Today I’m delighted to be talking with Elaine Jeremiah. Her debut novel, ‘The Inheritance’, has just been published on Amazon Kindle.
Martin: Before we talk about your writing I wonder if you could say a little about yourself?
Elaine: I live in Bristol in the UK with my husband and our golden retriever Dug. I work part time for a Bristol-based charity called Sustrans which promotes sustainable forms of transport, particularly cycling. When I’m not writing I enjoy going out for meals with my husband, meeting friends for drinks at cafés, walking my dog and reading. Oh yes and I do watch a bit of TV too, one of my favourites being ‘Downton Abbey’.
What authors and books have had the greatest influence upon you?
I think the greatest influence on me has been Jane Austen and her novels. Yes they were written 200 years ago, but her writing still resonates with us today. The truth is that whilst society may change, fundamentally people don’t and that, I think, is why she’s still so popular today. She understood people and how they interacted with each other. Reading her novels the characters feel real, you almost feel like you know them. I would love to be able to emulate that kind of skill of being able to portray my characters in a life like, realistic way – if only a little.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I’m not sure I ever suddenly thought ‘Right, I’m going to be a writer’. It wasn’t as clear as that. It was more like the realisation gradually dawned on me that writing is what I do best. When I was very young, I would have told you that I wanted to win the Oscar for Best Actress! So much for that dream, but I did enjoy drama for a while. Writing is something I’ve always returned to though and since I finished full time education when I graduated ten years ago, I’ve had more time to devote to it.
Could you tell us about The Inheritance, without giving too much away of course?
It’s about two sisters living on their father’s farm in Cornwall. Whilst the older sister is happy to help out on the farm, the younger sister hates her life there and is desperate to leave, so she demands her inheritance from her father so that she can go off to London to live a life of luxury. It’s basically about the consequences of the younger sister’s decision and how it affects both of them.
If you were to go on holiday with one of your characters who would it be and what would you do?
I think I would go with Emma, the younger sister. She’s very different from me; she’s confident and sassy and I’d like to spend some time with her. I’ve never been to California so I think we’d go there. I wouldn’t be fussed about seeing LA, but she’s the type of person who would. I think we’d have to do a short stop there and do the Walk of Fame and maybe a trip to one of the film studios. Then I’d definitely want to see San Francisco and take a ride on one of their famous trams to see for myself the sights which I’ve seen in so many American movies.
Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route?
I just felt it was the quickest, easiest way to get my work out there being read by people. With traditional publishing, everything takes such a long time and I’m not a hugely patient person! And as everyone knows, with traditional publishing nowadays you almost always have to have an agent before a publisher will even look at your work. But having an agent is no sure fire way to get a publisher to take you on. So it’s like you have so many hurdles to cross before you’re accepted. With self-publishing you can be your own boss, do things at your own pace and have complete control over your work. Also, I’ve been able to become part of the online writing community which has been a wonderful experience for me. People are so friendly and supportive and I’ve even met some of them. I feel like my writing’s come on in leaps and bounds since I joined Twitter and got in contact with other writers.
What did you do in terms of getting the book ready for publication and marketing it?
Having a couple of beta readers really helped me prepare my book for publication. I was able to see how I could improve my writing and what wasn’t working. Then a friend of mine proofread it for me which was great. I also made sure I read through my book as often as I could to check for any errors. In terms of marketing, I decided to follow the example of my friend and do a blog tour, which this interview is part of. I think it’s a really good way to get publicity for my book and it’s a lot of fun as well. I’ve also ensured that I have a presence on Twitter and Facebook and that I update my blog. I also have a Goodreads page.
Who in your life would be most surprised at your publishing a book?
I’m not sure really because my close family and most of my friends know, so maybe a member of my extended family who hasn’t heard the news via Facebook! I have a large extended family on both my mother and father’s sides and most of them I don’t see that often, so perhaps a cousin who I haven’t seen for a long time might be quite surprised.
You are interested in editing (and copy-edited my book Blood of Ironside). How does the process of editing affect your own writing?
I guess I’ve always been good at spotting errors in text, in magazines and even in published books. Unsurprisingly perhaps the internet is rife with typos and even whole words missing from articles and so on. I find it really annoying! So I try and go through my own work with a fine toothcomb, to iron out any errors such as typos or spelling and grammatical mistakes, or sentences that just don’t make sense. Having said that, I’m keenly aware that I may be making mistakes myself so I think it’s vital to have another pair of eyes on your work before you publish it.
What is your writing process?
I always make a plan before I begin my story. I may not stick to it entirely, but it’s helpful for me to have it there to refer to. I need a definite general outline of the plot in my head before I start, even if I veer from it. Then when I’m writing I refer back to the plan – not constantly but when I feel I’m losing my way a bit. When I actually start to write my story I don’t begin with longhand; I just type straight on to the computer. My handwriting’s not that great and I find it so much easier to use the computer from the beginning. That way I can chop and change things more easily and have multiple versions of my story saved on it.
What have you learned from writing your first novel and what advice would you give to a first-time novelist?
I’ve learned that you really need to have other people look at your work before you even consider publishing it. Even if it’s only a couple of people, this makes all the difference. There’re always going to be typos you miss or sentences you write that just don’t make sense. Having people look at your work means that you can improve on what you’ve written, which is essential when you’re thinking about publishing. You want to make it as good as it can be, so listen to what your beta readers tell you. My advice to a first-time novelist would be to persevere, but also to take any constructive criticism you may have on the chin and learn from it. You’ll only get better as an author if you do.
Tell us about your next writing project?
I’m in the process of writing a novel with the working title ‘Reunion’, though I may actually stick with that title as I like it. It’s more of a straightforward romance than ‘The Inheritance’ and is about a young woman who reluctantly returns with her best friend to the secondary school they were at for a reunion. She was very unhappy there. The story is about what happens after the reunion and how my main character’s life starts to change as a result of having revisited her past.
The Inheritance Links