A complete change from my usual memoir-based blog today! I’ve invited my lovely writer friend Elaine Chissick to have a chat over wine and chocolate. Elaine are Facebook friends and, though we’ve never met, I feel we are kindred spirits.
Welcome, Elaine, and do help yourself to a chocolate as well as a glass of wine. So, tell me, how did you first come to write?
As an only child, I loved to read and would happily sit alone with a book, comic, or magazine, I think it was inevitable that eventually I would start writing snippets of scenarios with different characters. As a teenager in the 80's, I met a girl in secondary school who shared the same interest in writing these snippets. Most were handwritten or typed on a typewriter and were never more than about twenty pages, except one story that I started with two characters called Nick and Sasha.
A couple of years later, we left school and I was told that writing wasn't an option for me, that I had to grow up, get a job and pay my way - so that's what I did and any dreams of writing were filed away and left in the past, but I never gave up on the reading.
Fast forward to 2002, and you’d find me married and working a full time job. Although my husband had children from a past relationship, a family would have been great but due to certain things, we couldn't have our own children, and so we started down the route of adoption. In 2004, our son and daughter came to live with us.
Elaine Chissick, in the glasses, at a recent author event
Now, my husband and I are not perfect, we are not rich, we are not in the best of health and there is a 16 year age gap between us, but we got through the adoption process and found ourselves with a family. At that point, I felt like I needed to tell people that if they wanted a family too, they didn't have to be perfect either, and so I sat down and wrote 'Willing and Able, a True Story Of Adoption', which is a true account of what my husband and I went through to adopt our children. Unfortunately, the agency who I thought would be interested in the book, were not, so, not really knowing what to do or where to go from there, I shelved it.
In 2007, we relocated 123 miles away and resettled on the North East coast. For some reason, around 2011, I pulled out the adoption manuscript and sent it out to 25 agents. 13 refused it, the rest never got back to me, and then my husband bought me a Kindle ... That opened my eyes to self-publishing and in 2012, I self published 'Willing and Able'.
At that time, I was still reading lots of books but nothing grabbed me, nothing quite managed to pull me in completely - although a couple came very close - but some of those books made me think about the stuff I used to write back in school, and on 1st September 2012, Sasha and Nick barged into my mind quite unexpectedly with the story I had been craving, which resulted in me sending an email to my friend which simply read, "am having a go at fiction, a love story, I think,"
Those characters changed their names to Alexandra and Gabriel, and I threw myself into the writing, (it's a good job my family love me because for seven months, I might as well have not been there as the book took over my life.)
I first published 'Ties That Bind' in 2013, it was a huge learning curve in both the writing and the publishing, and in 2016, I followed with the sequel, 'Ties That Harm'. Both have had their covers redone professionally, and I'm very proud of them.
Tell me, what genre would you say your books fit in to?
'Willing and Able' is true life. 'Ties That Bind' and 'Ties That Harm' are hard to place, they are romantic fiction, contemporary fiction, and also have an element of eroticism in them, insofar as they have descriptive sex, but without the addition of extras like ... sex toys, whips, chains, you get the idea. Does this mean that they are not quite erotica? Is there a genre for contemporary romance with added steaminess? That could be a subject for another blog discussion ...!
Interesting thought, Elaine. Coincidentally, in one of my books I included a short ‘hot’ scene. Afterwards, I realised it would have worked just as well without it.
So, what are you currently working on?
I'm currently doing research into writing a murder mystery/thriller that's set around the life of a club owner. I've never written in this genre so it's taking me a while to get it right. I also have plans for another true life book centered round adoptive fathers, and I also have plans for a recipe book at some point.
Something that always fascinates me, do you have a dedicated work space?
Ha ha! I do ... I have a little office/cubbyhole (ironing room/room to pile all the books, wrapping paper, junk, hoover, hairdryer, etc) which has a regular office desk in it. There's a big window in front of the desk which has a roller blind on it, and on that blind is pinned the full family trees of my main characters. However, in a bid to get me out of the cubbyhole and back into the living room, my husband bought me a much loved and much wanted pedestal desk, so that is now my main working space. As you can see, I work using two screens, have low level lighting and wear earbuds so I can listen to music while I work. The only thing I'm now missing, is the family tree, I couldn't get away with pinning a four foot wide bright orange piece of paper to the living room wall!
Elaine's evocative writing space
All that being said, I've been known to take my laptop to the pub, to my son's football matches, to bed, and to the beach ...!
What sort of books do you read for pleasure? Favourite author?
I like to read a bit of everything, but I do like comedies. Favourite authors are Sue Townsend, Dan Brown, Sophie Kinsella, E L James, and Jackie Collins to name but a few.
Besides writing, what is your other passion?
Cooking and baking. I love baking. My day job involves working in a kitchen and it's something I really enjoy. It's also a skill I've passed on to one of my characters, and the reason I would like to do a recipe book.
Thank you so much, Elaine. I’ve really enjoyed our chat. It’s fascinating finding out about other writers’ modus operandi. Do have another chocolate.
All three of Elaine’s current books can be found at Amazon by following this link http://bit.ly/ElaineChissickAmazon