Sunday, 3 September 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Emily Williams

Fab Firsts is my regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a large menagerie of pets. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school. Emily always wrote short stories and ‘pony’ related books as a child and finally (as an adult) put pen to paper and wrote her debut novel Letters to Eloise.

Thank you for featuring me on your blog, I am really excited to be here and talk about my fab firsts!

Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My debut novel is called Letters to Eloise, which is ultimately a love-story. I wrote Letters to Eloise four years ago, when at the time I really wanted to settle down and start a family and used the novel as an outlet for these pent up emotions inside. In Letters to Eloise the protagonist, Flora, is in her final year as a postgraduate PGCE student and she falls pregnant. Struggling to come to terms with this and her confused emotions surrounding the men, or lack of, in her life, Flora documents her journey by writing letters to her unborn baby. 

Flora is torn between chasing a relationship with her first love, River, who seems to have moved on, or pursuing a recent affair with her handsome and mysterious university lecturer.

Letters to Eloise is the heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.

What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I always remember writing, as far back as the start of primary school. I wrote hundreds of pony stories and have still kept some to this day. In my first year of secondary school, I wrote a story called ‘Outbreak’ about the spread of a deadly disease. I remember the teacher commenting that he really enjoyed the story and not to stop writing, so I never did! I always carried a notebook around with ideas for the first elusive novel, but never thought of a story that compelled me enough to finish. 

Then suddenly the idea for Letters to Eloise arrived and I noted down the plot, set myself a deadline, and finally finished!

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Even though the idea for Letters to Eloise came to me quickly and night after night I became engrossed in the storyline, finishing the novel was another matter! I finished the first draft within three months, but then, unexpectedly, I fell pregnant. As Flora, my lead character, was also pregnant and writing about her experience, I found this really difficult. 

As my pregnancy was unexpected and medically complicated, I couldn’t face reading and editing the novel until a couple of years later, after I had my second child, a daughter, in July last year. Letters to Eloise therefore took around three years longer than expected to finish! This time away from the novel gave it time to breathe, and I believe, gave the emotions behind the characters more depth.

If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I would probably finish the novel a lot quicker, but I am not sure I could change that due to circumstances. 

I have learnt so much throughout this process but there are many formatting mistakes that I made and had to spend laborious hours correcting. I learnt how to indent and set the pages properly, use the correct em/en dash, format for speech, etc. Both kindle and paperback versions needed different settings, page margins, headers and footers and images for example. All of these things took a lot longer to do than I initially thought and next time I would do before I write the novel, and not afterwards!

Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

For the writing process, I had a big board up on the whole wall in my bedroom, which was great for throwing ideas down onto. I drew up a map of the story, with drawings, and stuck post it notes all over it! I used the reverse side of wrapping paper for the board. I then used all the ideas to form a grid and timeline for each letter that Flora wrote to Eloise. 

For procrastination, a bigger issue for me than writers block, I wrote Letters to Eloise in a random order. I could just pick and choose what I felt like writing. Checking for plot errors was important after this though!

And finally, definitely check the formatting before writing, not to use tab for spaces etc. I had to strip out incorrect spaces after punctuation, check ellipsis, change all speech marks and so on. A lot of this could have been researched and eradicated before even starting! 

I have really enjoyed answering your questions for my debut novel Letters to Eloise, thank you. Letter to Eloise is available to buy on kindle and paperback.

You are very welcome Emily, and good luck with your book

‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.

When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise', or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?

‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’ - Abelard to Heloise.

UK –

Fab firsts about Emily Williams!
Tell us about your first…

1) Book you bought – The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. I was a horse obsessed child, teenager and then adult!
2) Memory – The big storm (hurricane) of 1987 whilst living on the Isle of Wight. I remember the noise and braving finding my parents room upstairs; we lived in a dormer bungalow. There were trees down everywhere and the school was closed for the day.
3) Person you fell in love with – That would be telling! Probably my first boyfriend as the rest were unrequited crushes!
4) Holiday you went on – Many summer holidays spent in France with my parents.
5) Prize you won – a hamper in primary school for a drawing competition. Out of school, I won a competition to meet a famous racehorse, can’t remember which one now, maybe Red Rum! But the horse died, so just got my drawing on a t-towel!
6) Album you purchased - Dido
7) Sport you enjoyed participating in – hurdles, long distance and high jump.
8) Embarrassing moment you can remember – There are many of these moments. My first would probably be falling over on the way home from school and everyone chanting ‘Emily’s fallen over!’ I worried about it all night but at school the next day, no one even remembered!
9) Pet – We had two cats, Florence and Rupert and then the pet numbers grew and grew!
10) Time you were in trouble – I was a good girl and hated getting into any kind of trouble. Me and my best friend at school were always getting in trouble for talking though.
11) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author – Vet
12) …toy that you recall loving – Morris and Larry my mouse and lion teddies!
13) … time you felt like an adult – Drinking Tia Maria before a night out with the girls! Now its just wine, I was way more sophisticated back then!
14) … time you were really scared – When I fell pregnant!

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