Bea Hutchings interviews Elizabeth Ducie, who is passionate about writing and self-publishing. Elizabeth lives in Chudleigh and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction books.
Elizabeth, what inspired you to start writing?
I have always loved writing: crafting an elegant phrase; making sure the punctuation is correct - especially the apostrophes.
I spent many years travelling the world and amassed a huge number of anecdotes and ideas. And people used to say to me: you should write those down.
You must have a lot of notebooks. So, how long have you been a writer?
I have been a technical writer since the 1980s. In 2006, I decided to try and write something creative instead; and fifteen years later, I’m still at it.
Was it ever in the back of your mind to write fiction?
Not consciously, no. It was only when I started the creative writing that I realised there was a whole community out there and the ‘writer’ was a legitimate title to carry.
What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Practise; practise; practise. Try lots of different things: fiction, non-fiction, poetry. See what works and what doesn’t.
Join a writing group or find other ways to link up with other writers, both at the same level as you and with more experience. Never stop learning.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
I’m not sure I can answer that question. If we are writing for other people, and most of us are, then whether it is ‘good’ or not, depends on the taste of the reader. And not everyone likes the same thing.
But from the point of view of the craft: it needs to be drafted, then edited, then polished, then proof-read.
Always present it in the best possible way. It’s a product: be proud of it.
This is a question a lot of people must ask you. When you get the idea for a story, what comes first, the plot or characters?
For me, it is usually the setting; then the characters; and finally, the plot.
Is there a specific way you develop your plot and characters?
I write long back stories for each of my main characters.
Much of the detail never sees the light of day, but it helps me to get to know them better.
As for the plot: it tends to develop as I go along.
I sometimes know what the final line or final scene is going to be, but rarely know what the characters are doing until they do.
I write cosy crime and I don’t know who the villain is until he/she has committed the crime and been found out.
What do you think is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Letting go. I don’t think a writer is ever fully satisfied with their work.
But there comes a point where I am sick of the story and can’t bear to read it through one more time.
That’s usually a good sign that it’s not going to get any better.
You’re a busy lady, so what is your work schedule like when you are writing?
I write the first draft of my novels in November during the writers’ challenge, National Novel Writing Month.
Then I edit in January through to July, interspersed with alpha and beta reading.
Proofreading takes place around August, and I prepare for my launch in October.
Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
With my latest novel, I have switched to cosy crime and am working hard to develop a US market.
I am getting much more feedback now than I used to, and thankfully, it is all very positive.
They love the new setting – a fictional village set in the Haldon Hills – and it looks like the series is going to be well-received.
How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?
I don’t write particularly deep stories. I try to have fun with them, even the ones which include a murder, and so the emotional impact is not onerous.
On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?
During the initial drafting stage, it can be as little as an hour or two. But when I am editing, it takes longer.
I generally only write in the mornings and concentrate on marketing in the afternoons.
Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
Yes, I am on Facebook and Twitter regularly. And I have Instagram and Pinterest accounts, although I am not a heavy user of those.
I am about to take a big breath and investigate Tik Tok, as there’s a growing community of readers and writers on there under the #Booktok label.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I have written five novels and three collections of short stories. Plus, a series of manuals on business skills for writers.
My first novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, was runner up in the Self-published Book of the Year awards in 2015. So, there’s always a soft spot for that one. Plus, it took me seven years to write and publish. So, a huge investment in time.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
Although I started off writing travel pieces and memoirs, I am better at embedding real incidents in fictional scenarios.
I didn’t expect to end up as a novelist, but that’s what happened.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
When I wrote the Jones Sisters thrillers, Suzanne Jones is closest to me in experience and temperament.
However, Charlie Jones is much more fun and is the hard-working, hard-playing, risk-taking person I would like to be.
After the thrillers, she wouldn’t get out of my head, so I have retired her to Devon with her family; she and her partner, Annie, are the main focus of the Coombesford Chronicles, as series of cosy crimes with female amateur sleuths.
Where can readers purchase your books?
They are available both as ebooks and in paperback format. The former is available on Amazon and all other major platforms; and the latter can be found on Amazon too.
But I also sell paperbacks direct from my website and can provide signed copies which make great presents.
Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
I’m living in a small semi-rural community after a lifetime in towns and cities. It’s a totally different kind of life and I love it.
And I wanted to write about it but was worried I would upset people if they recognised themselves - or thought they did.
Inventing a fictional village not far from my hometown of Chudleigh allows me the mix fact and fiction – and have some fun along the way.
What was the highlight of writing this latest book?
Finding out who committed the murder. I only realised it right at the last minute; much like the reader, I hope.
Find out more on the website: elizabethducie.co.uk. Where you can find details of all her books and links to all the purchasing platforms.
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