Please welcome Patricia Elliot to the blog! Patricia is the author of The Pale Assassin, the (soon to be released in the US) The Traitor’s Smile,and much more! She’s also offered some giveaway books and swag, so please check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Patricia, you write everything from Supernatural Thrillers and Gothic Fantasy, to Historical Thrillers! It says on your website that you began writing when you were six. Did you ever imagine that you’d grow up to be a successful writer?
It was definitely part of my game plan from six years old to about…eighteen, I guess! I didn’t realize during my childhood just how hard it is to be a published writer and how difficult it is – when you’ve got a job and/or children – to find time to write. Although I was always scribbling something, I didn’t start to write seriously until my children were at school full-time. And I’d written two novels before my third one was published.
What is your favorite genre to write, or do you like writing all of them equally?
My favorite is always the genre that I’m writing in at the time! I love writing historical because of the freedom it gives your characters (young people are so restricted these days) and because of the research, which I enjoy; but I also love writing fantasy and supernatural thrillers because then I can really use my imagination.
What were some of your biggest literary influences when you were growing up?
I tried to ‘copy’ my favourite books, which were the Moomin books by Tove Jansson, the historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff and the fantasies of Alan Garner. I read a lot of myths and fairy tales, especially the Norse myths and English folk tales, and I think these have had a lasting influence. I also remember loving Elizabeth Enright, the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew (yes!) and Jane Yolen. So – a real mixture.
Do you have any contemporary favorites?
Too numerous to mention. I read widely, often novels to do with what I’m writing at the moment, not necessarily contemporary – for instance, I’m re-reading Wilkie Collins’s ‘The Moonstone’ just now. I haven’t read it since I was thirteen, and what a great classic it is, full of atmosphere and mystery! I’m also reading Kate Summerscale’s ‘ The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’, a true-life detective story from the Victorian period.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Not sure if it is a quirk or not, or if it’s particularly interesting, but I do have to write notes on each of my novels in a particular type of notebook. They have to be A4, lined, with black boards, and I buy them from a stationery chain. I’ve bought the same notebook for all my novels. I write down anything that suddenly comes into my head that might be something I might find useful at some point in writing the novel. So the pages are full of these scribbled thought processes, and I now have a number of these rather undistinguished black notebooks piling up!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A plotter. I like to know the beginning and the end, and my characters fairly thoroughly. I like to leave the middle to work out as I write, knowing how the story must resolve. That way it’s always interesting, and I discover new things as I go along.
It says on your website that you spent most of your childhood in Europe and the Far East! What were some of your favorite parts of living in Singapore?
Singapore City itself was a very different place then. Very few high rise buildings, lots of old colonial ones, and a warren of streets with little houses and shops that teemed with color and life and exotic smells, especially down by the docks. I loved going to a place called ‘Change Alley’ where you could get the most wonderful silks very cheaply. It seemed like a magical world, all those rolls of brightly colored materials, which I used to buy in tiny amounts to make clothes for my puppets. We had a lovely cookboy called Dong, who cooked the best roast chicken and rice I’ve ever tasted, and when he left us (as he had to: he had TB), he gave me a glass ornament with tiny figures and a landscape inside, which I still have in my study today.
Can you tell us more about the Raffles Library?
It was an imposing colonial building on several floors, with a grand staircase. The children’s books were on the second floor. No air-conditioning in those days, of course, but huge fans that whirred above your head. The rather dusty children’s books ranged from Victorian melodramas with the child usually dying, to slightly more contemporary ones! A little old man sat in an office at the top of the staircase – he was in charge, I think – and I remember my mother telling him – much to my embarrassment – that I must be allowed more than two books a week because I was going to be a writer when I grew up! She got her way.
What do you love most about living near the River Thames?
I like the way you can see the shape of the river so clearly and imagine so easily how it must have looked through history. Opposite us are some beautiful eighteenth century houses and further along, the trees come right down to the water, so it looks much as it did in Henry the Eighth’s time, when the river was the most convenient form of transport.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I am not a particularly daring person (I like my characters to have my adventures for me!) but playing a dares game in the dormitory at boarding school, I had to go alone around the icy edge of the roof at night. There was a parapet, but in places it was broken away, so there was a sheer drop. I’ve also sailed a boat through an electric storm to safety in harbor. That was frightening. The world turned green!
Can you tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know?
Although I seem gentle on the outside, I am quite fierce on the inside, particularly when it comes to defending children and animals.
Is there any news about upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share?
I’m helping to organize a creative writing festival for young people in South London to take place next year, and co-pioneering a ‘celebration of story-making’ in East Anglia for the following year. At the moment I’m writing a murder mystery set in the Victorian period, and having great fun reading up about poisons (much to my husband’s alarm!).
*Giveaway is for 4 copies of The Pale Assassin+swag (4 winners)-please note: Patricia is sending me the books from the UK, so please be patient if you’re one of the winners. I’ll get them to you as quickly as I can!
**GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**