Today’s post is a bit different because I’m chatting to Elle about her debut novel, her book deal and what it feels like to be a published author! Oh yes, if you didn’t know, Elle’s written her first book, The Guilty Wife. She’s got herself a book deal for not just one book but two and she’s absolutely smashing it on the Kindle sales charts.
Elle has been a regular contributor to The Travel Hack for years now and we’ve taken so many incredible trips together. I’m now so proud and so happy and so in awe of her for writing The Guilty Wife. Elle is such an inspiration for anyone who has the dream to become a published author. But really, she’s an inspiration for anyone who has a dream.
I also love the fact that Elle hasn’t pretended the journey has been easy and it’s taken a lot of hard work to achieve this dream. She’s like the poster girl for just getting shit done. She had a dream and she did it. She created a career for herself that allowed for flexible working so she could sit down and get that book written. She didn’t spend her time wishing for more time or hoping her book would write itself, she made it happen and I’m just amazed by the determination it must have taken.
She’s been writing the book for a couple of years so I’ve always had sneaky peaks into her life as an author. I’ve seen how difficult it’s been, how hard she’s worked but also what a natural she is.
I’ve asked Elle a few questions to find out more about The Guilty Wife and her life as an author.
Can you tell us about The Guilty Wife?
Bethany Reston is happily married. But she’s also having an affair with a famous client. And no one can ever know.
When Bethany’s lover is brutally murdered, she has to hide her grief from everyone. But someone knows her secret. And then one day the threats begin.
With an ever-growing pile of evidence pointing to her as the murderer, the only way she can protect her secrets is to prove her innocence. And that means tracking down a killer.
The Guilty Wife, my debut novel, is a psychological thriller set in London. It was released as an eBook in early December 2017, and since then it’s reached the top 10 in Amazon’s Kindle bestseller charts. At the end of January, it was also released as a paperback, which is currently available in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and it’ll soon be translated into seven different languages!
How did it feel when you saw your book in a bookshop for the first time?
I actually spotted The Guilty Wife in Australia before it was released in the UK, as I was visiting family for Christmas. I saw it for the first time in Big W (like an Aussie version of Walmart), which was extremely cool. I took an excited photo for Twitter, walked out of the store, and then burst into tears.
I’m not sure I can truly describe how surreal and overwhelming and incredible it felt, but it’s safe to say it was a dream come true. I still get a pretty big thrill from seeing it on a shelf somewhere, and I’m not sure that’ll ever wear off – I hope it doesn’t, anyway.
Did you always know you’d write a book someday?
It was something I’d always dreamed about, but it didn’t feel like a very realistic goal. I didn’t know anyone who had been published, and for years I was filled with self-doubt, and was convinced that I wouldn’t ever find a career I loved.
It wasn’t until I started blogging and my confidence grew that I began believing I could do it. Even then it took a good few years of really hard work, but it was the belief that it was possible that really got me started.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? How did you actually sit down and write a whole novel?
To get anything done, I need to treat writing like a full-time job, which means sitting at my desk from 9 till 5 and blocking access to websites I know I’ll procrastinate on. Getting the first draft on the page is such a key part of the process, but it’s also one of the most difficult, as it’s really tempting to edit as I go. But I have to resist that and just write it all, knowing it won’t be any good, and then edit it afterwards.
In terms of a proper process, I don’t think I have one yet, as such. The Guilty Wife was written over the course of a number of years, whereas I have a deadline for my second novel, which means the whole process has been accelerated, and looks totally different.
Maybe one day I’ll have a tried and tested process from the first idea to the final manuscript, so chat to me in a few years’ time and I’ll let you know!
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Editing! My agent is an absolute rock star at editing, and through her guidance, The Guilty Wife was completely transformed in a matter of months.
I’m so grateful that I had her expert advice, but the editing process wasn’t easy. There were plenty of tears and tantrums, missed social events and sleepless nights, and although I know it was all worth it, it was tough and it really tested me as a writer and as a person.
Giveaway alert! If you’re looking for a new book to snuggle up with this autumn, head over to Goodreads (link in bio) to win one of 15 copies of #theguiltywife (UK residents only, soz). It’s been described as “a rip-roaring, twisting psychological thriller that is not to be missed” so don’t miss out! (And also, can we all use the word rip-roaring more often, please?) ?
How long did it take you to come up with the plot and characters for your book and where did you find your inspiration for The Guilty Wife?
One of my biggest inspirations is a bit of a spoiler, so I can’t really say (annoying, I know).
But what I can say is that I was fascinated by the idea of secrets, and the lengths some people will go to in order to keep them. I’m also constantly inspired by London: its creepy corners and the (often false) sense of anonymity you can find in such an enormous city.
As for the plot and characters, well, they evolved and changed so much that it wasn’t something I did once and then left alone. For as long as I was writing The Guilty Wife, I was coming up with plotlines and character traits. It was ever-changing, which certainly kept me on my toes!
Can you tell us about the community of writers around crime writing and how they’ve responded to The Guilty Wife?
I didn’t know any other crime writers until quite recently, and I have to admit I was nervous about meeting them. But after going to a few crime writing events I can honestly say that they’re some of the most fun, supportive, welcoming people ever.
Although they write about pretty dark topics, they’re not the brooding, scary people I expected them to be, which I’m obviously quite pleased about, as now I’m one of them!
I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reaction I’ve had to The Guilty Wife from other writers. It’s very surreal to have people whose work I respect and admire saying nice things about my writing, so that’s been an unexpectedly lovely part of this journey.
Do you ever suffer from writers’ block?
I don’t think so, at least not in the true sense of the phrase. I have days when the words come easily and I’m really happy with what I’ve written, and then I have days when I stare at the page for hours in a desperate attempt to come up with a single sentence.
But I’ve always found something to say, thankfully!
Do many people assume the characters are based on people you know?
This one always cracks me up. It’s so funny to work out what people accept as fiction and what they read into. No one ever thinks I must have murdered someone in order to write about murder, but they assume certain elements or characters must be based on reality. The funniest thing for me has been when people I know personally ask what my novel is called. There have been plenty of raised eyebrows and comments to my husband like, ‘are you worried?’. To be fair, if he saw my search history for things like ‘how to dispose of a body’, he might be!
There are some traits from real people that I’ve used in my characters, but what I write really is fiction, so if you see a travel blogger called Monica in my next book, she’s totally not based on you (joking, I haven’t done that)!
How did you actually go about getting your book published?
The first step is finding an agent, as most publishers don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Before you find an agent you need to have a finished manuscript, a synopsis and a cover letter. I’ve written a blog post all about finding an agent, and the letter I wrote to try to catch her attention – you can check out all the details here if you’re interested.
Once I found my agent, we spent a few months editing and then it was time for her to pitch my book to publishers. I was extremely lucky, because I had an offer within 24 hours of submitting – I hear that’s really rare, but it’s the only experience I have! Then there were more edits, copy edits, line edits (basically, a lot of editing) and then the fun stuff like seeing my cover for the very first time! It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, but in the best possible way.
What’s your plan now that you’re a published author?
Keep writing! I’d love to do this full-time, and to make a living from my writing, so my plan is just to keep going and try to write a better book every time. No pressure.
Can you tell us anything about book number 2?
I can’t tell you a lot yet, but I can say that it’s called The Other Sister, and it’ll be out later this year. In fact, you can pre-order it now on Amazon!