Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, Losing the Plot, is Elizabeth Coleman.
Elizabeth Coleman wrote her first novel when she was seven – that’s if you can call four pages in an old exercise book a novel.
She was a huge Enid Blyton fan and didn’t let the fact that she’d never been out of Australia deter her from writing a story about an English boarding school, full of girls having midnight feasts in the dorm and saying stuff like: ‘I say, we’re off to Cornwall for the hols!’
When her mum and dad gently suggested that she try writing about an Australian school, Elizabeth was appalled. Who cares about an Australian school? Not a midnight feast or a scary but benign matron in sight.
Elizabeth is the author of four published plays, including the smash hits Secret Bridesmaids’ Business and It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To). Her theatre writing has also appeared in several anthologies. As a screenwriter Elizabeth adapted Secret Bridesmaids’ Business into an award-winning ABC telemovie and has written for many of Australia’s most popular dramas, including Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Bed of Roses, which she co-created with Jutta Goetze. Losing the Plot is her first novel.
Hello Elizabeth. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Thanks Mrs B, it’s a pleasure to be here! I wouldn’t say no to a peppermint tea and a pistachio macaroon.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I’ve mainly written for theatre and television, and my specialty is character-driven comedy. I’ve had four of my plays published by Currency Press: It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To), Secret Bridesmaids’ Business, This Way Up and Almost With You. It’s My Party and Secret Bridesmaids’ Business were also published as a compilation, and my writing also appears in the anthologies Dear Jack (Random House) and Contemporary Monologues for Australian Women (Currency Press).
Losing the Plot releases in April. Can you describe it in just a sentence?
It’s a fun story about the serious business of facing your demons and finding love as a result.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Losing the Plot?
Actually, Losing the Plot started life as a movie script several years ago. I got busy with other projects and put it on the back burner for a while, but I’ve always been passionate about the story so I decided to revive it and write it as a novel – which is a very different kettle of fish to writing a movie script! The story has evolved a lot in the process and I’ve loved every minute of it.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary romance based novel?
Character, character, character! Character is everything – if readers don’t relate to your central characters they won’t give a rats if they get together, and that’s death to romantic comedy. This doesn’t mean the reader has to love the characters, but they do need to feel that they understand what makes them tick. Creating an engaging story with twists and turns is also essential. In romance, we pretty much know where we’re headed, so it’s all about an enjoyable journey getting there.
Is there a particular scene in Losing the Plot that you are proud of?
Honestly, I’m proud of all of it. I can’t think of one particular scene that stands out above the rest. But what I’m probably proudest of is the reactions from people who’ve read it so far, which are overwhelmingly positive. Let’s hope the reading public agrees!
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
I never consciously base my characters on any one person, but I often realise after I’ve finished writing that they’re an amalgam of a few people I know. There’s certainly a lot of me in my heroine Vanessa, although I didn’t deliberately set out to do that. As a writer I’m a sponge and I absorb everyone around me. (Sorry guys!) Snippets of conversations and people I encounter often sneak into my work while I’m not looking.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Losing the Plot?
I hope they’ll have a lot of fun but also do some serious thinking about the nature of life, love and human connection.
How long did it take you to write Losing the Plot?
I wrote it over different periods, but I would say all up about eighteen months.
How will you celebrate the official release day of Losing the Plot?
Actually, I’m writing an episode of SeaChange for Channel 9 at the moment, so I’ll be working on that. But I’ll definitely pop into a book store to see my baby gracing the shelf and take a sneaky pic or two. Can’t wait. And I’m also looking forward to celebrating at my book launch on the following day. Bring on the bubbles!
Can you tell us more about more about your theatre writing and screenwriting background?
I’ve been juggling television and theatre over the past twenty-five years. Some of my TV work includes The Secret Life of Us, SeaChange (the original version and the new), Wanted and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I also wrote the ABC telemovie adaptation of my play Secret Bridesmaids’ Business and co- created and wrote the ABC series Bed of Roses with Jutta Goetze. In terms of theatre, my two favourite plays Secret Bridesmaids’ Business and It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To) both broke box office records when they premiered. They’ve both toured Australia and been performed all over the world in places as diverse as the United States, Japan, Estonia, Turkey and Hong Kong.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
Write! A lot of people spend more time talking about writing than sitting down and doing it. And make sure you read lots of writers you admire, because their skills will rub off on you, even if you don’t realise it at the time. Find the writing style that best suits you and pursue that. And don’t get too hung up on rules in books about writing. Follow your gut – it will serve you better.
What is next on the horizon for Elizabeth Coleman? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’ve just started my second novel. It’s a relationship story with a mystery element, but unfortunately paranoia prevents me from sharing any more details!
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m definitely most excited to read Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky, her fifth novel about private investigator Jackson Brodie and his travails. The first four Jackson Brodie books are among my favourite novels ever. I think Kate Atkinson’s a genius with character and plot, and I love her subversive wit. I’m also looking forward to Lucy Treloar’s follow-up to Salt Creek, Wolfe Island. I want to catch up on Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter and re-visit Kate Grenville’s The Idea of Perfection, which I thought was wonderful when I first read it several years ago.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
I quite like the idea of being a glamorous flapper in the roaring twenties. With any luck I’d get to hang out with the fabulous Miss Phryne Fisher.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Why you, of course Mrs B! But perhaps we could invite Jane Austen and Kate Atkinson to join us?
Sounds delightful, book it in! ~ Mrs B 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Elizabeth. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of Losing the Plot!
Funny, charming and captivating, with a plot within a plot, and a girl who is looking for love in all the wrong places.
Vanessa Rooney is a thirty-something dental hygienist who finds herself a single mum with a hole in her heart where her husband had been.
Somehow she finds the courage to fulfil her childhood dream of writing a romance novel but soon discovers that her novel has been plagiarised by her idol, celebrity author Charlotte Lancaster.
Vanessa reluctantly sues Charlotte with the help of suburban solicitor Dave Rendall, who’s nursing some unfulfilled dreams of his own. When gun QC Marcus Stafford agrees to join their legal team, Vanessa feels like her perfect man has stepped right out of the pages of her book and into her life.
As all hell breaks loose publicly and privately, Vanessa confronts a painful past and realises what Dave already knew – that she’s an intelligent, funny, amazing woman and Marcus Stafford is, well, a tosspot.
Vanessa finally understands that what she wanted wasn’t what she needed, but has this realisation come too late?
Losing the Plot by Elizabeth Coleman was published on April 15th 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Elizabeth here: