Today, I bring you an author interview with Elsie McArthur. I am currently reading one of Elsie’s books and wanted to showcase this talented and engaging author. I just pre-ordered her next book, and it has been added to my 'to be read' list. I am most certainly a fan.
Elsie is an independent author of women's fiction, based in the Highlands of Scotland.
Elsie grew up in Glasgow, and after studying law at university in her hometown, she then re-trained as a primary school teacher. She now lives with her husband in Speyside, along with two kids, a couple of badly behaved dogs, and a cat with a superiority complex.
As well as continuing to work part time as a teacher, Elsie is now pursuing her first love of writing. Her debut novel, 'The Back Up Plan', was released in January 2020. Her second novel, 'Love, on the Rocks' - a tale of love, loss and starting over set on the remote Scottish island of Inniscreag – was published on the 20th August 2020.
So, let’s find out more about Elsie and her work.
Tell me about yourself
I’m a married mum of two from Scotland. I grew up in the outskirts of Glasgow, but about eight years ago we moved to the Highlands, and I love it here! I work as a primary school teacher during the day, and write when I can in the evenings or at weekends.
How long have you been writing?
I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a story bubbling around in my head! I’ve always been a daydreamer and a bookworm, and I started writing my own stories as a child. I always used to have a stash of notebooks hidden under my mattress! Writing went on the back burner through my teens and early twenties, as I was off at uni and starting out on my career, but I always knew I’d come back to it, sooner or later.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! Anything I experience myself, or even just passing by a random stranger in the street, or visiting a new place, can set off the idea for a story. I often find myself wondering about the chance encounters and decisions that can throw our lives one way or another. Most of my stories are set in Scotland, and I find settings very evocative, so often that’s the starting point for me – I’ll find a location that inspires me, and then from there I’ll start wondering about the people who live there, what brought them to this place, what their lives are like, etc.
Tell me about your book ‘The Back Up Plan’.
‘The Back Up Plan’ is about a woman named Marsaili who has reached a crossroads in her life. She left her childhood home – a remote village in the Highlands – to move to Glasgow and pursue a career as an actress, but over a decade later it hasn’t quite worked out the way she planned. The book follows her as she starts to experience a sense of homesickness, and a longing for some of the things she’s been missing out on in life – a fulfilling career, family, and relationship. Whilst she’s battling with these conflicting desires, she encounters two very different men, and her relationships with them help her to finally work out what her priorities are. I hope it’s a story that speaks to people who’ve experienced that realisation that whilst your greatest ambitions might not ever come to fruition, there’s beauty and joy in the simple things in life.
I see you have a new release titled ‘Love on the Rocks’, can you tell me about it.
‘Love on the Rocks’ is set on a fictionalised Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides, named Inniscreag. It was inspired by some of my visits to the area, which I think is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the world. It follows the story of Rachel, a woman in her late thirties who has escaped to the island in search of solitude and peace, following the breakdown of her unhappy marriage. Her plans for a simpler life are thrown upside down, however, when her employer suddenly dies and Rachel finds herself not only inheriting the local distillery, but also defending it against a takeover bid from a major multinational drinks company. Rachel’s resolve to remain single is also sorely tested, when the company sends a handsome and flirtatious lawyer to persuade her to sell up.
What does your writing process look like?
Haphazard would probably describe it best! I don’t write full time, so I don’t really have a schedule or a ‘typical day’ – it’s generally made up of snatched moments here and there whilst my children are watching TV or eating a snack. Once I get the nugget of an idea, I’ll mull it over for a while, and let it start to grow a little in my mind, before jotting down a very basic overview. I’m generally a linear writer, so unless a particular scene really stands out to me, I’ll start at the beginning and work my way chronologically to the end. Whilst I’m working, I’ll add to my planning document as the story develops and takes shape – often changing completely from how I had envisaged it at the start! I also edit as I go, so that by the time I reach the end of the first draft the manuscript is usually relatively clean. I still go through countless rounds of edits, however, until I’m ready to send it to Betas and start getting it finalised and ready for publication.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, I’ve currently got two projects on the go – one is an historical romance, which I actually started before ‘Love on the Rocks’ was complete, the other is another contemporary romance. Both are presenting their own unique set of challenges! I’m enjoying the research involved in the historical project, although finding my historical fiction ‘voice’ is tricky. Both books are also told from dual perspective, so we hear the thoughts of the female main character and the male love interest, which is something I’ve never done before. I think it’s important to try new things, though – I’d hate for my writing to become formulaic or predictable, so I’m trying to mix it up a little!
What advice would you give a new author?
First and foremost – finish it! Whatever it is, just get to the end, and you can worry about polishing it later. Secondly – and especially if you’re self-publishing, although I think the same is true for traditionally published authors – get on social media and make some connections. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, so befriending and chatting to other writers and book bloggers has been an absolute Godsend for me! They’re a font of advice about all sorts of things, from technical aspects to editing and marketing and everything in between, so definitely get out there and get to know like minded people. I’ve been astonished at the online friendships I’ve developed with authors all over the world - it’s a really vibrant, supportive community.
What are you interests outside of writing?
I love to bake and cook (and eat!) so that’s something I do a lot. Most of my free time is spent just hanging out with my family and walking our dogs. Getting out in the countryside really helps me decompress, and long walks are a great opportunity to mull over any problems my manuscript is throwing up, and get the creative juices flowing again.
Thank you to Elsie for sharing her insights. If you would like to find out more about Elsie’s books, click on the links below.