The Who, What, When, Where and Why with Elizabeth Buchan

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By Jade Craddock

Elizabeth Buchan successfully made the transition from editor to author over a decade ago and has since written over a dozen novels. Her latest, The New Mrs Clifton, which was released last week, is based on a situation that happened in her own family after the war, and here she tackles WHW’s Who, What, When, Where and Why. ♥

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

Like many others, I often think of Charlotte Bronte and how she and her two sisters, Emily and Anne, made a way of life with their writing. Conditions in the Yorkshire parsonage where they lived were harsh but, somehow, they found the time and energy to pen to paper. What Charlotte did with her imagination, her passions and her vision was extraordinary. For me Jane Eyre is one of the great books.

What motivates you to write?

Difficult to say. I know only that I am gripped by the desire to do so. Perhaps it is to make sense of the world? And perhaps it is because I love a good story.

When did you first start writing?

Always, I had whispering away at the back of my mind that, one day, I would write a novel. Still working in publishing and with two small children, I realised that I would never ever have any time. So, for precisely that reason, I decided that if I had no spare time I had better get on with the writing. I did the clichéd thing and got up an hour extra early to write a page and, after the children were put to bed, I wrote another. I reckoned that two pages would turn into four, four into eight and so on. And that’s what happened. In just over a year, I had finished my first novel, Daughters of the Storm.

Where do you write?

As soon as my daughter moved to a big bed, I snatched back the tiny room where the cot had been. It is perfect. Through the window, I can look down on our garden. It may be London but it holds a great deal of garden theatre – urban foxes strolling about, squirrels dancing along the fences, frogs (which have to be rescued), a miscellany of cats. After twenty minutes or so of hard writing – which is about the length of my concentration span – I look down into it and the refreshment is instant.

Why did you write this book?

Soon after the Second World War ended, my aunt married a German whom she had met before 1939. I thought I would reverse the situation and have an Englishman bringing a German wife back to England in 1946. I think at the back of my mind was the idea that, if we are to prevent the chaos and cruelty and horror of war ever happening on our doorsteps again, we must learn to live together.

Elizabeth Buchan’s previous novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily, the New York Times bestseller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, and her most recent book, The New Mrs Clifton. Elizabeth’s short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in a range of magazines. Elizabeth reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail and is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and of the National Academy of Writing. She lives in London.

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