Friday, 20 February 2015

Q&A with Ella Fairlie

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1.   Did you always dream of being a writer?

I think so, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself for a really long time! Nobody who knows me was surprised when I finally started. I was also a book publisher for a long time, and the whole point is to be behind the scenes of the publishing process and developing someone else’s style successfully rather than finding your own voice. I didn’t start writing until I left publishing.

2.   In 2014 you were the joint winner of the sunlounger competition. How did you feel when you heard you won?

Completely amazed! I decided to write a story for the competition because it forced me to put myself out there and finish something (even if it was just 3000 words). I was so proud of myself for that, but I never thought I would even shortlist. It was a huge thrill and honour to be joint winner.

3.   The short story Days of Miracle & Wonder was published in the Sunlounger 2, what is the story about?

It’s the story of Cassie, the last single one among her friends, who goes on safari for a wedding and finds herself falling in love with Africa… and with a handsome game ranger, of course!

4.   What was your inspiration for it?

I’m from (and currently live in) South Africa, so I wanted to write about SA, especially the bushveld, which is my favourite place on earth. I also wanted to write a story that was hopeful and uplifting, and the idea of the universe sort of conspiring to bring two people together. The tiny but tremendous miracle that happens every day. The title comes from a Paul Simon song, and it really sums up the feel of the story, I think.

5.   In December 2014 you published the first in a series of romcom novellas, The Christmas Bucket List. Can you tell us more about it?

I LOVE Christmas, so I decided to write the kind of Christmas story I wanted to read, full of everything festive and snowy and twinkly. It’s about Isobel, who’s living in London and away from her family over the holidays for the first time. She’s pinned all her hopes for a perfect Christmas on doing a list of fun festive activities with her rubbish boyfriend. When he goes AWOL she ends up doing the list with her colleague Jamie, and figuring out a few things along the way.

6.   How did you develop the story and the characters?

The bucket list was the starting point, and it gave me a really good structure to work with, which was brilliant for a newbie writer like me. I wanted to write about a South African girl abroad, and about how (while it’s fun to have a bucket list), the ‘perfect’ Christmas is about the people you spend it with, not getting everything just right. The rest sort of grew from there, although after a while the characters took on a bit of a life of their own.

7.   I love the idea of a Christmas bucket list or a bucket list in general, how did you put together the items for the list?

I actually made my own Christmas bucket list a few years ago when I wasn’t having a particularly festive season, and I filled it with all the things that make me feel Christmassy. It was so fun! For the novella, I added in some specifically London-ey winter experiences, like Borough Market, Winter Wonderland and skating at Somerset House, as well as a few things straight out of TV Christmases, like gingerbread houses. (Yet to do one of these myself. Maybe next year!)

8.   The next book in this series is called The Venice Bucket List and it was published February 14, what can we expect?

This one’s a little less focused on the concept of the list itself (although there’s a handy list at the back again!). It’s set during Carnevale, which just happened to fall over Valentine’s this year, so it has everything that a romantic trip to wintery Venice should – gondola rides, masquerade balls, and a lovely Italian man too :) Plus Jamie and Isobel from the first book are along for the ride.

9.   Can you say anything about your future stories yet?

I’m lucky enough to be in the RNA New Writers’ Scheme this year, so after this I’ll be working on a full novel (eek!). It’s a little different, with a tiny touch of magical realism, but that’s all I’ll say for now!

10. Where and when do you write your stories?

I’m still learning to be disciplined about writing every day, which really is the only way to get on with it if you ever want to write anything. I mostly write in my little office or in bed, which my chiropractor would be furious about. I actually prefer writing late at night, as I have the concentration of a goldfish and hate to be disturbed.

11.  What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

I work for myself as a blogger and freelance content marketer mostly, which gives me the freedom to travel. I love to cook (and eat!) and I’m never happier than when I’m eating a long, slow lunch in beautiful surroundings with good friends and lots of wine.

12. Who is your favourite author and why?

That’s so hard! There are so many I love and admire. Of all time, I think I’d have to pick Edna St Vincent Millay, who is actually a poet rather than a novelist, but her sonnets are some of my favourite things in the world. It’s deceptively simple, devastatingly beautiful writing, and she cuts to the heart of her subject in a way I can only hope to ever emulate. Edna has ALL the feels.

13. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want with you?

Can’t I just get shipwrecked with a full Kindle? ;) I’ll go with Shakespeare’s Complete Works, because then I’d never run out of material. Any of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, because they never fail to make me happy and appreciative of the small things in life (an attitude I could probably use on a desert island). And The Great Gatsby, because it’s basically the most perfect novel written, and I’ll never get tired of reading it.

14. You lived in lots of places in this world already (South Africa, New York, Milan and London). What does traveling mean to you?

I love travelling, but I’m not really one for backpacking or doing huge long trips to loads of places. I like to take it slowly, really see a place, live there for a while if possible or just go back to my favourite places a lot. It’s a completely different perspective to a whistlestop tour.

15. If you could change something about your life, what would you change?

I’d have my 20-year-old metabolism back. Seriously though, I think everything you do brings you to who you are, and so, while of course there are some choices I regret, and things I would love to have or achieve, there’s no point in wishing any of where I am right now away.

16.  Imagine on The Christmas Bucket List would be turned into a movie. Tell us about your dream cast.

OMG I would love that. Cheesy Christmas TV movies are my BEST THING. I’m a bit useless at casting (unlike you – I loved your picks for the cast!) but when I was writing, I pictured Isobel a bit like Emily Blunt Jamie’s harder – in my head he’s like a cross between a less ridiculously good looking version of Channing Tatum and a young John Cusack.

17.  Coffee or tea?


18. Paperback or e-reader?

Both. I love reading on my iPad, but as I’ll always love paper.

19. Mountains or the sea?

The sea. In fact, any water.

20. Summer or winter?

Definitely summer! I hate being cold.

21. Sweet or salty?

Salty. I love chocolate, but if I had to choose, I’d pick a gorgeous starter over an extravagant dessert!

About Ella

Ella Fairlie was born and bred in South Africa, but ran off to see the world as soon as she had a literature degree. She has lived in New York, Milan and London (and been fashionable in none of them). For ten years, she worked in book publishing, before becoming a full-time blogger and digital nomad (wherever she lays her Mac is her home). She loves rugby, white wine, avocados and ‘80s high school movies (although not necessarily all at once).
In 2014 she was the joint winner of the Sunlounger competition and had her story, ‘Days of Miracle & Wonder’, published in the Sunlounger 2 anthology. In December 2014 she published the first in a series of romcom novellas, The Christmas Bucket List.
Ella on Twitter: @EllaFairlie

Book Links

Sunlounger 2 - Amazon UK

The Christmas Bucket List - Amazon UK

The Venice Bucket List - Amazon UK

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