In conversation with... Lexie Elliott

Hi Lexie! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The French Girl. Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you! The French Girl explores the shifting relationships, and memories, of London-based recruiter Kate as she becomes entangled in a murder investigation following the discovery of a body at the French farmhouse in which she and her university friends holidayed ten years ago.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: The general arc of the plot was fairly well established when I started, but the big surprise was Severine. I hadn’t intended her to be much more than a pile of bones (that’s not exactly a plot spoiler, as she’s dead by page 2), but she had other ideas and somewhat built out her part, so to speak! And the novel is all the better for it, so I’m enormously grateful to her. In fact, she even got a mention in my Acknowledgements section.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Kate and Severine?

A: I find this question hard, as my characters are very firmly fixed in my imagination. But if I truly have to give an answer I would say that I think Ellie Kendrick, whom many of you will know as Meera from Game of Thrones, would do a remarkably good job of inhabiting Kate; she has the ability to display vulnerability alongside steel, which is crucial. Ellie hails from London, which is another point in her favour, as I think it’s important that Kate is played by a British actor; there are many subtle references to class divide that might not be understood quite so well by a non-British actor. As for Severine, a dear friend suggested that Marine Vacth would be a good candidate and I can’t say that I’ve thought of anyone better so far.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I don’t think any scene stands out as having been particularly difficult to write. On balance I probably find the dialogue-heavy scenes a little easier. If I’m getting bogged down, taking a short break often helps, or sometimes I skip forward to another scene and come back to that section later, when my brain has had a chance to mull over it.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: There’s a lot that didn’t ever make it to the page, but that’s because the reader doesn’t need to wade through the entire backstory of every character. All of the characters have them, though, because they are real people, at least in my head. But the differences between the final product and the version that my publisher first received are negligible. Switching to US spellings for the North American edition was the biggest change!

The French Girl is your debut novel. Can you please describe your journey to publication?

A: It was long! Very long! It takes time (and luck) to get an agent, then it takes time (and luck) for that agent to secure a publishing deal. And once you have a publishing deal, it seems to take forever for the book to actually land on the shelves; the lead times to publication are so much longer than I ever imagined. I think I was rather naïve about the whole publishing experience; it’s been eye-opening to see how many people are involved, and more than a little humbling to have all of these intelligent dedicated passionate professionals working on my book. I can’t thank them enough.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I am indeed working on my next novel, which will be published in Spring 2019. I won’t say too much about it just yet, but I can at least tell you that it’s set in a rather interesting old house in rural Scotland, to which my protagonist is forced to return under difficult circumstances… I grew up at the foot of the Highlands and I’ve really enjoyed writing within the landscape of my childhood.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram 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: I cope very badly! I try my best to have some sort of presence but in truth I find social media very difficult; I wasn’t even on Facebook before I had a book to promote. Instagram is my favourite of the platforms, and I am probably most active on that one. If you care to follow me on Twitter or Facebook also I can guarantee that you won’t find my volume of tweets/posts overwhelming! As to whether it disrupts my writing: absolutely. I’m already time-constrained (because I work in fund management in the City of London 3 days a week, and I have a family) so anything that steals away writing time is disruptive. But on the other hand it also gives me direct contact with readers, which is hugely rewarding. There’s an amazing community out there of hugely passionate, dedicated and intelligent readers, reviewers and bloggers, and it has been a pleasure to connect with that.

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

A: Read. Read everything that you want to, regardless of whether it’s classed as commercial or literary, high brow or low brow. You need to know what you would want to read before you start writing. Then when you do set about writing, approach it professionally: carve out time for it, make it part of your weekly routine. If you can afford to go on writing courses or attend writer’s festivals, those can be enormously helpful too; writing is a skill – you need to learn the tools of the trade. 

Thank you for your time!

A: You’re very welcome.

**

You can read my thoughts on The French Girl here, where you can also find out how you can win a copy of this book!

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