Interview with Elizabeth Macneal

• What is the most important thing to remember when doing something creative?

Everybody works differently, so what works for me certainly isn’t universal. But I try to be as disciplined as I can; I plan my novels in detail, and structure my day just as I would if I worked in an office. While sometimes I do need to take a break, it can be very easy for me to justify endless walks ‘for inspiration’, when really I just need to sit at my desk and write. When I’m about to make the umpteenth tea of the day, I try to remind myself of the quotation, allegedly by Douglas Fairbanks: ‘Writing is 90% applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.’


  • How has becoming successful to such a popular extent changed the way you write/view your own work?

It has been a complete joy to have found readers, and I’m infinitely grateful for this – it’s a total cliché but it really is a dream come true. I do think I had a very rosy image of how I’d view my work if I was published and that I’d feel a real sense of validation. If anything, I’m more self-critical, and it’s a constant task to try to forget readers and their expectations, and to write the story that I want to write.


  • What would you love to see from the literature scene in the next few years?

I’d love to see more diversity in authors and fiction published, which reflect how wonderfully diverse our world is. I like to think that with more varied stories being told, comes greater understanding of different perspectives and backgrounds. I’ve been really saddened by the turn politics have taken in recent years – its narrowness, its exclusion, its racism both overt and subtle – and I am hopeful literature will provide a different influence.


  • Does writing literature make you feel the same way as making ceramics or is there a difference in the creativity? 

I really enjoy them for their difference; making pottery is physical and mechanical, and I find that this allows my mind to wander and work out any plot difficulties. While generally I love writing, there are times when it can feel endless and sprawling. When I’m struggling, I can go out to the pottery shed and make and sell ten mugs and feel like I’ve achieved something. I also use pottery as a reassurance – I know I can make a mug if I’ve made one before, and so I try to apply that to writing. If I’ve written a book, I can write another.


  • When do you do most of your writing? E.g. some writers only write at certain times of the day.

I generally keep to office hours as my brain turns to mud in the evening. I write from 9-6 every day. I try and be quite disciplined and stop at 6 – and that way, I’m excited to come back to whichever part of the story I’ve left behind.


About Author

Leia Butler

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August 2022
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