Interview With Author Ellie Mary Scott

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Ellie Scott and I write fiction in a range of genres, but I’d describe most of it as ‘speculative’. In 2018 I was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Short Story Award. I have published two short story collections – Merry Bloody Christmas and Come What May Day. I also publish flash fiction and microfiction regularly on my blog, on Twitter (@itsemscott) and Instagram (@tinysillystories), and on Medium (@elliemaryscott).

What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?

I first wrote the stories in Merry Bloody Christmas in November 2017 during National Novel Writing Month. I wanted to test myself to write one completed story almost every day, and I loved the idea of writing a series of overlapping stories all set on one day – Christmas Eve – in a single town. I originally published the stories on my blog in the following December – one per day until Christmas, like an advent calendar. I was proud of them, but I knew they weren’t as polished or professional as they could have been. In summer last year I pulled them from my site and got to work editing and polishing them for publication as a complete collection, and by the time the book was published I felt like they reached their full potential. It was a great opportunity to dip my toe into the self-publishing world.

I really enjoyed writing a themed collection and there were several characters who I felt had some more story in them, so even before I published the Christmas collection, I was planning Come What May Day. I decided to set all the stories at a town fair in celebration of May Day, giving them a spring/summer theme that would contrast well with the Christmassy theme of the previous book.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I tend to look for humour and silliness in the everyday. We humans are weird and often hilarious without even knowing it, and I think inspiration is everywhere if we look hard enough for it. When I write characters, I tend to pull inspiration from people I’ve known in life. I steal turns of phrase I’ve heard from people if I think they’re funny. Sometimes I take an aspect of a person’s personality and amp it up for dramatic effect. But I also love a bit of fantasy and whimsy and so I find myself blending fantastical elements with ordinary people and mundane situations. For example, the setting of Come What May Day is a rather mundane, small town fair, but aliens, talking trees and an army of rebellious animals really liven things up…

How do you deal with creative block?

If I’m really struggling to write I’ll go and do something else for a while. Reading and listening to music tend to be the best things to help me feel inspired. If I’m feeling blocked on one particular story or project, I might go and work on something completely different for a while and that often helps me to feel more creative.

How has your creation process improved over time?

I’ve definitely made my creative process more organised over time which I think has improved it. I never used to plan anything and thought I did okay by simply figuring out where a story was going as I wrote it. When I started planning my stories, I realised I could write faster, the editing process was a little easier, and I was less likely to run in to problems or plot holes.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Preparing for publication – formatting manuscripts, creating cover artwork, writing blurbs, prepping a marketing strategy – is the worst part. I found that quite surprising because I’ve worked in digital marketing and copywriting in the past and thought I’d have a really good handle on it all. I suppose I find it tough because it’s all about self-promo, and I always have that nagging self-doubt that makes me wonder if a book is ready or good enough for publication, even if I know deep down that it is and my beta readers tell me the same.

For me, writing the books is the best and easiest part. Writing is the thing I love the most, so actually creating the stories is brilliant. And when people read them and enjoy them, it’s the cherry on the top.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I think that if you try to write a story you wouldn’t read and enjoy yourself, you won’t write the story well. In that respect, personal satisfaction is really important. However, the main reason I write at all is because I want to entertain people with my stories, and I find no greater satisfaction in hearing that someone has enjoyed something I’ve written. So it’s definitely a balance of both, and I think the only way to achieve that is to listen to readers’ feedback and apply it to the things I write in future. But those things are always things I really, really want to write.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

I think emotions play an important role in creativity, but probably in different ways for everybody. I’m a ridiculously oversensitive soul and have struggled all my life with mental health problems. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand I think my emotional nature might help me to communicate the emotions of my characters. On the other, when I’m feeling overly emotional about something it can distract me so much that I struggle to put pen to paper.

I’ve been working on a novel for a few years now which is about the afterlife and which was inspired by the death of my father and my subsequent grief. Writing it has been a really important way for me to process my grief, and I also think I’ve created a pretty interesting story out of a whole lot of negative emotions. It’s a good example of how emotions and creativity can work together.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

The best trick is to consume the creative work of your peers. If I’m not reading fiction regularly, I’m probably not writing very much either. I think reading fiction subconsciously sets off the part of my brain that comes up with new ideas. Plus, I love it when I read a novel or short story and think, “I wish I came up with that idea!” or “I wish I could write like that!” because it inspires me to keep working at improving my craft.

Another good trick is to look out for prompts that might trigger new ideas. I take part in #vss365 on Twitter – the challenge is to write an original 280-character story based on a single-word prompt. I also frequently write flash fiction based on songs or random objects or phrases that pop into my head. Writing small stories regularly, in addition to my bigger projects, helps me to stay creative.

What are your plans for future books?

I’ve very recently released my second short story collection, Come What May Day, and plan to publish a third, Halloween-themed collection in October. I’m also working on a couple of novels, one of which is very, very close to completion although I have no set date in mind for publication at the moment.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I am the proud and overbearing owner of a dog called Skippy who can jump almost as high as her kangaroo namesake.


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