As part of our new ‘Ask an Author’ Series, we are delighted to share this interview with debut author, Elle Spellman. Her novel, Running Into Trouble, was published in April 2020 by Trapeze Books and tells the story of three women united by their goal of running a marathon. In this interview, Elle shares her advice for budding writers and talks about her journey to publication.
Your novel, Running into Trouble, was published by Trapeze in April this year. Prior to this, you were a book blogger and self-published author. Has writing always been a big part of your life?
It has! I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was around seven years old. I’ve always been a big reader and owned a vast collection of Ladybird books as a child. This collection included the Garden Gang series by Jayne Fisher, who was the youngest ever Ladybird author at just nine years old. The stories were wonderful, and Jayne illustrated them too. Her photo was on the back of the books, and as a child who loved writing, this was so inspiring to me. I wanted to be an author just like Jayne and see my books in the shops.
Since then writing has been a huge part of my life, a natural aspect of it that I can’t be without. I love coming up with a story and letting it absolutely consume me until it’s complete. Those moments when a new idea comes to me, however vague – then coming up with the characters, seeing it all fall into place – that’s such a great feeling. I also read a lot, and loved book blogging. It was a wonderful experience and I met so many amazing people through it – and I still miss it – but it also took up a lot of my free time, so I decided to give it up to focus on my own novels.
Before writing Running Into Trouble, you self-published a novel – how did you find this experience?
In 2017 I self-published my first novel, mainly because I loved the story even though I knew at the very beginning that it would be a difficult sell. I was fine with that; I initially wrote it for fun. I’ve always dreamed of being traditionally published, but at the same time, I thought ‘hey, I like this book. I want to put it out there.’ I felt it’d be a shame to completely discard it, so after rewrites and working with a small team of beta readers I decided to self-publish it on Kindle. After that, I didn’t really do much to promote it as I was already working on my next project and didn’t have much time.
I know that with self-publishing, you are fully in control, but that ultimately everything is down to you. I am in awe of self-published authors who take on so many roles.
What was your journey to publication with Running into Trouble?
I’d completed a new novel – which was actually about Abbie, a character from RIT – and had already started working on Running into Trouble. I’d decided to query a couple of agents for the new book, and while scrolling through Twitter one evening, I saw a tweet from an editor at Trapeze who was looking for new voices. I felt brave, and decided to send a message.
I sent my synopsis and initial chapters – and also included some info about Running into Trouble, to show what I was currently working on. Trapeze got back to me – they loved my writing, and enjoyed the manuscript I’d sent, but they wanted to publish Running into Trouble. I was already in love with this story, so the news was such a wonderful shock.
Your novel is about three women running their first marathon. Did personal experience feed into the narrative and did this help you when writing?
Definitely! I’m a runner, though I much prefer running with others, as you can keep each other motivated and have a laugh as you go! A couple of years ago I trained for a half- marathon with some friends. It was the first time I’d trained with other people, and it was so much fun. Painful at times, but fantastic, and such a great experience to share. And reaching the finish line felt magical. I wanted to weave some of those experiences and emotions into the novel.
Did you know when you started writing your novel that you want to feature themes around female friendship, or did this evolve as you were writing?
I love writing about female friendship, and a lot of what I write tends to head that way by default. In the very beginning, when the idea was newly-formed, I knew I wanted to write a story about an unlikely runner who gets a bit tipsy and over-ambitious and signs up to a race that she has to see through. Soon enough, two more characters had joined her, with stories of their own. Their personalities and friendship certainly evolved as I was writing and I had so much fun bringing them together. I wanted to explore the friendship of three very different women with the same goal – running the marathon, albeit for different reasons – and exploring their differences and the bond they share through their accidental running club.
What does your typical writing routine look like? Do you always work in the same place, at the same time, or do you fit your writing around other things in your life?
It varies! I have an office at home which is where I normally write, but I can write pretty much anywhere – trains, cafes, the pub…I work full-time too, so I have to fit my writing around my day job. Because of this I have limited time during the week, but I often jot down scenes and ideas on my lunch breaks, ready for the evenings.
When a deadline approaches I tend to go away for a couple of days (often to Weston!) and spend time working away from any distractions. Except for lovely, welcome distractions of course, like the seaside.
How do you stay inspired to write?
When I’m working on a novel, just thinking about it keeps me inspired. I love writing ‘THE END’ on a very first draft (which as all writers know, will be undoubtedly awful!) and working on editing and rewriting to really bring that story to life. When I’m at work during the day, all I can think about is getting back to the book.
There are some days in which motivation wanes – I think we all experience that at times. At the beginning of lockdown I found it hard to concentrate on anything at all; reading, writing, even watching something on Netflix felt daunting. However, I also write flash fiction occasionally, and find that shorter fiction is a great way to get back that motivation. I’ll look for a prompt, and work on something that’s 500-1000 words long, something new and different that I can get lost in for just a little while.
What advice would you give to any budding writers who may be reading this?
I know it’s something you’ve probably heard a million times already, but keep writing – and write what you love. Write the stories you’re passionate about. I think many people fall into the trap of writing what they think will sell, what they think they should be writing. And yes, marketing knowledge can be useful, but we can’t always predict trends and ultimately, you have to love your story. When I first began Running into Trouble I was writing it for fun, I didn’t think it would ever be published. I was wrong. Don’t ever give up on your dream.