This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
A former journalist and editor, Laura Elliot is an Irish novelist and lives in the coastal town of Malahide near Dublin. Her latest novel, Fragile Lies, which is currently shooting up the Amazon charts, tells the tale of a father who is desperate to find the couple who left his son for dead in a hit and run. Here, Laura talks about where she finds inspiration for her dark stories and gives advice for aspiring novelists struggling to find time to write.
Fragile Lies is about Michael Carmody’s search for the woman who knocked down his son in a hit-and-run accident and left him in a coma. It’s also about a marriage that comes to an end when an illicit affair is revealed. Deception is the theme running through the novel and it brings two hurt and estranged people together in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I take an incident that has happened and ask myself what if…then turn it into fiction.
My novel The Prodigal Sister, which will be published in the US in May, shortly evolved from a trip I took through New Zealand in a camper van. I imagined three sisters together in this confined environment. They are travelling to meet their youngest sister who ran away from home when she was a teenager. Their physical journey also becomes an internal one as they explore their lives and past secrets. Stolen Child, which is being published in the US on 27th March was inspired by an incident that happened when I was a child – the kidnapping of two babies, a girl and a boy, by the same woman. The second baby was recovered after a few days and this resulted in the discovery of the first baby who, by then, was four years old. The media coverage was huge and I never forgot the photographs in the newspapers, the bewilderment on her little face when she was returned to her natural parents.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m a disciplined writer and am usually at my desk by eight in the morning. I work until lunch time and, usually, for a few hours afterwards. I finish around four and go for a walk, have a coffee in the village or catch up with friends.If I’m on a deadline or feeling particularly creative I might do a few hours at night but morning is my best time. That’s my ideal working day but, needless to say, real life often gets in the way. When that happens I roll with the flow.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Recently I read It’s Not Yet Dark, which was written by a film maker called Simon Fitzmaurice. He’s a young father of five and he’s living with severe motor neuron disease. He’s lost most of his ability to move and despite the limits his illness has placed on him he’s just completed his latest film. His book It’s Not Yet Dark is wonderfully written, poetic, sparse yet precise – each word carefully chosen for maximum effect and transmitted to his computer by the movement of his eyes. That’s courage of the most profound kind and when I’m feeling tired or creatively spun-out I think of Simon and his belief that life, no matter how constrained, should be lived to the full.
A number of books I’ve read could fit into that category but one that made quite an impact on me was Annabel by Kathleen Winter. It’s a story about the sexual identity of Wayne, a hermaphrodite, who lives in a remote part of Canada where there is a strong masculine culture of trapping and outdoor life. As a baby, a decision is made by his medical team to classify him as male and this leads to obvious conflicts and confusion as he grows older and his feminine gender struggles to emerge. Kathleen Winter explores this sensitive and complex issue lyrically yet with a detailed knowledge that never burdens the story. I was wiser and more aware at the end of this book – and that, for me, is always an added bonus.
What female writer has inspired you?
Anita Shreve. She’s a wonderful example of dedication, talent – and a wonderful stroke of good fortune when her book The Pilot’s Wife was selected for the Oprah Winfrey book slot and she shot to international fame.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
The Bees by Laline Paul
Monsoon Memories by Renita D’ Silva
Last Kiss by Louise Phillips
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I tend to dive in but I usually have an idea that acts as the catalyst. I do a brief outline but that soon begins to change and the story evolves as I work. I write a rough draft, try to get it all down in one go but, sometimes, I go back to the beginning if I feel the story is running out of control. I do as many drafts as necessary – usually at least four and usually more.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Initially, I was involved in preschool education. After writing a series of articles on that subject for The Irish Times, I began to work as a freelance journalist. I became an editor and drifted even further away from my desire to write fiction. Eventually, after a few false starts, I made a decision to give up journalism and write books for children and young adults. Twelve books later I decided the time had come to write for adults. I’m now at the final stages of my fifth novel.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
The belief that it’s easy to write a book. What the reader sees is a seamless story but creating that seamlessness is hard work and only achieved after much effort and redrafting. Oh, and also the belief that we are millionaires…if only….
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Begin today. Don’t wait for the perfect time to start. If you have a strong idea, get it down on paper. You may not have the free time to write constantly but once your idea is pinned down you’ll be more inclined to work on it, even if only for short periods. Don’t waste your creative energy discussing your plot with family and friends. It will change as you progress and a good idea can evaporate from too much discussion and analysis. Keep writing that first draft, no matter how clichéd it seems. There’ll be plenty of time to work on your style later.
What are you working on at the moment?
My latest novel is about a marriage that appears to be a successful partnership until the children leave home. The couple, Jake and Nadine, who married young and have been caught up in the busy demands of life, suddenly look at each other across an open space and realise they no longer love each other. They plan an amicable divorce and intend to remain friends until a chance meeting at an airport with Karin, a woman from Nadine’s past who has scores to settle, changes everything.