Tuesday, 4 October 2011

In conversation with... Elizabeth Buchan

Hello Elizabeth! First of all, thank you for agreeing on answering a few questions for the readers of my blog. I know for a fact that you will make many of them happy!

Your latest novel, Separate Beds, came out in 2010 and it will be followed next year by the publication of Daughters. Can you give us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: Thank you for asking. Here is sneak preview of the blurb on the back jacket.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled. But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, this is looking increasingly unlikely.


With an ex-husband occupied with his second marriage, and the surprising developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about, especially with Eve’s upcoming wedding.

And when she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces a dilemma. Does she step in and risk the wrath of her daughters? Or does she stand by and watch them both make what she fears will be the biggest mistakes of their lives?

I wanted to write a novel about a mother and how a family might work today… and this one with separated parents is, perhaps, not so untypical. A wedding provides rich fodder for the novelist – the funny, sad and magical aspects of this milestone. Also a wedding is the moment when parents say ‘goodbye’ to their children … provoking the deepest and most mixed of emotions. I hope all these elements are in Daughters!

You were Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association between 1995 and 1997. Would you define yourself as a romance writer?

A: I don’t think of myself as any particular brand of writer at all. All I want to do is to write the novels in my head. In that way, I am entirely free and not bound in.

Do you think that the experience of working as both a blurb writer and as fiction editor has somehow shaped the way you write?

A: The two activities seem worlds apart but I do think writing blurbs was the best of nursery slopes for an infant writer. To do both well, it is important to have a central idea fuelling the writing. E.g. in Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman I stumbled on the aphorism ‘living well is the best revenge’. Once I had that tucked up in my head, the novel took shape. Equally, when writing a blurb I had to ‘know’ what the book was about. Perhaps the most profound technical lesson I learnt writing blurbs is: less is more, keep it clear, simple and direct … and to avoid adverbs like the plague.

One of your novels, Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman, has been made into a television film for CBS. Did you like it? Which of your other novels would you particularly like to see adapted for the television or the big screen?

A: I’ve always wanted Consider the Lily to make it to TV. In fact, it was film optioned but it did not come to anything. Perfect Love and Light of the Moon (which was about an SOE agent in the Second World War) were also optioned – which just goes to show how low the strike rate for a finished film or TV adaptation is. I am not fussy. If anyone wished to adapt any of the novels, I would be delighted. The CBS version of Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was terrifically well done and made me laugh… the scriptwriter was much wittier than I am.

Many of your novels have been translated into other languages. Are you involved in the translation process in any way? Which non-English-speaking country have you had the most success in?

A: No, translation is a whole new world and I certainly would not have the expertise to pronounce on Polish or Serbo-Croat where the novels do well. I have also had some success in Germany and Italy which I am thrilled with.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: They do disrupt things but they have become a very important part of a writer’s life and it is difficult to ignore them. Anyway, I feel very strongly if readers make the effort to read my novels, I can certainly make the effort to connect with them.

What one fundamental piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: I am asked this a lot. I think it boils down to two words. DO IT. One can think, plot, plan, yearn, give excuses until the cows come home. Unless you put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, a novel will not get written. Pace yourself. If one page a day is all you can manage snatched between the demands of working and a family then set yourself the target of one page a day. (It will turn into two…) No theory or plan in the world matches the actual writing process. In doing so, you find out of what you are capable and experience the exhilaration of developing writing muscles. Good luck.

And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: Just to say thank you for your interest. And also to reiterate how convinced I am that reading is one of the most important things in a civilized society. The more we think about books and interact with one another about them, the better. Please keep talking. Please keep reading. I wish everyone the joy and enchantment of a good book…

And, if anyone wants to ask me about any of my novels, please do…

Thank you for your time!

And now, for a chance to win one copy of Separate Beds, click here and complete the form. The competition is open worldwide and will close on 17th October at 1pm.

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