Tuesday, September 04, 2007

An Interview with...Elizabeth Rolls

Elizabeth Rolls lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, in a beautiful lush valley full of apple, pear and cherry orchards. She moved there a couple of years back, escaping from the city and it’s just gorgeous. The property is small, only five acres, but has room for two small noisy boys, three dogs, two cats and several woolly things masquerading a environmently friendly lawnmowers.
Before thatshe lived in Melbourne, which was fun, but she and her husband always wanted to live in the country and now they do.
She has been married to an ex-nuclear physicist – don’t ask! for the last 17 years and they have two rowdy little boys, commonly described as “feral”.
Most of her friends think they have far too many animals, and everyone knows they have far too many books.
She grew up moving around a fair bit. Elizabeth's father was in the army and every few years the family had to up sticks and move on. She was born in England, expelled from kindergarten in Melbourne, started school in Papua New Guinea and finished school in Melbourne.
After taking a degree in Music Education she taught music for several years while her husband finished his Ph.D.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an
early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to
pursue your dream?
A job that was driving me insane. I missed my Masters thesis. A friend who read the first draft of my first book and persuaded me to submit it. But I’d always loved writing and I always had stories unfolding in my head. Ever since I was little. I didn’t write them down much after I left school, but they were still there and eventually it just got to the point where one of them had to come out.
How long after you first started submitting did it take for
you to have your first book accepted?
You really don’t want to hear the answer to that, do you? Just give me a moment to get under cover . . . I sold my first book. But before people start lobbing hand-grenades, can I point out that selling your first book is not all roses. You don’t know a blessed thing about the industry. You have no idea about the editing process and you certainly have no idea just HOW you managed to write a book. And you have a husband who thinks that writing books must be easy! Along with all these authors who want to kill you. Added to that all your mistakes are out there. In public. Mind you, plenty of people love that book so it’s not all bad. I did the best I could with it at the time, so I refuse to feel bad about it.
Can you share a special recipe? Either one that your characters
make in your latest book, or one you often make?
Richard and Thea don’t really get anywhere near a kitchen in this book. Although, no, Richard does. But he only heats up milk. A special recipe .. . . okay, my family really likes this one. My sister-in-law gave it to me.
Elizabeth’s Choc Chip Cookies
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of milk
drop of vanilla essence
4 oz melted butter
Beat well with a fork and add;
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup of choc chip bits
Mix together. Roll into little balls and place on prepared baking tray. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake at 350-375F for about 10-15 minutes. Let harden for a few minutes on the baking tray and then transfer to wire racks to cool. If you eat them too soon you burn your mouth on the choc chips – or so my sons tell me.

Perhaps I should point out that this recipe is NOT for anyone on a diet. Kids love them, not to mention husbands. Also they are dead easy for children to make. You just have to help with the melted butter. You can add nuts as well as the choc chips if you like. Macadamia is gorgeous.
What attracts you to your time period? I love the sense of a society about to change. Change is already happening in the form of the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, but more change is on the way politically and with the coming of the railways in 1825.
Writers often use photos of movie or tv stars for inspiration,
who has been the inspiration for some of your heroes?
I must be a bit odd. I don’t actually use photos in that way. Not of people anyway. I’m more likely to see a picture of a place or house and start imagining who lived there. Or I read some odd snippet of information and stories start to form around it. I know many readers don’t like blow by blow descriptions of the characters – they find it constraining. I seem to be the same way with photographs of potential heroes. And heroines for that matter. If I find one that reminds me of them, that’s another matter. My characters tend to walk into my head fully formed physically. Reading about someone is far more likely to inspire me than a visual image.
Who are some of your favourite romance authors? Jo Beverley, Anne Stuart, Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland, Helen Kirkman – this is in no particular order, and the list is by no means complete – Anne Gracie, Elizabeth Lowell, Jennifer Crusie, Linda Howard. I have many favourites and I seem to be adding to that list all the time.
When you are not writing what do you do? Try to get to three exercise classes a week to counteract all that sitting on my backside. Read. Drive my sons to and from various after-school activities – I usually write while I’m sitting in the car. I’m on a couple of local committees too. It’s much harder to remain anonymous in the country. I really love to spend time enjoying our garden.
What are some of your favourite movies? An Affair to Remember, The Philadelphia Story, Notorious, Charade – yes all right; I love Cary Grant. To Kill a Mockingbird – we watched that the other night and I sat there during the courtroon scene getting weepier and weepier. Gregory Peck can always get my heart rate up. To Catch a Thief – Cary Grant again, and I just love it when my husband gets antsy about Grace Kelly swinging around the cliff tops in that car. It’s quite an experience to hear him yelling “Slow down! Slow down! You’ll miss one!” Loved Lord of the Rings to bits. My sons love them too, so every holidays we have a Viewing. The Shrek movies. Wallace and Grommit – The Curse of the Were Rabbit . . .
Can you tell us about your future books? I’m just finishing up the story of one of the secondary characters from A Compromised Lady. I started thinking about Julian quite a while back, possibly because he became important in ACL. He’s been quite an interesting character, because perhaps more clearly than any of my other heroes, he is full of the prejudices of his time. Especially the ones pertaining to breeding. He likes well-bred dogs, well-bred horses and has been taking it rather for granted that his so-far-hypothetical bride will be equally well-bred . . . After that I have a few murders planned and I would love to write another novella. I like writing novellas. They are a lovely change of weight and pace.
What does your writing cave look like? A total mess. I clean up at the end of each book and in between if I get really badly stuck. That’s usually the point where I decide my editor needs a synopsis and I tidy up my mind, plot and the mess at the same time. I have a desk for the computer and one for old-fashioned scribbling which works really well for me. Large parts of my recent books exist in literal manuscript. I will admit that if scribbling is involved I work in the garden, weather permitting.
What is about the heroes from that time period that excites
My aunt thinks it’s because of the skin tight pants the men wear – she says you can see what they’re thinking. I love the fact that in those days a man could still – just – get away with fighting a duel. It lends a certain edge to any argument over a woman!

