The Who, What, When, Where and Why with Eleanor Brown

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By Jade Craddock

Following on from the success of her debut, The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown returns with her second novel, The Light of Paris, and tackles the who, what, when, where and why of writing.♥

Who has been the most important person in your writing journey?

Oh dear, I am terrible at picking one of anything! Including cupcakes. The reason the acknowledgements page in books is so often more than one page is because there are so very many people who influence us – sometimes helping with a particular detail or a particular story, but sometimes they’re the people who are just beside us every day. So if I have to pick one, it would be my longtime boyfriend Chris. He’s a writer too, so he’s very helpful to talk about writing problems with, but more than that, he’s my biggest cheerleader. When I’m down on myself or struggling (which is basically all the time, because this is the writer’s lot), he believes in me and tells me so. I work with writers who don’t have that kind of support from their families, and that’s so hard. You need someone who believes in you and can help you through the inevitable self-doubt and the days when you just want to give up and go to welding school.

What motivates you to write?

Really what brings me to the page is curiosity – I get ideas for characters and some problem they might be having in my head, and I just want to get it on paper and figure it all out for them, poor dears! If you mean literally what motivates me to sit down and start getting words on the page, I try to have that just be habit, but I’m not above bribing myself with a Magnum bar or a pedicure. Some days are easier than others!

When did you first start writing?

The first year I really remember writing was 6th grade – I was 11 and I think reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton just lit something inside me. That was also the first time I had a teacher who said, “You’re good at this,” and that is so helpful. When you’re about to become a teenager and everything is confusing and you’re gangly and your teeth are covered in braces, having something to feel confident about is such a lifesaver!

Where do you write?

Anywhere I can! I have a treadmill desk in my office, which is a nice place to work and not be pasted to a chair all day, but I write where I can. It’s really easy to think that if we only had the perfect office with a lovely antique writing desk and a view of the ocean the words would come easily, but (a) writing is writing, no matter where you are and (b) life goes on, even if you have an antique writing desk. So I’ve written in doctor’s waiting rooms and on airplanes and during really boring meetings. When I’m teaching, I often put up a picture of the impromptu desk I set up in the back of a rental car at the airport while I was waiting to pick someone up. I wrote 1000 words there!

Why did you write this book?

I had discovered that my grandmother lived in Paris in the 1920s and I’m ridiculously lucky that we had the letters she wrote to her family while she was there. She had this fabulous life when she was there – I think she was 23 when she arrived, and she was hanging out with artists and going to cafes and just embracing everything the city had to offer. I didn’t know my grandmother well, but that was definitely not how I thought of her! So I started thinking about experiences that change us irrevocably, and how we become the people we are. And then I wondered how my life would have been different if her life had been different, so I started thinking about how choices can reverberate through a family for generations. When I write, I often start with characters, and I just want to figure out their problems for them. But soon after that I start asking big life questions and I just have to write the rest of the story to answer them.

Eleanor Brown is the New York Times, national and international bestselling author of The Weird Sisters. The Light of Paris is available now.

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