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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, fantasy author Elizabeth Carlisle talks about the inspiration behind her new book, Hiraeth, and her creative writing process.

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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Elizabeth Carlisle about her life and career, the story of her new fantasy book, Hiraeth, and what inspired her to write it.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

My name is Elizabeth Carlisle, and I’m a dedicated nurse based in Kent. I’ve been in the nursing profession for 5 years, I actually qualified early to help nurse in the pandemic. I find immense satisfaction in caring for my patients and making a positive impact on their lives.

In my spare time, I have a passion for writing, particularly in the fantasy genre. I’ve actually written a fantasy book, which has been a wonderful creative outlet for me. Writing has been a significant part of my life, partly inspired by my late mother who always wanted me to become an author. Her encouragement and belief in my storytelling abilities have been a driving force behind my writing journey.

Elizabeth Carlisle on The Table Read Magazine
Elizabeth Carlisle

Balancing my nursing career with my love for writing has been challenging yet incredibly fulfilling. Living in Kent provides a serene backdrop that inspires both my professional and creative endeavours. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to pursue both of my passions and look forward to continuing to grow in both areas.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I first wanted to write a book when I was 11 years old. It all started when I read the Harry Potter series for the first time. I was completely captivated by the magical world J.K. Rowling created and found myself lost in the adventures of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. The storytelling and the way the books transported me to another world sparked something in me. From that moment, I knew I wanted to create my own stories and bring characters and worlds to life through writing. That early inspiration has stayed with me ever since and has been a driving force behind my journey as an author.

When did you take a step to start writing?

I took a significant step towards writing during the pandemic. With the extra time at home, I came across an old story outline I had created when I was 14. Rediscovering that outline reignited my passion for storytelling, and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to finally turn my ideas into a full-fledged book. The quiet and reflective time during the pandemic allowed me to focus and dedicate myself to writing, and that’s when my journey as an author truly began.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It took me about five months to write my book. Once I found my old story outline during the pandemic, I was able to dedicate consistent time and effort to developing and completing the manuscript. The process was intense but incredibly rewarding, and seeing my ideas come to life on the page was an amazing experience.

What made you want to write Hiraeth?

I wanted to write a fantasy book because I’ve always been enchanted by the limitless possibilities the genre offers. Ever since I read the Harry Potter series as a child, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of creating entire worlds where magic, mythical creatures, and extraordinary adventures are possible. Fantasy allows me to explore complex themes and emotions in a way that’s both imaginative and engaging. Additionally, writing fantasy gives me the freedom to blend reality with my wildest dreams, crafting stories that can transport readers to new and exciting realms. It’s a genre that truly captivates my imagination and lets me share that sense of wonder with others.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Hiraeth?

My biggest challenges in writing the book were the lack of previous writing experience and the task of developing ideas that I had originally come up with 15 years ago. Not having a background in writing made it difficult to structure my story and develop my characters effectively at first. I had to invest a lot of time in learning the craft, reading writing guides, and practicing my skills to ensure the story was engaging and coherent.

Additionally, working with ideas from my teenage years posed its own set of challenges. The initial concepts needed significant reworking to align with my current perspective and writing style. It required a lot of creativity and patience to transform those old ideas into a cohesive and mature narrative. Despite these obstacles, the process was incredibly rewarding and taught me a great deal about perseverance and the art of storytelling.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

My protagonist was inspired by Katniss Everdeen from ‘The Hunger Games’ and Hermione Granger from ‘Harry Potter.’ I admired how these characters didn’t need to be saved; they were empowered women who took charge of their own destinies and played pivotal roles in their stories. Katniss’s resilience and leadership, combined with Hermione’s intelligence and resourcefulness, inspired me to create a heroine who embodies these qualities.

I wanted my protagonist to be someone who could face challenges head-on, make tough decisions, and lead her own adventures, just like Katniss and Hermione. These characters showed me the importance of strong, capable female heroes, and I aimed to bring that same spirit to my own story.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The idea of a classic villain never really appealed to me. Instead, I wanted my antagonist to be more nuanced—someone who is cunning yet capable of kindness. My inspiration came from characters like Loki from the Marvel Universe and Professor Snape from ‘Harry Potter.’ Both characters are complex, with layers that go beyond just being evil. Loki’s cleverness and ability to manipulate situations, coupled with moments of vulnerability, and Snape’s morally ambiguous actions driven by a deeper, often hidden, motivation, inspired me to create an antagonist who is multifaceted. I aimed to develop a character who challenges the protagonist not just through malice, but through intricate schemes and unexpected acts of humanity, making the conflict more engaging and thought-provoking.

Hiraeth by Elizabeth Carlisle on The Table Read Magazine
Hiraeth by Elizabeth Carlisle

What is the inciting incident of Hiraeth?

I’m hesitant to answer this as I don’t wish to give much away! There are also more than one. My personal favourite is where Aurelia has to break into the enemy HQ in order to rescue a friend of hers had been taken. She has to use both her powers and wit in order to break him out.

Did you plot Hiraeth in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

Yes, I did plot the book initially. I spent a considerable amount of time outlining the main plot points, developing the characters, and crafting the overarching narrative. However, once I started writing, I found that my story took on a life of its own.

There were moments when my characters surprised me, leading me down unexpected paths I hadn’t considered during the planning stage. It was as if my creativity took over, guiding me to places I hadn’t imagined before. While the basic structure remained intact, the finer details and twists evolved organically as I delved deeper into the story.

Ultimately, this combination of meticulous planning and spontaneous creativity enriched the storytelling process, allowing the narrative to unfold in dynamic and unpredictable ways.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Hiraeth need?

I did most of the editing myself, following some loved ones reading it and pointing out things which needed to be changed. My publishers formatted it but I edited it alone. I have noticed some mistakes since it has been published and I actually enjoy them. I think it illustrates how even a novice can publish a book and how raw it is.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

The first piece of writing advice I would give to someone starting out is to simply start writing. Many aspiring writers get caught up in overthinking or worrying about whether their writing is good enough. The important thing is to overcome that fear and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Don’t worry about perfection in the first draft; just focus on getting your ideas down.

Writing is a skill that improves with practice, so the more you write, the better you’ll become. Embrace the process of writing regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. Set aside dedicated time for writing and make it a habit. Whether it’s journaling, working on a short story, or brainstorming ideas for a novel, consistent practice is key to honing your craft.

Remember that writing is a journey, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, genres, and techniques. And most importantly, be patient with yourself and stay persistent. Writing takes time and dedication, but with passion and perseverance, you can achieve your goals as a writer.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’m thrilled you’re interested! I’ve actually already written a second book, and I’m excited to share that it’s in the hands of some close friends and family members for feedback. While I don’t want to give away too much just yet, I can tell you it’s another journey into a world of adventure and imagination. There are new characters to meet, new challenges to face, and of course, plenty of twists and turns along the way. Stay tuned for more updates—I can’t wait to share it with you!

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Absolutely, I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished. When I first started writing, I never intended for my work to be published—it was simply a passion project, a way to explore my creativity and escape into imaginary worlds. But now, seeing my book in print and knowing that it’s out there, touching the lives of readers, is a surreal and deeply gratifying experience.

It’s been worth every moment of effort and dedication. Knowing that my book might inspire someone else to pick up a pen and explore their own imagination fills me with joy. That’s one of the most rewarding aspects of writing for me—being able to offer readers an opportunity to escape reality, even if just for a little while. If my book can transport someone to another world and provide them with a sense of wonder and adventure, then I consider it a resounding success

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