Laurie Bell, a Melbourne-based author, recently asked me some questions about my writing and decided to hold the interview in a café in Esperance! I loved her creative approach and thought I’d reproduce the interview here. We might end up doing something similar for book two!
It’s the sound of water that reminds me where I am. There are bridges and skinny little pathways of cobbled stones over them everywhere I look. Water everywhere. Rushing here, trickling there. The smell of it too. And happiness. People gathered chatting animatedly. Tourists and locals mingling together. Laughing… eyes fixed on the water and the gondolas sweeping past.
I head over the the little table and order a café latte. I can hear singing. What a magical place this is. High up, in the air above my head, I see a dark shape twist and turn, dive and… Holy heck… Is that a dragon? I hear my name and spin around… and see Elizabeth walking toward me.
Today I have the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Elizabeth Foster, author of Esme’s Wish and the newly released Esme’s Gift. Hi Elizabeth… it’s so lovely to finally sit down and have a chat with you. I really enjoyed reading Esme’s Wish. So first up, tell us a bit about yourself?
I wish I could say I was born somewhere exotic but I remember my childhood as rather dull. I grew up in Brisbane and now live in Sydney. I have three children of my own now. In my free time I read as much as possible, and also get out and about in Sydney – I love being near the water.
Now, tell me about your writing… What age were you when you started?
Latish – in my forties. After reading Harry Potter with my children I realised how much I missed being lost in other worlds and decided to create my own. I had no idea how much work it would be!
How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative but didn’t know what. There were no writers in my family and most of the books I read as a child were by male authors. So writing a novel was something I never ever considered. Because of this, I have really encouraged my own children to explore their own creativity. One of my sons, Chris, is now writing an epic fantasy series of his own. We edit each other’s work and it is fantastic to have a fellow creative so close by.
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I adored stepping through the enchanted doors into an icy snowscape so unlike Australia. I still remember the thrill of it.
Oh I loved that one as a kid too! So, favourite book as an adult and why?
Too hard to choose. I was recently entranced by The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. I have a soft spot for Jane Austen’s works too.
Oh,The Graveyard Book is on my giant pile of books to read. I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Okay, so tell me a bit about Esme’s Wish. Where did you get the idea?
Artist Kahlil Gibran said that ‘in one drop of water are found all the secrets of the ocean.’ I took it from there!
Tell me about Esme? Is she modelled off anyone?
No one in particular, although I think there is a lot of me in her. There is a little bit of me in all my characters, even the antagonists.
What about Daniel? and Lillian? or Ariane?
Again, not really. Daniel embodies all the features of a traditional hero – masculine, daring, adventurous – except he is the sidekick rather than the protagonist. Lillian is the sister Esme never had. When it came to Ariane, there are a few artists in my family – I’ve dabbled in painting myself – so it felt natural to have an artist in the story.
I love the worldbuilding in this story. Tell me about Aeolia… where did you get your inspiration?
I visited Venice both before and during the writing of the first book. It is such a dreamy, inspiring, magical place. It’s also on a precarious perch, constantly on the verge of sinking into the lagoon, rather like Esperance in book one. When I imagine Esperance, I think of Venice with Ancient Greek touches – and dragons!
Oh Venice is a lovely city. I’ve been there too and I know what you mean. What are you hoping your readers take away from this story?
Hope, determination, and the will to never give up on things that are important to them.
What is your writing process?
The first book took countless drafts. I focused on a different aspect of the writing craft – character, dialogue, pace, etc. – in each draft, learning as I went along. I was full of insecurities and doubts all the way through. It was only when I was actually writing that the doubts went away – so I kept going! Now, as I write, everything – character, setting, plot – happens at once, which makes the process quicker, but does my head in. ? I do much more plotting now, but when I write it still feels like someone else takes over and moves all the levers – it is both mysterious and wondrous. I feel the weight of the book all the way through, though, a psychic load that doesn’t lift until I send the story off to the publisher.
How long did it take you to write Esme’s Wish
Around seven years. It took me a long time to find a publisher and I kept polishing and polishing even after I found one.
How are you going with book two? What can you tell us about it? ?
Book two is finished! Esme’s Gift is the middle book in the series. I’m often disappointed with the second in a series, so I tried to make this sequel equally as satisfying as the first instalment. Esme, Daniel and Lillian spend time at school together in Esperance, but also head off on adventures around different parts of Aeolia. It was fun to write but also exhausting, as I was on a bit of a deadline (which I went way past!)
Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?
Commit to your project with your whole heart. Write lots but also read plenty of good quality literature – what you read will echo in your own prose. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but at the same time recognise that if you want to get published the bar is high. Writing can be lonely – surround yourself with people who support you, even if it is only online. If you do manage to finish, be proud. Writing a novel is really hard work and I admire anyone who puts in the time and effort to get to ‘the end.’
Thanks for listening to my ramblings!
Thank YOU Elizabeth! Thanks for your time today. It has been fun to chat.
I watch her walk away with a wave and then wander to the bridge to stare down into the clear water. The tip of a gondola comes into view and I wave at the gondolier. His giant smile lights up his entire tanned face. I shoot a glance upward… where did the dragon go?
If you enjoyed this, why not check out Laurie’s website, where this interview was first published.
Laurie has written a number of stories and is currently working on Blood Fever, book one of the Fever series. Jessica Jones meets Star Wars, Blood Fever is a science fiction noir crime novel that is full of action, drama, death and a mysterious psychiatric facility. To be published by Incendia Books.