"It's like literary viagra.": a conversation with Eliza Graham

Yesterday, we introduced Eliza Graham's Playing with the Moon, a World Book Day ‘Hidden Gem’ nominee. Today, we're coffee-talking with Eliza (Or do Brits tea-talk? I forgot to ask.) about process, publishing, and the writing life.

Eliza, start by telling us how you got from there to here. Did you always know you’d be a writer?
I wanted to write from childhood onwards. My parents and later my husband gave me masses of encouragement. I had written fiction for about four or five years, getting the odd story published and acquiring two agents over the period. I never seemed to have any luck with finding a publisher, though, and found myself unagented when I'd finished Playing With the Moon. Macmillan had just launched a new scheme (Macmillan New Writing) to find writers who hadn't been published and you didn't need an agent and you could submit the WHOLE MANUSCRIPT BY EMAIL. I thought I had nothing to lose.

I was working away on my laptop at home when I received an email, not a call, and I kept scanning it to see if I'd missed the bit that said, '...but I'd like to wish you all the best for the future.' When I couldn't find those oh-so-familiar words I yelled at my husband to come down and check the email for me.

Playing With the Moon was published June 07 in hardback and comes out Feb. 08 in paperback. It's the story of a young couple, Tom and Minna, who come to a remote coastal village to recover from a terrible bereavement. They find a skeleton on a beach and are drawn into the mystery of a violent death that occurred just before the village was evacuated in WW2.

What’s the creative process like for you?
It starts with me finally having got both children off to school and picked up enough clothes and bags off the floor to be able to physically navigate a way to one of our laptops. I have one in the kitchen and one in my 'study'--our dining room. I sit in either place, depending on the time of year (the kitchen is warmer in winter, the dining room has a more interesting view). Usually I answer emails and check messages on various writing boards and try and do any outstanding editing work for my day-job (I am a freelancer). Then I look at what I wrote the day before and tell myself firmly to proceed. That last bit involves jumping up every five minutes on one pretext or another, unless I'm experiencing a flight of creativity. Usually I'm not. Because my writing is research-rich I have go check a lot of facts as I go and usually have to do a lot of reading which I enjoy a lot.

I love the occasional inspiration I get when I'm somewhere inappropriate (in the bath, shopping for food, on the way to take a child to a sports-ground, etc), It's like a shot of literary viagra. It doesn't happen to me as often as I'd like but it's so exciting when it does.

What about the publication and promotional process? Is it the adventure you thought it would be?
Two weeks ago we had a most surprising phone call from the editor of the German version of Playing With the Moon. They are making a television advertisement (almost like a little trailer) for the book and wanted to send a film crew here. I honestly thought someone was playing a joke on me for the first five minutes of the call. Anyway, last weekend the producer and stylist came to our little cottage and spent hours making me up (I definitely needed hours, I can tell you!) and filming me working at my desk, gardening, walking the dogs, etc. The most amusing bit was standing on a landing ramp on the edge of a very stormy sea doing a Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman, and letting the wind blow my hair and scarf around me and praying I wouldn't fall in and get washed out into the Bristol Channel.

My favorite question for writers and pretty much everyone else I meet: What are you reading?
I've just finished another Macmillan New Writing author's book. Cover the Mirrors by Faye L Booth is funny and extremely well-researched novel about rogue spiritualists in the north of England in the middle of Victoria's reign. It's quite spicy as well. Spice is important this time of year.

Comments

Eliza's creative process sounds very much like mine. I have a really hard time settling into the day's work.
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