Welcome to the two hundred and thirty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with historical romance novelist and non-fiction author Grace Elliot. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Grace. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Grace: My name is Grace Elliot, I live on the outskirts of London and have not one, but two dream jobs: as a veterinarian and writer! I started writing after a school reunion. Friends I hadn’t seen for over twenty years, reminded me how stories written for my English homework were read out to a hushed class – something I had forgotten. In a ‘eureka’ moment the joy of writing came flooding back to me and I went home and literally started my first novel.
Morgen: Wow, and you’re loving it too, which is great. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Grace: I’m an avid reader of historical romance which is also the genre I write. For me the distance of time adds to the escapism, and lets face it, there’s so much stress and distress in the world, we all need to escape now and again.
Morgen: Absolutely (soaps, Mills & Boon :)).
Grace: Reading (and writing!) historical romance transports me away from modern life, to a world where men were such dangerous creatures that to be alone in a room with one could ruin your reputation. And as a writer, that regency women had hopes and ambitions just like we do today, but to act on those hopes makes you a rebel, is a gift!
Morgen: I do feel like that (which is why I’ve quit my job… eek!). Have you ever had any rejections?
Grace: Oh yes, I’ve had rejections but always try to learn something positive from them. My first novel was historical fiction (rather than romance) and ambitiously sent it to Georgette Heyer’s publisher. He replied with a hand written note (an acknowledgement is an achievement in itself!) saying he really liked the story and my writing style but in the current economic climate the book wasn’t commercial enough. The proverbial penny dropped and I decided to come out of the closet as a historical romance reader and start writing the genre I most love to read – the result was “A Dead Man’s Debt” – which The Romance Reviews described as “historical romance at its best.” Yeah!
Morgen: That’s great! I learned from workshops and agents I spoke to at the Winchester Writers’ Conference in July that historical is a desired genre (ditto crime) so you’ve picked (or it’s picked you) a good one. Are your books available as eBooks? And do you read eBooks?
Grace: Recently I’ve become an ‘eBook evangelist’ – I can’t stop telling people how awesome eReaders are! As an avid reader with books stacked against every available surface, the advent of my eReader is substantially helping reduce clutter. OK, so most of my non-fiction library is still in hardback, but for the past year all the fiction I have bought is in ebook form and love the convenience of having a stack of books in my handbag – literature to suit my every mood! And in answer to your question, yes, my work is available as eBooks at Amazon.
Morgen: (links below) Do you write under a pseudonym?
Grace: I debated long and hard about whether to write under a pseudonym, to decide it was appropriate in my case. The main reason is that as a vet, not all my clients would be thrilled to have their animal treated by an author of romantic fiction! Plus, the last thing I want is for my boss to think I’m using my professional profile in the community to sell books! That just isn’t me.
I chose the name ‘Grace Elliot’ for a number of reasons. Grace is my favourite girl’s name and had one of my sons been female, that’s what I would have called her. Also, it’s a tribute (of sorts) to the 18th century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliot – who was a lady ahead of her time in daring and outrageous behaviour – much like the female characters in my novels.
If anything, having a pen name is liberating, since I now feel that I have two personas: vet and writer, and when I put my Grace Elliot hat on the words flow freely….
Morgen: I love that. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Grace: Finding the correct title for a book is crucial. The inspirational behind my novel, “Eulogy’s Secret”, came from that one word “eulogy.” I saw it on a poster on the London underground (advertising a classical concert at the Royal Albert Hall) and it struck me what an enigmatic name for a character it would make. What sorrow must a parent know in order to name their daughter “Eulogy”? From this simple premise a novel arose in which Eulogy seeks the truth behind her parentage – and the title for “Eulogy’s Secret” practically created itself.
Morgen: It does sound intriguing. What are you working on at the moment / next? Do you manage to write every day?
