The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Elizabeth Laird

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Elizabeth Laird


Summary: Bookbag loved Elizabeth Laird's Witching Hour - just as it's loved all her previous books. We were thrilled with the opportunity to ask her some questions about it, and get to know her a bit better.
Date: 2 May 2009
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Bookbag loved Elizabeth Laird's Witching Hour - just as it's loved all her previous books. We were thrilled with the opportunity to ask her some questions about it, and get to know her a bit better.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Elizabeth Laird: I'm afraid I never close my eyes and think of my readers. In fact, I never think of the poor things at all. I only think about the story and the characters. To be honest, I'm sure that if I imagined anyone actually reading the book, I'd die of fright and not be able to write another word.

  • BB: We loved The Witching Hour and in particular, we loved Maggie. Is she based on anyone you know?

EL: It's a funny thing about characters in fiction. They're never based on real people. They just kind of grow in your head. Maggie began to step out of the shadows of my mind as soon as she found the whale, and after that she went her own sweet way. I would like to have met her in the flesh, I must say.

  • BB: Your books are always issue-based, but they also feature deeply engaging characters. Which springs from the other in your mind?

EL: I don't think my books are really issues based. I just write about stuff that interests me. I suppose if you're looking for a starting point for my novels, you have to hunt for what I call the Big Words - words like faith (The Witching Hour), forgiveness (Jake's Tower), loyalty (Crusade), endurance (A Little Piece of Ground]]), the power of love (Red Sky in the Morning). Does that make sense?

  • BB: Yes, absolutely. Whenever we review your books, we find ourselves referring to your trademark humanity. How important is empathy in issue-based books?

EL: Empathy is the beginning and end of all story telling, never mind any old issues that happen to pop up along the way. If readers don't live with and feel for the characters in a story, it ain't a good story. It's wanting to know what happens to them, and how they're going to cope with it, that keeps you turning the pages. I think that learning about empathy is one of the most brilliant things about fiction. You have the chance to step into the shoes of another person and walk around in them for a while. In the process, you learn a huge amount about human beings and the way they tick. Brilliant.

  • BB: What makes you write?

EL: What makes me write? I don't know! I just don't seem to be able to stop! And then of course there's the brutal truth that I need to keep the occasional penny rolling in...

  • BB: Which authors were your favourites when you were a child? What are you reading now?

EL: I loved reading historical fiction when I was a child, especially books by Geoffrey Trease. Most of them are out of print now, sadly. At the moment I've just finished reading rather a long book (which I didn't like so much so I'm not going to recommend it) and I'm just starting on a history book about Ethiopia. It looks great.

  • BB: What do you do when you are not writing?

EL: When I'm not writing, I love to work in my garden. You should see my vegetables! This year I've got potatoes doing fine, and French beans, broccoli, spinach, rocket, butternut squash - you name it.

  • BB: If you could have one wish, what would it be?

EL: If I had one wish? What kind of question is that? I've got so many wishes I can't possibly think of one! Oh, all right then. If I must choose one, it's this. Both my sons are getting married this year, and I'm really looking forward to a grandchild.

  • BB: What's next for Elizabeth Laird?

EL: I'm starting on a difficult project this time. It's going to be a book about my travels and adventures in Ethiopia. I've travelled around the whole of that huge and fascinating country, collecting stories from many different storytellers. Watch this space...

  • BB: Thanks a lot, Elizabeth. Congratulations and good luck to your sons and daughters-in-law!

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