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My First Time...with Ellen Wiles

Ellen Wiles, The Riff Raff

Ellen WIles is a former barrister, a literary critic and she is currently researching a PhD in literary anthropology and publishing, focusing on the performance of fiction at live events within contemporary literary culture, which is based in the University of Stirling and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It will be turned into book about live literature for Palgrave.

Ellen will be reading from her first book, The Invisible Crowd, this very Thursday so...

Get your tickets here >>

Here's the blurb for The Invisible Crowd...

'2nd March 1975: In Asmara, Eritrea, Yonas Kelati is born into a world of turmoil. At the same time, on the same day, Jude Munroe takes her first breath in London, England.

Thirty Years Later: Blacklisted in his war-ravaged country, Yonas has no option but to flee his home. After a terrible journey, he arrives on a bleak English coast. By a twist of fate, Yonas’ asylum case lands on Jude’s desk. Opening the file, she finds a patchwork of witness statements from those who met Yonas along his journey: a lifetime the same length of hers, reduced to a few scraps of paper. Soon, Jude will stand up in court and tell Yonas’ story. How she tells it will change his life forever.'

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I was a newbie barrister, wading through case files and relevant judgements for an asylum case I was working on, and thought: there are incredible, important stories in here. And they never get heard in the news. They have to be told differently, and shared more widely. Could I do this in a novel? Ha, no – don’t be ridiculous!

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

How insanely hard it would be to weave together so many diverse voices and timelines in one readable story.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

Making tea. Email. Kids’ laundry. Oh so many!

Any tantrums while writing it?

Certainly some hair-wrenching and metaphorical crumpling up of entire drafts.

Best thing about writing your book?

I learned so much, about the subject and about the craft of writing. Picking up the real wad of paper in a real bookshop felt great, too. And being part of a lovely writing community fulled by people like the Riff Raff folk is a delight!

And the worst?

The editing process at the point when you’ve finished several drafts and are still not sure whether you can make it work well – that’s pretty painful. Then, when it’s out, you feel pretty vulnerable, like you’re standing naked in the middle of a city in rush hour waiting to be honked or spat at or studiously ignored.

Go-to writing snacks?

Chocolate. I am so addicted I’ve moved beyond to raw cacao bars. It’s a problem. But it’s SO GOOD.

The Invisible Crowd, The Riff Raff

Who or what inspires you to write?

Reading great books. (When it’s not making me feel like I can never write that well!)

The book that changed you?

So many! I feel like I’m slightly changed by everything I read, good or bad. I remember finding a battered, yellowed copy of The Grapes of Wrath on my parents’ shelf in my early teens, thinking I’d give it a try but it probably wouldn’t be my thing, and finding myself weeping under my attic window, unable to put it down when I was called down for dinner.

Your pump up song?

I Gotta Feeling [by Black Eyed Peas]. Euphoric memories of clubbing in Beirut. Tonight’s gonna be a good night!

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?

Margaret Atwood. Or Zadie Smith. Don’t make me decide.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?

Persevere. And keep reading!

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