Guest Blog With Author, Eleanor Watkins

Posted at 05:28am on 2nd September 2015

I'm delighted to be able to welcome author, Eleanor Watkins to guest post on my blog today.  A prolific author, and well-known for her chldren's and young people's books, she's agreed to tell us a little more about her private life.  So here are my questions and her answers:

Eleanor, what’s your favourite colour?

Green, the colour of the natural world. I love everything green and growing – trees, grass, bushes, undergrowth -  and every shade of green, from dark pine forests to pale green lichens.

What’s your favourite flower, and why?

British wild flowers, the spring ones like bluebells, primroses, stitchwort, cow parsley, cowslips, red campion, etc etc.  Why? Because they’re delicate, and beautiful, and they grow in profusion just where they like, without human intervention.

Have you ever met anyone famous?

Quite a few, have shared a signing venue with Adrian Plass and G.P. Taylor!  We live less than a mile from the Hay Festival village, so it’s possible to sit and celeb-watch every day during the festival, although the mega-famous are whisked about in helicopters and darkened limos! We have writers, artists, musicians, politicians and all sorts right here on our doorstep.    But the most memorable for me was meeting the late Elisabeth Elliot through mutual friends. As a young woman I read her book The Liberty of Obedience which had a profound effect on me, but she is maybe best known for her books about being a missionary to the Auca Indians of Ecuador, where her first husband and four others died a martyrs death.  The first time we met we had tea on the terrace of her house perched on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, where whales leapt in the bay below. We listened to a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch recording, which she found hilarious, had a sing-song round the piano, and signed each other’s latest books!  We met again several times after that.

If you could travel to just one place in the world, where would it be?

Somewhere with mountains and flowers.  Austrian Tyrol, maybe?

Where is your favourite place to write?

A battered old blue armchair in my study. A few years ago, my husband set up a little wooden writing hut for me in our patch of woodland – a nice thought, but I’m afraid I’ve never written a word there.

Pen or keyboard?

Pen first draft, getting it down as fast as I can, then edit as it goes on keyboard. Then edit again…and again…..

How did you get started?

I think almost from the time I learned to read, I wanted to make stories myself. I wrote little stories from the age of 6 or 7, went on to ones with chapters at 9 or 10. I started a childrens’ book at about 15, finished it in my twenties and it was serialised in Christian Herald. I was about 21 when C.H. accepted my first short story, and they later took several more. Victory Press published my first book in 1973, and followed it with several others until they retired from publishing.

In which genre do you write? Why this genre?

Lots of fiction for children and teens, some historical, non-fiction for teens and adults, books of prayers and meditations, a Lenten study book. Oh, and a semi-autobiographical chick-lit style story for women, currently with a publisher.  Mostly, though, fiction for young people.

Have you got a favourite genre to read? If so, why?

I like contemporary and historical fiction, travel writing, biography, devotional, almost any genre if the writing is good.  I used to love science fiction! Dislike syrupy romantic fiction. I do like Jan Karon and Marilynne Robinson though.  And since my daughter-in-law introduced me to chick-lit, I surprised myself by finding I really enjoy writers like Marian Keyes and Allison Pearson.

How would you describe your writing regime?

Any writing is done in the morning. Early evening, I edit the morning’s work. Next morning, edit again before continuing. Research every spare minute I can, and if I’m writing about a particular time in history, try and keep all my reading to information or fiction set in that period.

What would be your top tips for writers?

Three simple tips. (1) Read. (lots of genres) (2) Write. Keep writing, even if you’re not feeling inspired or in the mood. Things can always be changed.) (3) Edit. Be ruthless. Cut out non-essentials. Kill your darlings if you have to. And listen to what others say, especially if they know what they’re talking about.

Can you give readers a short passage from your book so we can get a flavour of what it’s about?

Two books will be out this year, so I’ll give a little bit from each.

Beech Bank Girls 4: A time Remembered

World War 1 is looming, and 14-year old Grace describes in her journal the reaction of her brother Will when he is presented with a white feather, the symbol of cowardice:

The same day, I saw him take his cornet case out to the barn to practise. He does that sometimes so he will not disturb the family. I like to hear him, so went and listened outside the big doors. He was playing a haunting piece, sad and lonely and somehow piercing the heart. I told him I’d heard, and he said it was the ‘Last Post’, a solo they play at the end of the day and at the burials of soldiers killed in battle. I felt that cold shiver again. He said eagerly “I’m thinking they might take me into the army as a bandsman. I believe they have boy musicians younger than enlistment age.”  He looked at me with his eyes shining. “Gracie, they’re having such adventures! It is all so exciting, new countries and a different way of life. I can’t wait to be there with them!”  He did not seem at all afraid. I did not reply but I felt afraid myself. I hope he will never enlist. They are saying the war will be over by Christmas, and I hope and pray it will be so.’

The Village

It is the 14th century, the Black Death is sweeping the country, and the tinker’s daughter Ellen has just learned of her best friend’s death from plague:

‘I sat stunned when I heard the news. I had prayed earnestly for my friend and could not believe that she was gone. My Moll, lively and inquisitive, with the freckled face and busy tongue. We had planned so much together, that when spring came we would hunt for wild violets in the woods, and make garlands of mayblossom for May Day and have new dresses maybe, and in the long light evenings we would pick tiny sweet wild strawberries and see the swallows swoop and dive again over the manor barns, and smell the freshness of new-cut hay. We would sit together and laugh and talk of the men we hoped to marry and the lives we hoped to live. Now hers was over, and I had to walk on in my own life without my friend.’

What are you working on at the moment?

Just finished a revised draft of another in the Beech Bank Girls series. Planning a rather grittier, more realistic story for older teenage girls, focusing on relationships, teenage pregnancy and family issues. At the back of my mind is an idea for fiction for YA set in the time of the Irish Potato Famine, but we’ll see!

Thank you, Eleanor.   That was very interesting, and I wish you well with your books.

Author Bio

Eleanor Watkins is the author of over forty books, most of them for young people, from first readers to teenage.  She lives in an old farmhouse overlooking the Wye Valley near the book town of Hay-on-Wye, with her husband and a very spoilt ginger cat.  She has four adult children and five grandchildren.  Her passions are reading and books, the countryside and natural world, gardening, travel, friends of all ages, people watching.  She dislikes pizza and dishonesty of all kinds.   Eleanor can be found on Facebook where she spends far too much time.

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