What is the worst thing about being a writer? Sitting on my behind all day! I am very aware that having such a sedentary job is having an appalling effect on my jeans size. I’ve found a local exercise group and started working out.
What is the biggest challenge you face when you are writing a
book? The beginning, middle or end?
Yes! It depends on the book. The middle, let’s face, it always sags. Usually I need to take it apart and do something drastic to it. Like cut half of it out. The beginning is rarely the same beginning that I started with. Sometimes the original opening ends up as backstory. Or sometimes it gets axed completely. For A Compromised Lady I tried about half a dozen openings. I feel that I’m in good company though, since I read that JK Rowling did the same with the first Harry Potter book. I need to write myself into it and find out about my characters that way. As for the end, it can take me ages to figure out exactly HOW to end it, but once I’ve worked it out the writing generally happens fast. It’s often a minor plot point that will hold me up, something I have to work out how to make it happen physically. With A Compromised Lady the main difficulty was working out why and when certain things had to be revealed to Thea, and/or Richard, and the reader. At one stage just about everything was revealed to Richard right near the end. That just wasn’t working, and when my editor read the draft, she said that I needed to work that out. Space the revelations better. A very helpful comment, because it also helped with the structure, driving the plot from one stage to the next. I have a really good editor.
The bit I love the most is the final polish, pulling it all together and, hopefully, knowing that you’ve got it as right as you can.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Rolls for chatting with the Harlequin Historical Authors.

A Compromised Lady

also available as an e-book.


Charlene Sands said...

You're place looks stunning and 5 acres here in the US would be considered quite large! I'm a huge Cary Grant fan too. I'm making a collection of his DVD'S. I love his romantic comedies, Houseboat and Operation Petticoat and Father Goose to name a few. Great post.
Charlene - agreeing about the worst thing about writing- sitting in the "chair" all day.

Carol Townend said...

Oh, no, not another recipe to try! I shall have to double up the gym regime this week...
Am particularly interested about the part when you revise, it's odd isn't it that sometimes what started out as The Whole Point of a book has to go.
At the moment not all the pics are coming through, but will try later.
Enjoyable post, thanks!
Best wishes

Judy T said...

There's a pleasure in seeing a writer's first novel and then the development of their skill. My first Elizabeth Rolls read was "A Soldier's Tale." I've thoroughly enjoyed all of Elizabeth's stories. I've only one complaint: I hate having to wait for the next one! Thanks for the great interview.

Kate Bridges said...

Elizabeth, the landscape where you live looks gorgeous! I hope to make it to Australia some day...

LOL on the writer's backside syndrome. I find that part very challenging, too--getting up to move every now and then. I bought myself a little puppy last year so she would nudge me to get up more. Boy, that worked a little too well!

The cover for your new book is pretty!


Elizabeth Rolls said...

Ack! I've finally discovered a version of this blog where there are comments! I'm not sure what my browser was pulling up before, but there was nowhere to comment. Or any indication that there WERE comments. I'm sorry to appear so rude!

Carol - hugs on the recipe. I was so pleased when an exercise group started locally. I just don't have the self discipline to do it alone.

Sorry about the waiting, Judy T. But I'm very glad you didn't wait to find me until I had a bigger back list!

Charlene and Kate - we are so lucky to live where we do. The Australian landscape is extremely varied, as I'm sure you know. We really do have a bit of everything. Except live volcanoes. We let the New Zealanders have them!

CherylStJ said...

Bake? Cookie dough never makes it to the oven in my house! LOL

Great blog. Smooches!