend it to other aspiring authors?
Joining the RNA NWS is the best thing that I could have done to kick-start my writing career. I’d toyed with joining for several years but never seriously looked into it until late in 2014. Then, last year I decided that this was the year I was going to take my writing seriously. I knew the NWS is always oversubscribed so I stayed up on New Year’s Day to email my application just after midnight and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately, I was successful and, since then, I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by RNA members. Even though I can’t always make the planned events down in London, there are lots of other ways to keep in touch and offer support and encouragement, not least via the email and Facebook forums. This year also saw the first RNA Afternoon Tea event in York which I attended and it was lovely to meet up with the people that I’d been connecting with online. Add to this the fantastic manuscript critique that is part of the NWS – I can only say that I would definitely recommend the RNA NWS to any aspiring author.
You recently signed a publishing deal with Tirgearr Publishing. Tell us about your path to publication.
It came out of the blue, which sounds ridiculous because, of course, I had sent the manuscript off for consideration. Beauty and the Recluse is a novel I wrote several years ago and which has been revised several times. Harlequin M&B requested to see the full manuscript about two years ago and, although they passed on it, they did give me an excellent and detailed critique. As I was already well on with my next novel, I took it on the chin, put it in the proverbial drawer and kept on working on my new novel. Once I had drafted that, I took a break from it and pulled out Beauty and the Recluse and decided to re-work it, taking on board the M&B advice. Once I had done that, I left it for a while and went back to editing my next novel. It was only when, during one of the email forums, one of the other RNA members mentioned that they had a new novel out for release with Tirgearr Publishing that, out of interest, I had a look at their website, liked the look of their titles and their approach and, on the off-chance, decided to send them Beauty and the Recluse – not holding out much hope. However, less than two weeks later, I had a response from them telling me that they loved the book and the characters and offering me a contract on the spot. I was at work at the time and thought that it must be a hoax!
Loving the title of your first novel! Can you tell us a bit about it? When is it due for release?
As you might guess from the title, it has elements of Beauty and the Beast and, while it isn’t a true, modern day re-telling of the tale, it does have certain similarities to the fairy tale.
Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment. She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.
St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone. They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be?
It is due for release in February 2016 and I am so excited, although nervous about how it will be received. I can’t wait to get the first sight of my cover which should be fairly soon.
Very exciting times ahead! What are you planning next? Is there another book in the pipeline?
Yes, I am currently editing my next novel which is set in Egypt and follows the themes of love, loss and letting go of the past.
Thank you for being such a lovely guest, Ellie. Hope the spotlight didn’t shine too brightly in your eyes! Good luck with Beauty and the Recluse. We look forward to reading it.
You can find out more about Ellie at: