Letters to Eloise is the heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.
Many thanks Beth for having me join your blog ‘Words from a Reader’ today. I am very excited to be joining you, sharing my debut novel Letters to Eloise, and talking more about the novel writing process.
1. Tell me about Letters to Eloise.
Letters to Eloise has become a very special novel to me. I started the novel over four years ago when I had the initial idea, which I jotted down into a notebook and then onto post it notes. These post it notes then formed the timeline of the letters for the whole novel. The protagonist ‘Flora’ and her situation were always very strong in my mind. Flora falls pregnant whilst completing her postgraduate studies. She is still in love with her ex boyfriend River, however has tried to move on with a handsome and mysterious lecturer at the university. Later on during the plot drafting process, other characters developed their own voices and some even tried to take over!
I choose the epistolary element for Letters to Eloise as I have always enjoyed reading books that contain diary entries or letters so felt this would fit Flora’s situation perfectly. I liked that she had someone real to write to, someone to pour out her emotions. I loved writing every single letter and making sure that the plot linked up through Flora’s narrative.
I was at a time in my life where I desperately wanted a family but wasn’t in a situation where this was possible, so I think I wrote Letters to Eloise as an outlet to that. The novel took so long to write as, unexpectedly, I also fell pregnant like protagonist Flora. I had just finished the first draft, and when dealing with all things pregnancy related, I found that I couldn’t read or even look at the book so it was put aside! I think this gave the novel time to breathe. I had several beta readers at that time, which read the novel whilst I dealt with having my first child and shortly after, my second!
When I returned to the novel last summer, and piles of proofreader’s notes, I felt rejuvenated and really enjoyed the re-reading and editing process.
2. What do you love about writing?
I love the escapism. Being able to completely take myself away into another world or time and be in charge of what happens. Maybe it’s a control thing, which I didn’t have in my own life! I found the writing process quite therapeutic, and loved spending the evenings writing Letters to Eloise. The story unfolded almost by itself. I have, in the past, been frustrated as the story progressed, but with Letters to Eloise, this didn’t happen. Maybe because I had the outline so firmly in my mind, and written down, so I couldn’t stray too far from the plan! Several characters, namely ‘Brooke’ butted their way in though and changed things!
3. Who are some of your favourite authors and do they inspire you?
Favourite authors would include Cecelia Ahern, who creates amazingly imaginative worlds for her characters that I can picture myself in. Her stories have strong characters with a magical element of fantasy to them. She has inspired me to think outside the box! I have read many Virginia Andrews and Josephine Cox, I love a good saga. Sheila O’Flanagan writes very clearly about the families in her stories and her characters emotions. There are many, many authors who inspire me and all the books I have read as a child have made me the writer and reader I am today. I was, and still am sometimes, a massive pony book fan and still have all my childhood pony stories, especially Patricia Leitch novels. I am hoping my son and daughter will love reading them too!
4. What are some of your favourite books?
I have always loved One Day by David Nicholls. Dexter is the kind of character, and man, I can fall in love with. He is human and flawed but also has wit and charm. I am an all round reader, and don’t usually stick to a particular genre. My summer reads are probably romantic novels. I have read many novels by Cecelia Ahern, The Gift being a particular favourite. I love the cover and prose of The Children’s Book, by AS Byatt, but this is more of a heavy read for when I have time to dedicate. Having two children, I usually need to find novels now that I can read in parts without spoiling the flow of the plot, as usually I like to sit down and read a whole book in one go!
5. Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am currently working on my second novel, with several other children’s books on the go! I always have a children’s books on the go as I get so excited about ideas! My second adult novel is a little different from my debut Letters to Eloise. It probably fits the psychological thriller genre rather than a romance! However, Letters to Eloise isn’t your typical romance. Again, the idea came to me suddenly and I scrambled to write down the whole plot. I am looking forward to seeing how the characters develop by themselves as the story progresses.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, I do hope you enjoyed reading more about me and I hope you enjoy Letters to Eloise.
Letter to Eloise is available to buy on kindle and paperback from the 17th February.
‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.
When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise', or chase after the past with her estranged first love? But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?
‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’ - Abelard to Heloise.
1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives. But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women's names. To what lengths will Matthew's obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is her first novel, and is out with Viking in the UK and Ballantine in the US in Spring 2017. The book is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins, whom she first came across while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.
TWITTER - WEBSITE
A book that is so vivid it will make you feel like you're there.
It's 1645 London. Alice Hopkins is pregnant and her husband has recently died so, she moves in with her brother Matthew.
Alice soon finds out why people are terrified of Matthew. Why, when they hear his name it sends terror throughout them. She finds out that her brother is a witch hunter, She tries to do what she can and tries to stop him and reign him but, Matthew is merciless and won't stop until he's killed all the witches.
Can she save Matthew and any other future women he might kill? Or will trying to stop him only bring up memories and secrets from their past as children?
A fast-paced, brilliant book from a debut author and this has to be one of my favourite books I have read this year so far. It was fantastic and I just want to re-read it all over again. I love Beth's style of writing as it grips you from the very first page and won't let you go until you've finished it. I like that even though this story is based on fact about Matthew Hopkins I love the story Beth has intertwined with it as it really brought it all to life.
A must read for all!
(Full review to come here)
How far would you go to find THE ONE? One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner - the one you're genetically made for. A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking - and deadlier - than others...A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Mandy stared at the photograph on her computer screen and held her breath.
The shirtless man had cropped, light brown hair, and posed on a beach with his legs spread apart with the top half of his wetsuit rolled down to his waist. His eyes were the clearest shade of blue. His huge grin contained two perfectly aligned rows of white teeth, and she could almost taste the salt water dripping from his chest and onto the surfboard lying by his feet.
‘Oh my Lord,’ she whispered to herself, and let out a long breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding.
She felt her fingertips tingle and her face flush, and wondered how on earth her body would react to him in person if that’s how it responded to just one photograph.
The coffee in her polystyrene cup was cold but she still finished it. She took a screengrab of the photograph and added it to a newly created folder on her desktop entitled ‘Richard Taylor’. She scanned the office to check if anyone was watching what she was up to in her booth, but no one was paying her any attention.
Mandy scrolled down the screen to look at the other photographs in his Facebook album ‘Around the World’. He was certainly well travelled, she noticed, and he had been to places she’d only ever seen on TV or in films. In many pictures he was in bars, trails and temples, posing by landmarks, enjoying golden beaches and choppy waters. He was rarely on his own. She liked that he seemed the gregarious type.
Curious, she looked back further into his timeline, from when he first joined social media as a sixth former and through his three years at university. She even found him attractive as a gawky teenager.
After an hour and a half of gawping at nearly the entirety of the handsome stranger’s history, Mandy made her way to his Twitter feed to see what he felt the need to share with the world. But all he ranted about was Arsenal’s rise and fall in the Premier League, occasionally broken up by retweets of animals falling over or running into stationary objects.
Their interests appeared to differ greatly, and she questioned exactly why they had been Matched and what they might have in common. Then she reminded herself she no longer needed the mindset required for using dating websites and apps; Match Your DNA was based on biology, chemicals and science – none of which she could get her head around.
But she trusted it with all her heart, like millions and millions of others did.
Mandy moved on to Richard’s LinkedIn profile, which revealed that since graduating from Worcester University two years earlier, he’d worked as a personal trainer in a town approximately forty miles from hers. No wonder his body appeared so solid, she thought, and she imagined how it might feel on top of hers.
She hadn’t set foot in a gym since her induction a year ago, when her sisters insisted she should stop lamenting her failed marriage and start concentrating on her recovery. They’d whisked her away to a nearby hotel day-spa where she’d been massaged, plucked, waxed, hot-stoned, tanned and massaged again until any thought of her ex had been pummeled out of every back and shoulder knot and each clogged pore of her skin.
The gym membership had followed along with a promise that she would keep up with the workout schedule they’d set up for her. Motivating herself to work out regularly had yet to become part of her weekly routine, but she paid for the membership regardless.
She began to imagine what her children with Richard might look like, and if they’d inherit their father’s blue eyes or be brown like hers; whether they’d be dark haired and olive skinned like her or fair and pale like him. She found herself smiling.
‘Jesus!’ she yelled. The voice had made her jump. ‘You scared me to death.’
‘Well, you shouldn’t have been looking at porn at work then.’ Olivia grinned, and offered her a sweet from a bag of Haribo. Mandy declined with a shake of her head.
‘It wasn’t porn, he’s an old friend.’
‘Yeah, yeah, whatever you say. Keep an eye out for Charlie though, he’s after some sales figures from you.’
Mandy rolled her eyes, then looked at the clock in the corner of her screen. She realised that if she didn’t start doing some work soon she’d end up taking it home with her. She clicked on the little red ‘x’ in the corner and cursed her Hotmail account for assuming the Match Your DNA confirmation email was spam. It had sat in her junk folder for the last six weeks until, by chance, she had discovered it earlier that afternoon.
‘Mandy Taylor, wife of Richard Taylor, pleased to meet you,’ she whispered. She noticed she was absent-mindedly twiddling an invisible ring around her wedding finger.
‘John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last 20 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines.
He has written for publications including The Guardian's Guide and Guardian Online; OK! Magazine; Total Film; Empire; Q; GT; The Independent; Star; Reveal; Company; Daily Star and News of the World's Sunday Magazine.
Amelie Ayres has impeccable taste in music. Bowie. Bush. Bob. So when she finds herself backstage at The Keep's only UK gig she expects to hate it; after all they are the world's most tragic band. In fact she feels a grudging respect - not (obviously) for their music, but for the work that goes in to making them megastars. And when lead singer, 'Maxx', is not dressed up as a cross between Elvis and a My Little Pony, he is actually rather normal, talented and has creative struggles not too dissimilar to her own. But the next morning she wakes up and rolls over to discover a million new @'s on social media. Overnight, a photo of her at the gig has made her a subject of global speculation. Suddenly the world needs to know #Who'sThatGirl? - but for all the wrong reasons. All Amelie wants is to play her music. She's got the guitar, the songs, the soul and, in the safety of her bedroom, she's got the voice. But when it comes to getting up on stage, she struggles with self-doubt. Immaculate's a concept. Flawless is fake. But just sometimes music - and hearts - can rock a perfect beat.
One of the things that kicked off the writing of This Beats Perfect was my fascination with modern fangirlling. The access you can get to your favourite stars is amazing, not to mention the community. That sense of belonging is so special.
I’m going to bring it back to when I was 12 years old. Back then, there was no Twitter, no Facebook – in fact not much of an internet at all (at least not publicly available). No, back then, in order to fangirl to any real degree you had to get creative.
PHOTO CAPTION: My first ship. Drew and Corey.
Corey Haim, star of Licence to Drive and The Lost Boys was the love of my life.
But aside from catching up with goss in Dolly (an Australian teen magazine), and wearing down the VHS’s I hired on an almost weekly basis from my local video store, I had no means to get any closer to my beloved.
But he was my Harry Styles. The object of my obsession (at least for that year) and I was completely and utterly in love.
Guys, I actually freeze framed the part of the movie where he gives Heather Graham his phone number and wrote it down. It was a 555 number, which in the olden days was the fake prefix Hollywood used when they had to show a phone number on screen, but didn’t want a million people trying to call it and accidently reaching an actual human citizen. Did I dial those digits? You bet I did.
One afternoon, my fellow stalker and bestie Liz and I worked out (from forensically reading an interview) that Corey frequented the Hollywood Hills Country Club, so we decided to try him there.
We dialed the number and got through to a man at reception.
‘Hi, I wondered if I could speak with Mr Corey Haim?’
‘Umm, hello mam.’ Silence on line. ‘Just checking the guest list and he’s not here right now.’
‘Can we leave him a message?’
‘Um, okay?’ The man sounded confused. ‘I’m not sure when we’ll next see him. But I can try to get a message to him.’
‘WE LOVE HIM SO MUCH!’
Cue massive fits of giggles followed, probably, by squealing and maybe a few more gushing outpourings of l-u-r-v-e. Mercifully, I can’t remember.
It was amazing! It was such a rush! It felt pretty much as if we’d touched him. An Eighties version of a like, or maybe a block – we’ll never know. :)
Rebecca lives in Hackney with a one year old, a trumpet, 2 guitars, a keyboard, several percussion instruments and a guy called Bernie.
She spent her career traveling the world making Music TV for MTV, working on kids TV shows, and wrangling audiences for shows such as BBC’s Being Human and ITV’s Switch.
She has now turned that dab hand to writing racy tales of rock n roll for Young Adults.