An interview with… YA author Ellen-Arwen Tristram

Kate Frost

Ellen-Arwen Tristram’s debut novel Fruit Forbidden came out in 2018 and is a modern tale of growing up and self discovery.

Welcome to our Storytale blog, Ellen-Arwen, we can’t wait to go behind-the-scenes of your writing life, starting with where do you get your ideas from?

I get them from all around me – listening to the radio, to people’s conversations, reading other books, time spent thinking. People watching is definitely a hobby worth taking up if you want to write – it’s a fantastic way of getting character ideas, and making your characters’ act in a more realistic way.

How do you know when you’ve got a good idea?

Good question! For me, I often don’t know if an idea is any good at all until I actually start writing it! I’ve written more than 50,000 words of a novel before realising that it actually wasn’t a good idea in the first place… not ideal. So, it’s all about trial and error for me. It can be frustrating, but the words you write that never make it to a full novel aren’t wasted. Any writing you do is brilliant practice.

Where do you write?

I have a nice desk that I keep tidy and free of distractions, although I have to admit I often take my laptop to bed and write with my cat.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

I’m a complete pantser! I envy people who can plot – my characters just do what they want! I usually have a beginning and an end, but I have no idea how I’m going to get there. That being said, I’ve been working on a collaborative novel recently with someone who is definitely a plotter, and it’s been very interesting to see how he works. You never know, I might become a plotter one day!

How long does it take to complete a book?

Writing the first draft can take as little as a few months for me – or even within a month if I have an empty schedule. But there’s a massive difference between writing that first draft and completing the book. I estimate it takes me at least three times as long to edit and re-edit and re-edit and change and cut words, and add scenes, and change things around, as it does to write everything down in the first place. That’s actually a conservative estimate! I imagine things would be different if I were a plotter… but I don’t know! The editing stage is a long and hard one, but it is so worthwhile.

What hurdles do you encounter along the way?

At various points along the writing journey, those voices come up in your head: ‘You’re not good enough,’ ‘Your writing is terrible’ and ‘Who on earth would want to read this?’ The best thing to do to these voices is to squash them as hard as you can – it’s not easy, but they’re not helpful in any way. And, unfortunately, they come back, over and over. It takes a lot of courage to speak back to them, and it’s something I’m still learning to do.

How do you know when your book’s journey is completed?

For me, I never know! By the end, I will have so many drafts that I thought were going to be the final one and didn’t end up being, scenes I’m not quite sure are right, phrasing that I’m not 100% happy with, passages I want to check over just one last time… but at some point, you have to let it go. Accept that whatever you write will be imperfect, because as humans we are imperfect. It’s a terrifying plunge to make – and you end up making it multiple times for the same book actually! In a way a book’s journey is never completed, and I think that is sort of beautiful. 

What books inspired you as a child?

I read absolutely voraciously, anything I could get my hands on! The books that I reread the most were probably Michael Morpurgo’s books, the Swallows and Amazons series, The Hobbit, everything by Jaqueline Wilson, and Noel Streatfield’s books. Some of these are probably rather dated now, but these authors were my heroes. 

What’s your current or next project?

As I said, I’m currently working on a collaborative project, which is a first for me! It’s not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be, and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to have someone else immediately read what you’ve written and having the validation. It’s also really fun! As for what the book is about, we’re keeping it quiet for the time being. Books are delicate and need to be nurtured – this is still in its infancy, so we’re a bit protective.

We look forward to hearing the details about your collaborative project when the time comes!  

Finally, please tell us 3 random/interesting facts about yourself.

  1. My cat (currently trying to walk across my keyboard) is my most trusted confidant; her name is Popoki which means ‘cat’ in Hawaiian.
  2. I do yoga every morning before doing anything else – it is my main form of self care.
  3. I have over three hundred books that I own and haven’t read! What can I say? I’m a bit of a hoarder – and I will read them… some day…
Popoki – Ellen-Arwen Tristram’s Cat

You can find Ellen-Arwen Tristram over on Instagram and more about her book on her publisher’s website:

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