To celebrate the release of her new book Illusion, Stephanie Elmas tell us a bit more about herself.
I love Victorian Literature:
I have always been passionate about Victorian London, particularly the Gothic and sensation genres. Sherlock Holmes, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon are some of my favourite writers. However, after spending much of my childhood in Bristol, I also have deep admiration for The West Country and grew up reading Thomas Hardy. Both the grime and opulence of Victorian London and the rolling hills of The West play a strong part in creating evocative settings in my new novel, Illusion.
I was born in Hong Kong:
My parents moved there in the mid 1970s because of my father’s job and that’s where I was born. Although I left there at a young age, I’ve been back to visit and always come away thinking that surely this must be one of the most exciting places in the world. I love its international culture, its vibe and even its smell! Why on earth haven’t I written a book about it yet? Watch this space!
I am a teacher
I teach secondary school English and love it! After an early career in the corporate world, I knew that I wasn’t made for offices and power meetings. Language and literature are at the forefront of my interests and I couldn’t think of anything better than being immersed in books and sharing them with others.
I was once sacked from a greasy spoon
I wasn’t made for the hospitality industry either! As a student I got a job in a greasy spoon in central London one summer. The 5am start was brutal enough and by midday the management cottoned onto the fact that I was utterly clueless in the kitchen. They subsequently sacked me and even accepted my cheeky request for a reference just to see the back of me! I took my reference to a luxury chocolatier around the corner and they took me on. I wasn’t much good there either, but at least they didn’t sack me …
I am a terrible cook
You will probably be starting to realise that I am not a good cook. At school my home economics teacher took to standing next to me as a safety precaution. As a mother of three I am forced to cook by necessity for my long-suffering family, although the good news is that my husband is an excellent cook. We leave the serious gastronomy to him …
Crochet is the way forward
Crochet is cool! Let me just repeat that … crochet is cool! It’s easy, incredibly calming and you can make just about anything with it. I even once set up a crochet club at a school I worked in. I don’t bother with patterns, which are generally far too complicated, but have learnt everything off YouTube crochet videos instead. Don’t be put off by old-fashioned stereotypes; there’s a whole world of yarn waiting out there for you!
I published my first novel myself
My first novel, The Room Beyond, took me seven years to write. It evolved from a story that I started writing one day in The British Library. After countless rewrites, my phenomenal agent at hhb agency took me on. However, this was a poor time for the publishing industry and we had little success until hhb suggested I try something called the Amazon White Glove scheme. This had been set up by Amazon to support the publishing of quality, agent-led books. With hhb at my side and an incredible book cover designed by Jennie Rawlings at serifim.com, The Room Beyond was a huge success. It has sold over thirty thousand copies and continues to do well. With Illusion I have been lucky enough to secure the support of Endeavour Press and am so impressed by their support and enthusiasm.
Travelling is essential to life!
In my early 20s I backpacked around much of South-East Asia and South America. I also lived and worked in Tokyo. I wouldn’t swap that experience of the world for anything and, although it’s a scary thought, I know that I will encourage my children to do the same thing when they’re older. Not all of my travelling experiences were good … I recall spending three nights on a rat infested boat on the Yangtze River … but I think that travelling has made me a more open-minded and resilient person. My backpack has become a suitcase nowadays, but the desire to travel will never leave me.
I have two cats
So, the thing is, I much prefer dogs. The only problem is that they’re just too hard work. As a result, we have two British Shorthair cats that sleep about twenty-three hours a day and regard us with amber-eyed disdain. They are supermodel cats (think Sheba advert) and have been so well bred that hunting is quite beneath them; I have no fear of slipping on mouse intestines when I come down to the kitchen each morning. We treat them like queens and they in turn treat us like humble slaves.
Lighthouses are beautiful …
I love lighthouses so much that for my next birthday I am going to stay in one on a barren shore in Scotland. I know it’s not everyone’s idea of a knees-up, but I can’t wait! I have been fascinated by lighthouses ever since childhood and can think of nothing better than sitting in one as a storm rages outside, perhaps with a novel, or some crochet …. and definitely not cooking!!