We turn the tables on Elaine Roberts today, as we find out about her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, set in World War One, and also a little about Elaine’s writing life
Hello Elaine! I’d like to say welcome to the blog, but you’re already here.
This feels a little weird but thanks you for hosting me on our blog and the interesting questions.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
When I write, I tend to put myself in the position of my characters, but that’s not to say the characters are me. I need to know their back-story, so I can write their actions and reactions accordingly. I do believe it helps to tap into your own emotions, to remember how you felt when something similar happened to you, or someone you know, or imagine how you would feel. A good example is if you lost someone you love, store those emotions so when you write it’s real.
I wouldn’t like to say you couldn’t be a writer, but it must be harder to draw the reader in if the emotions aren’t there to draw on, or at least don’t come across as real.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I enjoy reading books that are connected, whether by characters or setting, so it’s something I would love to do with my own novels. The Foyles Girls series are all stand alone books, but they have the same three girls in them. The fourth book idea I’m planning contains one of the characters, but she will probably be a grandmother, but of course it’s only an idea at the moment.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Have belief in yourself and don’t give up.
I heard a poem a couple of years ago on YouTube. It’s by Prince Ea and called A Brand New Ending, about not being a “kinda” person because if you are, you end up with “kinda” results. It left a mark on me, and since then I’ve endeavoured to put my heart and soul into what I want to do. I can often be heard saying “don’t be a kinda person”
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
That’s quite a difficult question. Everything has been a series of stepping-stones. I attend a writing class, which introduced me to the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, which enabled me to have my work critiqued each year. They also hold a conference each year, which is very high on my list of must do events, because of the workshops, panel talks and meeting industry professionals. It’s good to know that all the self-doubts you feel are the same for everyone.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Finding the tone and the voice of the characters. As a woman, I want to make sure the male character sounds real. Again it’s about knowing their back-story and I tend to think about people I know, but that’s not to say my characters are people I know. By nature, I have always been a people watcher, so people’s mannerisms and actions fascinate me. I constantly ask myself if they would act or speak like that?
How do you select the names of your characters?
I use a number of methods. Family names are a popular way of choosing, but I’ve also done an internet search of popular names in a given year. There is also the census, which is a great resource for names and occupations.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I couldn’t have achieved what I have without them. In the past, I’ve had my children acting out scenes in my front room, as well as giving ideas and advice. My husband reads everything I write and lifts me when I’m down. My whole family has been involved in my writing journey and continue to be excited and part of the story.
About The Foyles Bookshop Girls
London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…
Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffrage-supporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true.
But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant. Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…
Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn’t be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war.
Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until circumstances made her re-evaluate her life, and she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. She was thrilled when many more followed and started to believe in herself.
As a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, progressing to full membership from the New Writers Sceme, and The Society of Women Writers & Journalists, Elaine attends many conferences, workshops, seminars and wonderful parties. Meeting other writers gives her encouragement, finding most face similar problems.
Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting. Without her wonderful family and supportive friends, she knows the dream would never have been realised.
Find out more about Elaine and chat with her here: