Welcome Elizabeth Jane please tell us a little about yourself and your book.
Thanks heaps for the welcome. What can I say? I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a librarian, a Welsh speaker, a dog owner and a commuter cyclist who loves reading quirky character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far away. My debut novel, The Tides Between, is an historical coming-of-age novel about fairy-tales and facing the truth. Set in the steerage compartment of a nineteenth century emigrant vessel, it involves elements of magic and storytelling.
What inspired you to create The Tides Between?
It started with a mid-life crisis. On reaching a significant mile-stone (let’s not be specific), I realised I’d always wanted to write a novel. Close on the heels of this realisation came a sense that I’d better make a start before it was too late. The reason I’d never started was partly due to the above-mentioned roles, but also because I didn’t think I had any ideas. But I’d always been interested in the historical character of Caroline Chisholm – the emigrant’s friend. I started by with a biography of her life then broadened my research to include nineteenth century immigration in general. By which stage, to my immense surprise, I had characters forming in my head.
What is your writing routine? are you a pantster or planner?
I started The Tides Between with absolutely no consideration of viewpoint, story structure, or character arcs. I simply gave myself permission to write. Once I had a dreadful first draft, I went back and learned what I was supposed to know before starting. This led to a great deal of re-writing. With my current work in progress, Stone Promises, I have a fair idea of these elements and I am writing towards my major plot turning points. In between, I am fumbling my way in the dark, a process I find both terrifying and exhilarating, depending on how the day is going. I start my writing day by journaling, long hand, in my pyjamas. That is how I set my goals for the day. I revert to this whenever I get stuck (the journaling, that is, not the pyjamas). It relieves the pressure and enables me to work out what I am trying to say.
Did you have a favourite place you like to write, while you were creating your novel?
I started writing in our bedroom at an old desk we’d picked up off the side of the road. We had four kids living at home at the time so space was at a premium. The kids have long since moved out and we have downsized. I now use the spare bedroom as my office. When writing, I sit, door closed, in silence. But I journal, read articles, plot and draw diagrams out at the dining table.
Coch calon, Cymraes – red, heart, Welshwoman.
I love the colour red, I write from the heart and my muse is rooted in my heritage.
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
I love that heady moment when your characters first start to speak. But I find it mighty scary sitting down to a blank page. Yet sometimes at the end of the day I feel a warm glow of satisfaction at what I have accomplished. This is often doused when I workshop the piece. But, once I sit with the feedback and see possibilities, I am generally excited to make improvements. So, it’s a roller coaster for me – both hard and exciting.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
None, I make them suffer too much. Bridie, my protagonist in The Tides Between is fifteen with so much to learn. I am glad I don’t have to go through that stage of life again. Rhys and Siȃn are Welsh. I’d certainly like their language fluency. But my novel is about facing the truth and Rhys’ arc involves elements of tragedy. Alf, Bridie’s stepfather, is solid and reliable. I admire people like that. But I am not one of them. One of the glories of mid-life is being happy in my own skin. So, I’ll leave my characters on the page, if that’s okay. Though, having said that, I’ll admit, I’ve learned many of their life lessons first-hand.
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
I found Bridie fun to write. She has a quirky turn of mind. She is also sad and angry and aching to work things out. I remember that feeling. I’ll admit, I fell a little in love with Rhys. He tells a number of Welsh fairy tales during the voyage and I enjoyed being in his storytelling voice. I took Welsh classes as part of my research, only ever intending to complete a term or two. But I fell in love with the language and kept going. I let that wide-eyed wonder infuse my characters. So, I think that is my answer has to be Rhys. Which in turn fuels Bride’s response.
What’s your favourite subject to write about? Why?
I am attracted to fairy-tales and like to explore the intersection of mythology and psychology. At this stage, I can’t imagine writing a non-historical novel, or one without a Welsh character. My newly re-discovered cultural heritage is so rich and deep. My muse has a wonderful canvas to work upon.
If you could describe your main character in three words what would they be?
Fun, feisty and flawed.
What is the darkest thing any of your characters have ever done?
My characters’ darkest acts are those of ordinary life – fear, resentment, an unwillingness to listen, holding onto false beliefs. The novel begins with Bridie disobeying her mother and stepfather by smuggling a forbidden notebook onto their emigrant ship. At that point, Rhys’s secret fears are also threatening to overwhelm him. It sounds dark but I think the fairy tales enable me to explore that darkness in a way that is gentle and universal. But time will tell what the ‘real’ readers think.
What is your character favourite fairytale? Why that one? Does it help her in anyway?
Tamlane – the handsome youth captured by the Queen of Elfland and the brave maiden who rescued him. Rhys likes Llyn y Fan Fach, though I suspect he’s changed his mind by the end of the voyage.
Does any of your characters have any strong beliefs or fears if so what are they?
Bridie and Rhys both have difficult truths to face. However, to in order to do so, they have to let go of false beliefs. I won’t elaborate on the details as it will spoil the build of the story. Suffice to say, both will be forced to a resolution by the end of the voyage.
Who are your favourite Authors?
Sharon K Penman, Edith Pargetter/Ellis Peters, Dorothy Dunnett, Kate Forsyth, Kate Morton, Emma Donoghue, L.M Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Diana Gabaldon. I also loved Richard Llywellyn’s, How Green was my Valley, and Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone with the Wind.
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
Alison Goodman, my first manuscript assessor, said: take your time, learn your craft. Euan Mitchell’s logical approach to story structure set me on the right path. My friend Leisl Leighton said: don’t wait until you have a contract, start building your social media presence now. Veronica, a visual artist friend, has been a great mentor. She reminded me to focus on the work, not the outcome. Carole Lovekin reinforced this, by telling me: the writing is the cake. Being published is merely the icing.
What projects are you working on next?
I lived in Wales for some months during 2015/16. While there, I noticed a number of memorials to Owain Glyn Dŵr. Glyn Dŵr rose in rebellion against the English crown in 1400 and was, consequently, the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales. At some point, I realised he’d had a wife. Though to my knowledge there are no stones erected in her memory. Mared, her name was (Margaret). She ended up in the Tower of London. I thought: what would it have been like to be that woman? The idea for a novel was born. I have done the preliminary research and started drafting. My working title is, Stone Promises.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who maybe undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
Write despite the fear, learn as much as you can, look for feedback, and take it on board. Try above all, to enjoy the journey. It is the creation that matters, not the outcome. As far as I can tell, no one finds the process easy. Sometimes, success is simply a matter of staying the course.
Any final words you would like to add?
Thanks so much for this opportunity. Drop in at elizabethjanecorbett.com.au and say hello. I’d love to hear what you think of the novel.
Thank you Elizabeth Jane Corbett for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a real pleasure to hear about your novel, I wish you well with your novel and all other writing projects you may undertake in the future.
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