Elizabeth Clark is a debut novelist. I was delighted to be asked to chat with Elizabeth about her new novel, ‘Lay me to Rest’, was released on 29th September. It is always an honour to support a new author. I organised to meet with Elizabeth at the suitably spooky location of Tredegar House, Newport. It is a 17th century country house now owned by the National Trust, and it has a great atmosphere. One can imagine the ghosts of past inhabitants moving around the long corridors.
We met in the teashop, located in the courtyard. Prior to Elizabeth arriving, I had ordered a selection of cakes. Elizabeth was delighted with the array of cakes and instantly grabbed herself a slice of very rich-looking chocolate cake while I poured the tea. Elizabeth travelled from the Midlands. She was wearing faded jeans, a brown faux leather jacket and ankle boots. Her handbag was a brown faux leather tote. Elizabeth was cheerful and excited to be meeting at Tredegar House.
“I love antiquity and can spend hours poking round old houses. I love the atmosphere – I find it very calming – apart from finding endless inspiration for future stories!”
We sampled the cakes before settling down to chat about the book.
Jessie: It’s lovely to meet you here. Tell me a little about yourself.
Elizabeth: I was a stay-at-home mum whilst my three children were small. I’ve worked part-time for twenty years now as a specialist teaching assistant, producing modified large print and Braille resources for visually impaired and blind students in both primary and secondary education. I have always enjoyed writing and often find my imagination running away with me, so it’s a great outlet! I have written poetry and short stories for many years, and have had a few things published, but ‘Lay Me to Rest’ is my first attempt at a novel for adults.
Jessie: Can you capture the essence of your novel in a few sentences?
Elizabeth: ‘Lay Me to Rest’ is the story of the newly-widowed, pregnant Annie’s attempt to overcome her depression, by renting a remote cottage in Anglesey. Her arrival, however, triggers violent, unexplained disturbances within the house and the “holiday” soon becomes the stuff of nightmares.
Jessie: Was it the setting of Anglesey that inspired you to write the ghost story?
Elizabeth: Yes – my father’s family hails from there and I spent much of my childhood staying with relatives in Anglesey. The whole island is steeped in history and legend. My auntie’s farm had a resident ghost in the barn plus the ghost of a Cavalier that was seen trudging across the field, and my great aunt’s home had three restless spirits, apparently, so I always associated their houses with supernatural activity!
At this point we decided to break to admire Tredegar House. The house is organised so that the visitors can interact with the displays. It was fun to sit at the table, set for dinner, and imagine the ghosts of the people walking the corridors. The portraits around the room gave us some excellent inspiration. We sat at the dining room table to finish our discussion.
Jessie: What have the reviewers said about your novel?
‘I received a copy of “Lay me to rest” in exchange for an honest review, and all I can say is that I really love it! It just keeps getting better. The story is beautifully written, sad, dark and full of nostalgia. I will definitely follow the author’s future work.’ Hannah K, Netgalley Reviewer
‘Let me start by saying this, if I ever find a mysterious box I would think before I opened it. This is an excellent addition to the paranormal and mystery suspense genre. I was glad when I started reading it that it wasn’t very late and it was still light outside; definitely gave me some chills. I love to be surprised when I am reading so E.A. Clark did an amazing job keeping me guessing from one page to the next. Annie is an amazingly strong female lead that I can’t wait to find out more about.’ Laurie Beemer, Goodreads
‘So…so creepy! The author wastes no time in setting up the action, without neglecting the environment. The description of the fields and cottages is so vivid that it feels like being there. More importantly, the cast of characters is excellent, since we can’t really see all the sides of everyone and some turns surprised me.’ Elisa, Goodreads
Jessie: I do not usually read ghost stories but I do like stories with a distinct atmosphere. Give me an extract of the story to tempt me to read the story.
Elizabeth: “I stared helplessly at the apparition; through the gloom, its body resembled the shimmering negative of an old photograph; but the eyes receded deep into their sockets, as black and fathomless as a calm lake.”
Jessie: The extract certainly invites the reader into the mystery and makes you shiver. I am now wondering what the apparition is and why it resembled a photograph negative. Can you tell me a little more about how the story draws in the audience?
Elizabeth: The main character, Annie, is at a mentally fragile point in her existence, and I wanted the reader to wonder initially whether the apparitions were a figment of her imagination. The apparently tranquil setting lures the audience into a false sense of security, so I think that as they become more absorbed in the story they start to feel more than a little unsettled!
Jessie: It must be challenging to absorb yourself in another world – you need a vivid imagination. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
Elizabeth: Initially elated; then I kept turning the plot over in my mind and wondering if I should have changed anything! I did miss Annie and am planning a follow-up to show how she has moved on with her life.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
I wish my mum could have read the book – she passed away almost three years ago. She always hoped that I would pursue my childhood dream of becoming an author and I know that she would have been delighted to see me finally get into print. And she would have loved the book’s theme and setting.
Jessie: How long did it take to write the book, and was it a challenging writing journey?
Elizabeth: I actually started writing the book back in 2011 and then filed it away. I picked it up again last year after revisiting and thinking that maybe it was worth finishing! I suppose it probably took about two to three months to write altogether. I had days when I could rattle off a couple of thousand words with ease and then there were others when I sat staring into space and wondering how to proceed at that particular juncture – so yes, I suppose it was a challenge!
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
You’ll want to keep the book to hand – there are several momentous events throughout, so you’ll probably want to keep turning pages!
Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
I tend to have lots of notes scribbled on random bits of paper tucked inside the notebook and in no decipherable order – the last one I came across said ‘I sat at the edge of the bed, twisting my fingers together nervously as I watched Leo perfecting the knot in his colourful tie before the bedroom mirror.‘ -: a self-prompt for the follow-up to ‘Lay Me to Rest’ – the book I’m currently working on has different characters and is in a completely different location, so I wanted to remind myself where I wish to begin when I eventually resume writing about Annie et al!
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Making your story stand out from the crowd! There are so many excellent novelists out there and the competition is fierce. It’s particularly challenging as a hitherto unknown author, as readers often stick with established writers with a proven track record.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Never give up! Believe in yourself – don’t be put off by rejection letters and always remember, there may just be someone out there that will LOVE your work – one person’s trash is another’s treasure! Stick to your guns and it will pay off in the end. And make time to write every day – eventually it all adds up!
More about Elizabeth…
Elizabeth is passionate about animal welfare – she abhors animal cruelty and dreams of a world where one day the rights of animals will be taken as seriously as those of human beings.
…always about to embark on that diet and exercise regime – but the time never feels quite right – especially when there’s a particularly fine cake on offer!
…a perpetually anxious mother and grandmother!
The debut novel is released on 29th September. I haven’t read this novel but it sounds like it will have the reader on the edge of their seat. It looks like I will be making room for a spooky tale, in my handbag. The best of luck to Elizabeth with her debut novel.
Contact details here
Facebook: Elizabeth Clark