Grace: “Eulogy’s Secret” is book one in The Huntley Trilogy. I’m hard at work on book two, working title “Hope’s Betrayal”. This year I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and this energised my writing no end – I hadn’t realised how much procrastination I did until I measured writing by the word count and not time sat in front of computer! Indeed, I do write everyday because I’m an addict! In 2011 the only days I didn’t manage to write were Christmas day and a handful of ‘on-call’ evenings when I couldn’t physically find the time.
Morgen: Wow. That’s good going. I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times (three novels and then this year I decided to stick with my first love, short stories, and wrote three anthologies, but still over the 50K). I always struggle to find time for writing but come November (NaNo) or May (StoryADayMay) I do it because I have to (and love it). Give me a deadline and I’m a ruthless writer. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it?
Grace: I’m touching wood now, but writer’s block isn’t something I suffer from. The best way I know to avoid it is to put my fingers to the keyboard, shut my eyes and describe the drama playing out behind my closed eyelids – for me this never fails, at least hasn’t done to date.
Morgen: 🙂 I don’t get stuck either, fortunately, too many ideas hammering against the sides of my brain. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Grace: Morgen, yes I do write non-fiction. When I was learning the writer’s craft I mostly wrote non-fiction articles. These pieces reflect my love of trivia and animals and have been published in UK magazines and journals such as Your Cat, The Lady, The Veterinary Times and the Journal of Veterinary History.
Recently I published a short book – a compilation of such articles, called “Cat Pies” on feline historical trivia; answering questions such as who were the Cats’ Meat Men, when was the cat-flap invented, did the Victorians really eat cat meat?… and more!
Morgen: A boon for cat lover (fab title, by the way). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Grace: I love writing – it’s addictive! In fact, if kept away from the keyboard I get twitchy an irritable – definitely signs of addiction.
Morgen: My mum said to me recently “don’t let writing take over your life” – I didn’t like to tell her she was a few months too late. 🙂
Grace: One reason is that after an emotionally demanding day at work, writing keeps me sane. I’ve learnt the knack of escaping to the regency with its satins and silks, where real men rode stallions and a woman with opinions was considered rebellious. I love manipulating their world, reeking havoc with the order of things, placing twist after twist on their tangled love lives…and so much more.
The most frustrating part is time…or rather, lack of time! There’s never enough of it!
Morgen: Oh yes, I know how that goes (see earlier reference to job-quitting). What do you like to read?
Grace: My heart lies with historical romance, with historical fiction running a close second. That said, I’ll read anything and everything. Part of the joy of eReaders (did you notice I’m at it again… spreading the word) is discovering other genres and writers whose work I wouldn’t normally pick up in a bookshop. It’s so easy to get recommendations on the web and because the price of ebooks is usually low (Indie authors are especially good value) I can afford to experiment.
Morgen: That’s why I priced mine the way I did (free to $1.49) as I’d rather sell more than the occasional one at a higher price. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Grace: As a fan of history and literature I love the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. This is a group of around 30 authors of historical fiction (and yes, I’m one of them) who post on all aspects of history and fiction. It’s amazing just how knowledgeable my fellow authors are – and so passionate about their subject. You can find interesting posts on everything from the history of wallpaper to famous historical figures. Oh yes, they also do a weekly giveaway, so definitely worth investigating.
Morgen: 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Morgen: I did, and I do. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Grace: My blog is a blend of historical trivia, romance and cats! It’s updated each Wednesday and a new excerpt posted every Sunday: http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com. My website is located at: www.wix.com/graceelliot/grace-elliot. I love hearing from fans and you can reach me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: Yes reader, please do. Thank you so much, Grace.
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. She works in a companion animal practice near London and is housekeeping staff to five moggies, two teenage sons and a guinea pig. She turned to writing as an antidote to the stress of modern life and believes intelligent people have the greatest need to read romance! Her books are available as follows…
Update August 2012: I would love to alert your followers to my latest release, Hope’s Betrayal (part 2 in the Huntley trilogy). Hope’s Betrayal is the story of the middle Huntley brother, Captain George Huntley RN, and his quest to stamp out smuggling… only things don’t go according to plan when he falls in love with one of the smugglers.
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