Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Good morning, Elizabeth, and welcome to the clubhouse tearoom.
Thanks for inviting me. Paula. This cappuccino is lovely. And thank you for the lovely driver who picked me up.
That’s Brutus. It’s all part of our service here. Now we have our drinks let’s start by asking you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’ve written since I was a child, so it isn’t easy to pinpoint when I began my writing journey. But my first published story was about a pony and was published in Pony Annual when I was still at school. Like many teenage girls at the time I was obsessed with ponies and so I wrote about what interested me. Over time I think my writing has followed my changing interests. I’ve written a variety of both fiction and non fiction and a theme that has recurred again and again is the history of my local area. This led me to several historical fiction novels beginning with The de Lacy Inheritance and now I’m writing a saga series, The Mill Town Lasses, set in my home town of Blackburn in Lancashire. The first two books, The Cotton Spinner and A Lancashire Lass are available now and the third, A Family Secret, will be published next February.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’ve been working on this idea for about four years now. My historical fiction was proving hard to place and an agent suggested I tried my hand at writing a saga. I was unsure at first, but I enjoy a challenge and when the idea of telling the story of a family moving from the countryside to the town to work in the mills came to me I became quite enthusiastic about the project because it mirrored my own family history.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
I begin with a vague synopsis – very vague – and when the story is complete it is usually quite different from the original plan! But I think it helps me to begin with some idea of the story I want to tell even if the characters do tend to take it over and make it their own.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes. Jennet and Titus were the names of my great, great, great grandparents. When I was researching my family history I saw that they had moved from the village of Whalley into the town of Blackburn to work in the mills after the prospects for hand-loom weavers diminished. It was when I was thinking about how their lives must have been so different after the move that I was inspired to write their story.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I learnt a lot! Much more than I expected. I thought I knew about the history of Blackburn and the cotton industry, but when I began to research there was so much more to learn. From balloon ascents, to demonstrations of laughing gas and riots, there were so many things I discovered, mainly from a book that used to belong to my father and has sat on a bookshelf since I was child. It’s called Blackburn, the Evolution of a Cotton Town by George Miller and has become my constant companion whilst writing this series.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I’ve drawn on local history for the names of many of the characters in this series to give it authenticity. For others, I check the most popular baby names for the time I’m writing about and also look at local surnames on census returns. But it can throw up the problem of everyone being called Mary or John, so I sometimes have to look for more unusual alternatives.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
It depends on whether or not the work is going well. If the story is flowing I’m keen to get to my desk in the morning, but if I’m trying to disentangle a situation I’ve written myself into I can find lots of excuses not to turn on the computer.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No. I think it adds too much pressure because sometimes the words flow and I can complete thousands in a day, whilst at other times I ending up taking that many out again and finish the day with fewer words than I started with.
How many hours in a day do you write?
I do try to be disciplined and write for about three hours in the morning and another three in the afternoon.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It took me about a year to write the first one, but that included a lot of research time. The second and third ones didn’t take as long – around six to nine months. Sadly I’m not one of those writers who can produce a novel in six weeks! I need plenty of thinking time as well as actual writing time.
Thank you so much Elizabeth for joining us today. Our driver, Brutus said as soon as you’re ready to leave he will run you home. If you would like to find out more about Elizabeth’s writing and books click on the links below.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops.