Ellie, how long have you been writing and how did you get started?
All Saints? is my first book and I started writing it three years ago, although parts of it were swimming around in my head for about a year before that. I had lots of bits of paper with conversations and bits of the plot, which I arranged in order across the floor. (This is probably not how you are supposed to start writing a book.) It took me a long time to actually start the first chapter. In the end I asked my husband for an opening sentence, wrote it down and then just kept going. The original opening line got changed in the edit!
Infertility, adoption and singleness – what drew you to these complex and sometimes painful issues?
Personal experience – I’ve done the infertility thing, I’m doing the adoption thing, I thought I was going to do the singleness thing, but that turned out not to be the case. The honest answer is that I felt comfortable writing about the emotions my characters were experiencing because I had experienced them myself.
I can remember one Sunday, many years ago, sitting down at the back of church with my husband, before he was a minister himself. We knew we were unlikely to ever have a baby of our own, we had been through failed fertility treatment and we had been in the adoption system for two years, with no placement. I would come home from work every day and look for the red light on the answering machine to see if our social worker had left a message. That Sunday I thought no one in church could feel as unhappy as me. Then I looked at all the people sitting in front of me, thought about the problems many of them had been through or were facing and I felt ashamed of myself. What I’m trying to say is, life doesn’t always work out exactly as we might have hoped; we do live in a very fallen world after all. However, I truly believe that God is in it with us and in all things God works for our good. But, we do need to work with Him, rather than trying to do things our own way. That’s often when things go wrong and this is a theme I have tried to work into the book.
Why did you feel fiction was the best way to approach these matters?
I saw a video clip on Facebook once that explained very clearly why children who have been in the care system can often behave very differently to those who have not. I shared it, hoping that it might help some of my friends understand why my children don’t behave quite like theirs. To my knowledge, none of my friends looked at it. This shouldn’t have surprised me – it was answering questions I was asking, not questions they were asking. It occurred to me that fiction can be easy to read, but can also be a good way of getting a message across.
How did the plot?
Backwards – I started by thinking about where I wanted to end up, then developed the plot to get there.
Which character do you relate most closely to and why?
There are three main characters in the book – Sophie, Lucy and Hayley. I relate most closely to Sophie because she is a minister’s wife and an adopter and so am I. I understand her struggles in both areas. However, I have given Lucy my personality, so I can relate to her quite closely as well.
What were the hardest parts to write and why?
That would be a plot spoiler! But I found Hayley’s story difficult to write because, although I understand her motives, she makes me so cross!
What do you hope readers will take away from All Saints??
For a person of faith I would hope that they would feel challenged to trust God, whatever the circumstances. For those of no faith, I would hope that they would take away a little more understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. I would also hope that readers might take away the idea that some children have reasons for challenging behaviour that have nothing to do with bad parenting.
Has your faith influenced your writing?
Yes, I think my faith is the point of my writing. Also, in chapter twelve of All Saints? a small miracle happens to Sophie, which I can relate to quite closely.
How did you find the publication process?
I started with no experience or knowledge of how the publication process works, but the Instant Apostle team has been brilliant – very professional but also very patient with me. The editing process was a little painful at times as my word count was reduced, but I learned a lot through it. It sharpened the focus and improved the flow.
What one piece of advice would you want to give to a new writer?
Pray before you start, pray as you write and then keep on praying.
What are you working on now?
I’m not writing anything new at the moment. In the middle of the pandemic, we are thinking and praying about how church might be different in the future.
Finally, what is your favourite book and why?
Apart from the Bible, you can’t beat Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As well as being a wonderful story, it gives one hope that people can change for the better.