Name Ellie Gray
Ooh, really? Looks around furtively and leans forward to whisper…45
Where are you from
East Yorkshire, England
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I work full-time in public services and am currently studying for a Masters degree. I live with my partner, David, and have two fabulous children aged 20 and 17.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have just received word from my lovely Publishers, Tirgearr Publishing, that my debut novel is due for release in February 2016 – I’m so excited. October also saw my current work in progress being shortlisted as a Top 55 semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write 2015 competition. I didn’t make it through to the next round but was thrilled to be shortlisted, particularly when there were so many talented entries in the Top 55.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I didn’t actually begin putting pen to paper until in my late teens but I have always written stories in my head – full-blown, complete stories – it just never occurred to me that I should write them down. Seems a bit weird now, to be honest…
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Ooh, that’s a toughie. Not sure, really, that I consider myself a writer. No, that’s wrong, I am a writer because I do write – I have written for so many years now that I can’t say I’m not. However, do I consider myself an author? Not sure – maybe I’ll be more confident in calling myself an author when my first novel is published next year.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I don’t really know the answer to that one. As I said earlier, I have always always written stories in my head. It used to help me get to sleep at night, plotting and writing sentences and paragraphs, scenes and chapters in my head until I had a full-blown story. I don’t think there was anything in particular that inspired me to do this. In terms of actually writing them down – I couldn’t tell you why I suddenly decided to do that, it just happened.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I enjoy writing contemporary romance, one where there is a happy ending and one where, hopefully, my readers can identify with the characters and the challenges they are facing. Although life doesn’t always guarantee a happy ending, I hope my writing reflects real-life situations. I also write young adult fiction with a fantasy element.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title, Beauty and the Recluse, came quite late on in the writing of the book. I had a working title but as the characters and the plot took more shape I saw the similarities between the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. While it isn’t a modern day re-telling, it shares many of the elements and I thought it a fitting title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t think there is any message in particular. I just hope readers enjoy the story and identify with the characters.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I hope the plot and the characters are realistic but, in terms of the story, it is a work of fiction and not based on anyone or anything in particular.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of the issues within the story are ones that I have experienced and I have drawn on this, exploring my own thoughts and feelings, to try and ensure a realistic portrayal of the characters.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I was one of those children who always had her nose in a book, as I’m sure most writers were and still are. I read a lot of Enid Blyton as a child – I loved those books – but quickly developed an eclectic taste in genres. As a teen I read a lot of Stephen King but also Mills and Boon which I think inspired my actual writing as that fitted my style; although I love Stephen King, it just wasn’t the type of writing that I naturally fitted into, whereas Mills and Boon was.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Currently I am re-reading one of my favourite authors – Elizabeth Peters and her Amelia Peabody adventures, and also Every Time a Bell Rings, by Carmel Harrington, a lovely Christmassy and heartwarming story.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I really enjoy reading Holly Martin, and also Alison May and Janet Gover who, completely by chance, ran the tutored writing retreat I recently attended. I was pleased to find that, as well as being fantastically talented writers, they were also very lovely people too. Having been accepted into the Romantic Novelists Association and also by Tirgearr Publishing this year, I have connected with so many new and talented authors and I can’t wait to read their novels too.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am currently working on the novel that was shortlisted in the SYTYCW15 competition – Love on the Nile. The first draft is completed so I am working on editing and tightening up before I submit it for consideration. I want to try and get this finished as soon as possible because I am also awaiting confirmation of any revisions and edits to Beauty and the Recluse prior to its release in February. And, of course, trying to fit these in alongside my Masters degree and a full-time job. My family sometimes barely recognize me…..
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Ooh, I don’t think I can narrow it down to one entity. The RNA and Tirgearr Publishing have been fantastically supportive – with both offering excellent forums where authors support each other and share advice. I have found both of these incredibly supportive and have made links with some wonderful writers. On a more personal level, I have a friend who is also a talented, aspiring writer and her support has been priceless.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. It is a career but it is one that is challenging to break into. It doesn’t just require talent, but also dedication, hard work, determination and also a little luck.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t think so. Although, having recently taken part in a tutored writing retreat, I learnt a lot about the more technical side of writing which has helped me to look at the novel with a new perspective. The only thing I would have changed about my current work in progress is that I might have waited before sending it to a publisher for consideration; with hindsight, it is a tighter version as it stands now and, while I received extremely positive feedback from the publisher and a suggestion that I send my next submission to them, they passed on this one.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As I mentioned above, I don’t know how my interest in writing originated. It is just something that I’ve always done. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories in my head. Even though I now write them down (thankfully), I still do a lot of the writing process in my head before it ever gets put down on virtual paper.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, is due for release in February 2016 through Tirgearr Publishing.
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?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Just trying to prioritise writing time! Fitting it in around working full-time, studying for a Masters and spending time with my family. It’s nothing new though – so many writers struggle with the same issues. It does have to be a priority though, if I want to fulfil my ambition of, one day, becoming a full-time writer.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Nope. Can’t narrow it down to one author. As mentioned above, I have an eclectic taste in novels; King, Koontz and Herbert, Austen, Tolkien, Rowling, Erskine, Du Maurier, Peters, Preston and Child….she rambles on listing authors…..
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, not really. Beauty and the Recluse is set in Yorkshire, where I live and my work in progress, Love on the Nile, is set in Egypt. I have visited there but am something of an obsessive about Ancient Egypt so have literally hundreds of books on the subject. The internet is also a handy thing in terms of research.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I am awaiting my first glimpse of Beauty and the Recluse and can’t wait to see what it will look like. Tirgearr Publishing have their own team of talented designers, one of whom has recently been nominated for an award, and I love the covers of all the books published by Tirgearr.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Trusting in my characters when they decided to stray from my original plot. I went with it though and they didn’t let me down.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That it is okay for the first draft to be just that – a draft and one where you can see a lot of work ahead but one that will eventually result in the telling of a story that, hopefully, your readers will love as much as you do.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Nothing that they won’t have heard from many other writers before me. Read a lot, write a lot. Learn about the technical aspect of writing – finishing the novel is not the end. It is just a first draft, no matter if you edit as you go along. Revising is about character arc, pacing, plot.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I can’t wait for you to read Beauty and the Recluse and hope you enjoy it. What is a writer without readers?
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It will have been by Enid Blyton – either the Famous Five, or one of her collections of short stories.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Oh gosh, other people crying usually, thinking of my dad, who died four years ago, sad films on TV. Unfortunately, my sense of humour is rather slapstick, so I tend to laugh at people falling over and things like that – the usual You’ve Been Framed type of thing.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I think I would like to meet the Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten, who flouted tradition at the time and worshipped just the one God.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Another tough one! Er…how about…’she tried to make sure she always did what was right, not what was easy..’?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading, mooching around castles and stately homes, singing loudly in the car
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
TV – Nashville, Dr Who, The Walking Dead, Great British Bake-Off
Films – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Phantom of the Opera, Calamity Jane, White Christmas
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Indian Food and Tapas
Purple and Green
Country, 80’s and 60’s
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
An archaeologist or a museum curator
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
You can follow me on:
Twitter – @elliegray58
Pinterest – https://uk.pinterest.com/elliegray71/