Today I’m delighted to welcome author Eloise Williams to my hellopipski blog, and for her to tell us all about her book Gaslight, which is a rip-roaring Victorian adventure story, filled with shady characters, shocking twists and a fantastically satisfying ending. Here’s a taster!
I loved the story’s main character, Nansi, and how story is set in Cardiff. Gaslight has a fresh feel to the narrative and doesn’t duck out of some of the less savoury aspects to Victorian society. So after reading this exciting tale, I wondered how Eloise had managed to create such a wonderful world with the most colourful cast of characters I’ve come across in along while, such as the Pernicious Sid and Violet Night…
Hi Eloise! Tell us about ‘Gaslight‘!
Gaslight is a middle grade mystery thriller set in Victorian Cardiff.
All Nansi knows is that she and her mother were running away from someone and then she was being fished out of Cardiff docks with no memory of how she got there and no idea where her mother has gone.
It’s a tale of secrets and lies with some thrills and spills along the way!
What was the initial spark of an idea that caught your imagination?
I went to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to do my degree and studied Victorian theatre as part of the course. I remember staring out of the window into Bute Park – the park which runs behind the castle – and imagining what life would have been like there in the Victorian era. I think it was a mixture of a love of theatre, anything Victorian and that daydreaming that got my imagination going. That was about twenty years ago. I am something of a procrastinator.
What kind of character is Nansi?
She’s honourable. She’s a good friend. She works hard and is determined. She’s feisty, inquisitive, brave. A worrier and a dreamer.
Which characters did you have the most fun with?
I had fun with all the characters but creating characters like Violet Night – whose eyebrows go in every direction but across – is always brilliant.
Nansi came into my head while I was walking around a graveyard near where I live. I felt as if I knew her straight away and while I was writing Gaslight I knew exactly how she would react to different situations. My editor, the gorgeous Janet Thomas of Firefly Press had to pull me back on early drafts. I’d made Nansi into a female version of Bruce Willis with her Die Hard with a Vengeance attitude.
Pernicious Sid’s name came into my head after a day of medical roleplay. I still work as an actor sometimes and one of my jobs is to play a patient with a specific ailment so that trainee doctors and nurses can practise their skills. One day I was diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia and I just loved the sound of the word. It wasn’t one I’d ever heard before and I love to learn new words.
What drew you towards writing a story in the Victorian era?
I’ve always enjoyed stories written in the Victorian era, particularly gothic fiction and ghost stories. The gas-lit darkness of the time also lends itself to dastardly deeds and scary tales so it seemed the perfect setting.
How important was it to you to set the book in Cardiff ( it made a refreshing change for me as a reader!)
I’m so glad you enjoyed walking the streets of Cardiff with your imagination. I’ve always loved the city. It’s where I was born and I’ve spent many years living, studying and working there. When I write I often use a place I know and love. Gaslight had to be set in Cardiff. I couldn’t have made it work anywhere else.
I also have a bit of a bugbear with being told my stories shouldn’t be set in Wales because they won’t sell. This has been said to lots of writers I know here in Wales. I think it’s really important that all people and countries are represented in literature. Sometimes my writing is set in Wales, sometimes it isn’t. My response to people who criticise is that frankly, I’ll set my stories where I like.
Do you have a personal connection with the theatre or acting?
I originally trained as a drama teacher before going on to study a postgraduate Acting Diploma at Guildford School of Acting. I’ve worked as an actor mostly, but also in costume, stage-management, as a dresser, a drama teacher, director, playwright. I think all of those experiences helped to write this story – as did the hanging about in some very musty dressing rooms.
You touch on some unsavoury and violent aspects of Victorian life – was that intentional? Or did that naturally spring up out of Nansi’s situation?
A bit of both. I’ve always been a feminist and I felt that I couldn’t write this story without addressing women’s rights at that time, so this gave rise to some of the truthful but unsavoury aspects.
Others simply arose from the story. I didn’t want readers to feel they were being patronised and I also didn’t want to do a disservice to the characters by not showing them as they really are. Some of them are truly despicable.
There were also some strange and unsettling traditions and customs which I wanted to touch on because they are just simply fascinating – the Victorian obsession with death extended to the stage and beyond and I felt this obsession had a definite place in Gaslight.
I noticed lots of references to Dickens in Gaslight. Is he a writer you particularly admire?
I love Dickens, more particularly A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. They are both so wonderfully atmospheric and have such evocative characters. There are so many writers I admire but these two stories will always have a place on my bookshelf and in my heart.
On a more personal note, can you tell us about your own writer’s journey?
It’s certainly a rollercoaster. There are wonderful highs and hideous lows. I’ve only been writing for children for a few years and I’ve been fairly lucky so far, but nothing is guaranteed. When I have lows, I work really hard and write as much as I can. I think that’s the most important thing. Remembering why you write and what you want to write about. Then the rest is just stuff that goes on around you and your writing.
So what’s next for you, writing wise?
I’m currently working on a salty, windswept, ghost story set in Pembrokeshire where I now live. Watch this space!
You can find Eloise on twitter as @Eloisejwilliams and her website is www.eloisewilliams.com
Many thanks for popping by 🙂
Pippa Wilson 3rd July 2017