Happy Friday, inklings!
Y’all are in for a treat this week! My sweet friend, fellow author Ellen Read, is here to answer a few of my favorite writing-related questions. In this interview, you’ll get an inside look at her writing process, learn her top tips for marketing and productivity, and receive invaluable advice all writers would be wise to follow!
Now grab your beverage of choice, find a comfy seat, and please enjoy the interview!
How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be an author?
I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen years old. In all, I wrote ten books over the next few years, short stories and some poetry and then I stopped writing for a while. I’d had an agent in London and nearly had a contract to publish but things went haywire…it’s a long story. I had two children, I became involved in musical theatre and I had a ballroom dancing studio with my husband. Since I’ve been back to writing, I’ve written my novella Love The Gift and my recently published novel The Dragon Sleeps. I’ve also been working on editing two other novels that I’d previously written.
I always wanted to write but I didn’t actually think of making it my living. When I wrote my first novel at eighteen, I knew then I wanted to be an author.
Do you typically stick to writing in one specific genre, or do you write in several?
I have written in several genres. My favourite is historical fiction. The first few books I wrote were historical fiction with a touch of mysticism in them, but I’ve also written YA fantasy. The Dragon Sleeps is an historical fiction murder mystery.
What inspired you to write your novel The Dragon Sleeps? Can you tell us a bit about it and what sort of audience it was written for?
I had an idea for a story with a statue and an antique’s dealer. My original plan was to have the statue come to life and in The Dragon Sleeps this possibility is mentioned. At first I wanted a tiger statue but as one of my other books has a real tiger in it, I quickly turned to a dragon statue. A dragon statue led to a Ming dragon statue and that suited perfectly with antiques.
I also wanted the story set in Australia, because I am Australian and because we have so many beautiful locations, with stunning architecture. I’d been to a glorious mansion in Victoria called Werribee Park Mansion and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have a house like Werribee mansion in a story one day. This led me to create Thornton Park, which provides a sumptuous backdrop for my story. The house itself is important, almost like another character.
The Thorntons are a wealthy family in 1920s Australia. Alexandra Thornton’s great-grandfather made his fortune in the Victorian goldfields in the 1850s. He also had several pastoral holdings and an antique’s business. Alexandra is 21 years old and she wants to be an antique’s dealer like her father, grandfather and great-grandfather, but women of Alexandra’s social standing do not work.
All this becomes secondary when a Chinese antique’s dealer and his son deliver a Ming dragon statue to the Thornton home during a weekend house party. Before the weekend is out, a body is found in the orchard and there is blood on the toe of the Ming dragon statue. Then an ancient sword is stolen. When there is yet another murder, Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are linked to the original artefacts that her great-grandfather brought from Hong Kong.
The target audience is quite broad. Adults and young adults who like historical murder mystery would be sure to like it. There is a love story too. The Dragon Sleeps has been likened to Agatha Christie’s books.
What is your favorite part of the writing process and why?
My favourite part is doing research and then writing the first and second drafts. As I research the era and location, the story starts to come to life. Sometimes I’ll discover new facts that I can use. I love the first and second drafts because these are the most creative parts when I’m getting my story down and getting to know all my characters.
What is your least favorite part of the writing process and why?
I think the editing is my least favourite part. I find the best thing is to do an edit and then step away from it, so that when you go back to it, you can look at it with fresher eyes.
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser,” or perhaps a blend of both? Have you tried writing both ways? If a plotter, what is your favorite outlining method?
I’m definitely a blend of both. I like to plot the basic outline, although sometimes I have the beginning and an end but no middle to the story. Sometimes I start with a character. This is when the panster takes over. I start writing and see where my story takes me. I do write character notes. When several generations are involved, I draw up a family tree. I have all my research notes and photos I’ve taken.
Do you have any writing tricks or tips for productivity?
I start my writing day by thinking over what I want to write, so that by the time I sit at my computer, I’ve at least planned the next section. The panster in me takes over from there.
What’s one useful craft tip you’ve learned lately that you can share with us?
I haven’t learned this lately but it’s one thing that always stays with me. A writer has to sit down and write, no matter what distraction occurs. You have to be disciplined…and creative.
Where do you go for inspiration when you feel your creativity well is running dry?
I’m pleased to say that I haven’t had a major case of writer’s block. My problem is finding enough time to write everything I want to write. I have several books I’m waiting to work on. If I’m sitting at the computer and feel as if the creativity well has momentarily run dry, I always get up, walk around and don’t think about my story. Sometimes I’ll have a coffee or tea and by the time I go back to my computer the words flow again. That may not work for everyone though.
Which contemporary authors do you admire most, and why?
Kate Morton, Elise McCune, Natasha Lester and Fiona McIntosh are some Australian authors I admire. They all write stories with strong women characters. I admire JK Rowling for her incredible volume of work that has made such a mark on YA readers, and adults too.
Do you have any marketing tricks or tips for authors who are new to publishing?
For a self-published author, marketing is the most difficult thing you have to do. Even a traditionally published author has to have a presence and do some marketing. I think it’s essential to use social media, create a website and blog. Sometimes you will wonder how to fit in writing but you need to build your followers.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Write, write and keep writing. You need to develop your style and perhaps discover what genre you really want to write in. Join a writing group and have your work critiqued.
And, most of important of all, coffee or tea?
Just as I am with being a plotter and a panster, I drink tea and coffee. Tea when I first get up and have breakfast, coffee mid-morning, tea at lunch, coffee in the afternoon and so on.
Thank you so much, Diana, for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s been a pleasure.
Ellen Read is the author of The Dragon Sleeps – an historical murder mystery romance novel, and Love The Gift – an eBook Novella, a time slip romance, a story to heal grief.
Ellen was born in Queensland, Australia.
She loves to read, fiction, non-fiction, poetry. She particularly loves history and stories of ancient myths and legends. Authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, and Victoria Holt, the latter of whom wrote gothic mystery/romances, have influenced her own work.
Other interests include photography, music and musical theatre, and dance. Ellen was a ballroom dancing teacher for many years and has also worked in Performing Arts administration.
My book can be purchased at:
If you’d like to contact me, I’d love to hear from you, you can do so at: