It’s thanks to Twitter that Elaine Jeremiah and I became friends after realising that not only were we both writers but that we lived in the same city. So a few months ago we arranged to meet up and spent a lovely couple of hours in a café on the harbourside talking about writing, our novels and self-publishing. We’ve met up a couple of times since then, most recently last week, but as I said to Elaine it feels like we’re in contact with each other more often than I am with my non-writing friends because of communicating via Twitter and our blogs. Writing can be a lonely business but with a thriving online writing community it’s easy to reach out to other writers for support and encouragement.
Elaine’s busy working on a new WIP at the moment (you can follow her progress over on her blog) and is also putting the finishing touches to her novel, The Inheritance, but she was kind enough to take some time out to answer a few questions…
How did you come up with the idea for your novel, The Inheritance?
I came up with the idea for The Inheritance when it occurred to me that I could do a modern reworking of the parable Jesus tells in the Bible called ‘The Prodigal Son’. It just seemed like a really good idea because the story is an interesting one and the themes are relevant today. Without giving too much away, but for those who don’t know about the parable, it’s about a young man who demands his inheritance from his father and then squanders it, leaving himself penniless. The way the father responds to what happens is central to the story and the themes in it – love, forgiveness and redemption – are still important today. So I felt a modern retelling of the story would be an interesting project.
You chose the settings of London and a farm in Cornwall – are these places that you know well?
I do know Cornwall – or at least parts of it – very well. My mother’s family all live there. Although she grew up near Hounslow, her parents and older brothers ‘emigrated’ to Cornwall in the seventies and their families all grew up in Cornwall. My mother went to university in Southampton, met my father and settled there. Throughout my childhood right up until the time I left home, we and my two younger siblings would go on holiday there to visit my elderly grandparents, uncles and cousins. I always loved it – it’s a great part of the world, lots of beautiful countryside and beaches. We would often take our rickety caravan there to a lovely campsite near the town of Bodmin where my grandparents lived. Sometimes, when my grandparents were still alive, we would even rent a cottage when we were down there which was different and exciting.
I don’t really know London that well at all. Although I used to live relatively near when I was growing up – about seventy miles away – I haven’t been to London a huge amount. So a lot of what I’ve written in The Inheritance about London is research and a bit of guesswork.
You’re going to be publishing The Inheritance as an eBook, how’s that coming along?
Slowly! I’ve had a couple of writer friends read it in an eBook format and now I’ve had the comments back it’s going to be a case of editing and revising it. When that’s completed I’ll have it proofread. It’s hard to say how soon I’ll be able to publish it once I’ve done all that, but hopefully it’ll only be a matter of months. How many months I really wouldn’t like to say – I guess it just depends how fast I work.
You’ve said to me before that you like to write all kinds of things but if you could only pick one genre of book to write what would it be and why?
I suppose I would have to say contemporary women’s fiction as that’s the genre that I feel most comfortable writing in. It lends itself well to exploring themes of relationships, emotions and bereavements, which is what I’m drawn to. I have a lot of ideas for this genre and they seem to flow from my head to the page quite well. Another thing: I know this is veering off the question a bit, but I would love to be able to write historical fiction as that is one of the genres I love reading. I just don’t feel I have the knowledge to write about that at the moment though. Maybe one day…
What are you currently reading?
I just started reading The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne. I’m a massive fan of Jane Austen and I love her books, the films/TV adaptations of her books, the lot! I also love reading about her life and times. This book is a birthday present from my parents and the author has taken an interesting angle on writing about Austen’s life. She started each chapter from the subject of an object, either a real one from Austen’s life or an object described in one of her novels. Byrne then writes about why that object was important and how it relates to Jane Austen’s life, the wider world beyond Hampshire and England, and her writing. It’s a fascinating book and I’m really enjoying it.
What’s been the most valuable lesson or lessons that you’ve learnt so far as a writer?
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt as a writer has been to try to write about what you know, or if you don’t at least keep what you’re writing true to life and accurate. This is important for me to remember because there are times when I’ve felt out of my depth with what I’ve been writing. At some points when I was doing research for The Inheritance, I was struggling a bit to make the passages in my novel about subject matters I didn’t know so much about believable. Thankfully the responses I’ve had to the novel have been positive and any parts that my writer friends who’ve read it have had a problem with, I can go back and revise and try to improve on.
For anyone who hasn’t read your WIPpet Wednesday posts, what are you working on at the moment?
My current work in progress has the working title of Reunion. It’s about a young woman who, along with her best friend, goes back to her secondary school for a school reunion and the events that happen in her life in the weeks and months that follow. My main character – the young woman – had a particularly bad time at school and so going back there is a more cathartic than good experience. The whole idea of school reunions and revisiting your past fascinates me and I thought it would be interesting to explore that as part of my subject matter for a new story.
What’s the one book that you wished you’d written and why?
Well it’s a bit of a cliché for me, being a huge Jane Austen fan, but I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice. It’s just such a wonderful novel and has so many fantastic characters in it – I really wish I’d written it! It’s also an incredibly well observed book. What I mean by that is that the author describes the characters and their personalities so well, and yet she does that without ever really giving a proper description of what they look like. And it’s well observed in the way that Austen subtly describes and comments on the social mores of her day. Then there’s the irony: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Need I say more?