Studioenp: Silence or noise when writing?
Elin: Oh, silence, please! And I get it so rarely. The other half has retired and doesn’t like it quiet, so the radio and telly are usually on. If I want peace I have to get up early and try to fit in a bit of writing before he wakes up. Editing isn’t so bad. I can drown out the TV by wearing headphones and listening to those YouTube tracks of Epic music. Two Steps from Hell are my favourites.
Studioenp: Yay for silence! Working with background noise is so distracting, Em finds. What’s your latest release?
Elin: I had two short stories published in February and one in November, two historical and one paranormal. Calon Lân is set during the Great War and tells the story of a gay romance seen from the point of view of the sister of one of the lovers.
Studioenp: Oooh, how unusual. Sounds great! How did the plot come about for it?
Elin: I’ve never been a fan of hugely angsty stories, and it’s easy to slip into that mode when for so much of our history homosexuality was illegal. So I tend to choose periods when either there was no ban—4th century BC Athens—or it was hand-waved—17th and 18th century matelotage amongst pirates and buccaneers. But even in other periods, it was possible to have a relationship if you were careful. Yes, there was persecution, but people managed as best they could, and I am certain that there were many happy couples that carried on with the connivance of loving family members. I wanted to write something with that air of hope about it. The tension in this story derives from Bethan, the point of view character, being completely unaware that such relationships could exist and having to change her world view to accommodate it.
Studioenp: Brilliant! Some soul-searching, we imagine, and having to adjust to a new way of thinking. Really love the idea of it being from the sister’s POV. How long did it take you to write it?
Elin: I’m a slow writer, both due to circumstances and due to me liking to play around with a story to find where/how it starts. As far as I can make out from the discarded versions, I started writing the book in November 2014—so OMG, three years! And it’s only 21k words. On a Lee Shore, which is over 110k words, only took eighteen months, but that was before my husband retired and I could put in more hours.
Studioenp: Laughing at your shock of discovering it was three years. What’s next on your writing list?
Elin: I’m partway through a sequel to Eleventh Hour, a spy story set in 1920s London with anarchist plots and cross-dressing and I’m planning the next in a series of contemporary romances set on the Herefordshire/Wales border. I’m hoping I can finish them a little more quickly.
Studioenp: Ooh, sounds fabulous! Are you a plotter or panster?
Elin: Plotter. I like to work to an outline, but it’s not set in stone. If I figure out something that can link/divide two characters, or make the plot more dramatic/plausible/entertaining, there’s no way I’m going to discard the idea just because it’s not in my outline. It’s a bit like a car journey where you intended to go straight from A to B but notice a sign for an open day at a garden or a church bakery sale or a castle or just stop to admire the view. I might have to do some re-writing, but that’s okay if the story is stronger for it. I’ve tried pantsing, but my poor characters just drift around bantering miserably until I lose interest in them or until I go back to pen and paper and work out what they need to do.
Studioenp: Loving the way you described it as a journey. What is your go-to form of procrastination?
Elin: Stopping the fire from going out. Our central heating, such as it is, is wood-powered, and during the cold months the fire needs more logs every half hour or so. This means I never properly concentrate on what I’m doing. What I’ve written between October and April frequently needs tossing and starting again.
Studioenp: Oh, that must drive you nuts! I wonder how many hours you tot up in a week doing that? Talking of hours… How many hours per week do you write?
Elin: A week! Some weeks I don’t write at all. During the summer, if I get up early enough, I manage a few hours before work as well as a couple at weekends, so maybe ten or twelve. Winter it’s too cold at five a.m., so about four hours a week if I’m lucky.
Studioenp: That’s a great amount. However many hours still puts extra words on the page, doesn’t it. What’s one genre you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t—and will you ever write it?
Elin: A Western. Rawhide was my favourite TV programme when I was two. I’ve made a start on two different stories. One involving the opening up of the US banking system in the 1880s, and the other just post-Civil War involving a trail drive. Maybe one day if we move into a house with gas central heating?
Studioenp: Hahahah! Yes, then there would be no distractions. What’s the best book you’ve written?
Elin: The book that has had by far the best sales has been Eleventh Hour, partly I think because I was lucky in that an author with a good following read it and enjoyed it enough to mention it. But there are things in it that I really enjoyed writing. For instance, expressing gender roles and reactions via a man who is having to live as a woman and accept the difference in treatment. Also, there’s a car chase across the Essex marshes where the top speed is about 45mph! Over the course of the book I developed a lot of affection for the characters and am enjoying planning new adventures for them. The 1930s was such a period of change, and so many amazing things were happening that it’s difficult to choose what to include.
Studioenp: It sounds like your head is full of many stories, so we wish you well in getting them written despite having to put logs on the fire! Thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your work. Come back soon!
Dear readers, today’s yummies are banoffee cookies and some rather delicious chocolates—you know, the kind with all the posh swirls on top. So grab yourself a mini feast while you relax and read excerpts from Elin’s books. Have fun!