Thursday, February 14, 2013

[Interview] Ellie Stevenson

Ellie Stevenson was born in Oxford and brought up in Australia. She is a member of the Careers Writers' Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

She writes feature articles and short stories.

Her first novel, Ship of Haunts: the other Titanic story (Rosegate Publications, 2012), which is available as an e-book and as a paperback, has been described as "engaging and lively ... a real page-turner" and as "thoroughly enjoyable".

In this interview, Ellie Stevenson talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

When I was 10.

I spent part of my childhood in Australia, and I would lie in bed and listen to the sounds of the Australian bush, and think about what I could do with my life. My first published work was a poem published in an Australian state newspaper. Then came a hiatus, quite a long one, but fortunately, that’s over now.

How would you describe your writing?

Fairly eclectic.

Primarily I’m focused on writing more novels but I also write stories, articles and poetry. The poetry's more of a leisure thing, but I like to think it informs my work!

I always wanted to write books, but life and a need for cold, hard cash got in the way. When I finally took my ambition seriously, I started with articles, as a way getting some hands-on experience. But I always planned to be a novelist – I just wasn’t sure if I had the stamina.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone who wants to read my work!

No, seriously, I write for people who love mysteries and a sense of something other-worldly. I love to read ghost stories and books that take us across time and space. Maybe some time travel, or something that haunts or has a bit of a twist.

I write the stories I want to read.

I like novels which speak to the reader, are emotionally strong. And those that challenge the reader’s concepts, while still maintaining a page-turning story. Lyrical language is also important. I love to read books by Maggie O’Farrell and Douglas Kennedy.

Have your own personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

My novel is a ghost story about Titanic, child migration and living a life under the sea. I’m an historian by nature and I love the past. Three of my family were child migrants and I’ve been heavily influenced by the time I spent living in Australia, an amazing country. I’ve always been passionate about Titanic. As for the ghosts, I can’t really say...

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Making my work the best it can be and improving its rhythm and the way it flows. Having integrity in my stories. Making people wonder if what we know isn’t all there is. Reaching readers.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Marketing my work. In order to be read, readers need to know you exist. I enjoy promoting my novel and articles but it takes a lot of time, which means less time to write. It’s a constant trade off, especially if you’re an independent author. Every day I do a little bit more.

Do you write every day?

At the moment I’m focused on promoting the novel. But when I’m writing, yes, every day, in allocated time slots until I have to do something else. I stop at that point, or when I come to a natural break. The initial writing isn’t that hard, the real work comes with the plot corrections, improvements to language, and the many revisions. I’m naturally self-critical and my work is never good enough. It’s not a happy trait for a writer to have!

How many books have you written so far?

One so far, Ship of Haunts, although a collection of short stories will be coming out in late September.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

Far too long. The next one will be quicker.

Where and when was it published?

Initially, as an ebook on Amazon (Rosegate Publications). It was published in April 2012, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of Titanic’s sinking. Print copies are also available, via Amazon.com, or via me if you live in the UK.

How did you choose a publisher for the book?

Because it took so long to write, and I had to meet the April deadline, an ebook was the obvious choice, with printed copies following later. That’s the beauty of independent publishing: the author has control of the book. It’s also the downside – you have to do all the work yourself. Commissioning a cover, getting it proofed, getting it out there. I’d do it again, but it’s a steep learning curve.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work that went into Ship of Haunts?


The book was organic, it developed as I wrote it. And then of course, it needed reworking. I spent much of my time rewriting the novel. Again and again. Next time round, I’m planning the book before I write it!

What did you enjoy most?

Creation of the story, thinking of the plotlines, doing the research. The creative side is why I write. Editing and rewrites are hard work, especially when you’re several drafts in.

What sets Ship of Haunts apart from other things you've written?

It’s my first novel, so in that sense it’s totally different. And Titanic, of course, is quite unique. And the novel encompasses reincarnation, which is a little bit out there (in the West, anyway).

In what way is it similar to the others?

The broader themes are fairly similar to the stories I’ve written: mysteries and loss and a sense of something unexpected, perhaps paranormal. The odd twist or a bit of a chill...

What will your next book be about?

A lost place and a man who... (well that would be telling)

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Having the book in my hands, and seeing it as something outside myself. I wasn’t sure I could ever do this. And now, of course, I’m going to do more...

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