The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Jane Elson

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Jane Elson


Summary: Jill and Robert both loved A Room Full of Chocolate. Jill got to do the review, but Robert was at the front of the queue with the questions when Jane popped in to see us.
Date: 6 February 2014
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Jill and Robert both loved A Room Full of Chocolate. Jill got to do the review, but Robert was at the front of the queue with the questions when Jane popped in to see us.

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

Jane Elson: A child who loves animals, probably has a special secret den that they read in: probably a bit of a daydreamer.

  • BB: One of my favourite things about A Room Full Of Chocolate was the lovely friendship between Megan and Grace. Who are your favourite fictional friends?

JE: Peter Pan and Wendy immediately came to mind. That story is so haunting. I am thinking of books that had an effect on me as I was growing up. I remember a book called Nobody’s House by Martin Hall where there was a very touching friendship between the Victorian workhouse ghost and the children that lived there. I am a sucker for any book with horses! My all time favourites were the Flambards books by K M Peyton. I love the complicated friendships between Christina, Mark, William and Dick.

My favourite friendship between an animal and a child is Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka. The relationship between Ken and his horse Flicka is so special.

  • BB: Also, I love books with travelling in them, so I really enjoyed reading about Megan and Grace's journey. What's the best journey you've ever been on?

JE: Driving with friends in a car through San Francisco. I absolutely love that city! Also exploring the south of France by car with a friend. A truly stunning part of the world. I also think any journey where you are travelling towards someone you love is special.

  • BB: Your bio mentions that in addition to writing, you run creative writing and comedy improvisation workshops for children with special educational needs. What's the best thing about doing these?

JE: For me there is nothing greater in life than seeing a child’s communication skills and confidence improve. I love it when other teachers tell me that because of the drama workshops they have seen a difference in that child in other areas of their life. We have so much humour and laughter in the workshops as well. When I am teaching dyslexic children and they see how dyslexic I am, I find they relax and we have a lot of banter in the sessions which helps produce good work.

  • BB: Prior to writing, you performed as an actress and a comedy improviser - what's the role you had the most fun playing?

JE: I love this question and it would make my friends laugh as they joke that for an actor whose roots are in comedy my latest roles have been so serious! But I hasten to add that these roles are extremely important.

I did a play about knife crime among youths and my most recent role was a verbatim piece about child abuse. We had a lot of laughter in breaks in rehearsals as a release from the subject matter. Laughter is so important it can really help you cope. Way way back I remember having a lot of fun playing Jackie in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever.

  • BB: Also, you write plays as well as novels - do you approach the two in similar mindsets, or is there anything different in the way you prepare to write a play compared to a book?

JE: I approached writing a book very differently at first, very cautiously, but then as I progressed with my course at City Lit I realized that writing dialogue for plays stood me in really good stead for writing believable conversations in books and really they are not so different. I approach both as I do when playing a role as an actor getting right inside the character.

  • BB: Your bio also mentions you ate a lot of chocolate in the name of research - very sensible! (And if there's a sequel and you need help preparing for it, just drop me an e-mail!) What's your very favourite chocolate bar?

JE: Oh there’s a question! I vary but I must admit I ate an awful lot of Galaxy.

  • BB: On a similar note, if you could give a lifetime's supply of three particular chocolate bars to three fellow authors (one each), which bars would you pick, who would you give them to, and why?

JE: I would give the new Cadbury’s bar Marvellous Creations to David Almond – it has fizzy beans that explode in your mouth and surprises you like his stunning writing. You never know where it will take you. Reading Skellig was a wondrous adventure.

I would give Bourneville chocolate to Judith Kerr. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a really special book to me and gave me the confidence to write A Room Full of Chocolate which touches on my own childhood. Bourneville was a chocolate that would have been eaten in the 1940s and must have been a truly special thing to have at that time. A rare treat like Judith Kerr’s writing.

My third lifetime supply of chocolate would go to author Lou Kuenzler. I would give her a life time supply of Revels. She was my tutor at City Lit and taught me so many different things. She has this amazing fun energy and each session would hold a surprise for me like Revels with all their different centres. Also they are mini chocolates which is the perfect sweets for Lou who is the author of the delightful Shrinking Violet series.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment?

JE: I always have several books on the go at once. I am coming to the end of The Book Thief and loving it. I have just started Anne-Marie Conway’s Butterfly Summer and am finding it very intriguing. I am just about to start Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Really looking forward to it. Her book My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was a masterpiece.

  • BB: What's next for Jane Elson?

JE: I have a two-book deal with Hodder so I will be busy working on Jump my second book with my lovely editor Naomi Greenwood. I also have some festival appearances which I am really looking forward to. A Room Full of Chocolate is my debut novel so this is all new and exciting for me.

  • BB: It's been a real pleasure chatting to you, Jane and I hope that it won't be too long before we meet again.

You can read more about Jane Elson here.

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