I was born in St. David’s Hospital in Cardiff, opposite the birthplace of Ivor Novello and in what was once the Workhouse. Being the first baby born on Easter Sunday of that year my mother was presented with a celebratory cake. She then had to share it with everyone on the ward which wasn’t what she was hoping for! I’ve always been a big cake lover. Perhaps this is why!
I lived most of my growing up years in Llantrisant, at the head of the Rhondda valleys, and then moved to Pembrokeshire when I married my husband Guy Manning who is a fabulously talented artist. I now live in Coppet Hall, very close to the beach and have my very own writing shed in the garden. Dreams do come true.
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
I came to writing fairly late. I loved writing when I was a kid and I remember winning the Bard of the Eisteddfod at my school for a story that was a plagiarised version of every Enid Blyton story, Narnia story and Lewis Carroll story I’d ever read, all mixed up together into about two hundred words. When I got on stage to collect my prize everyone clapped and I thought ‘Ooh! This is fun! I’ll be an actress’.
Many years of insanity followed during which I had some absolutely brilliant adventures, and yet it never felt quite right.
Life turned itself upside down – as it tends to – and I decided I needed to do something for myself so I applied to do a part-time MA in Creative and Media Writing at Swansea University. I REALLY enjoyed this experience and came out with a D for distinction which is so far above the D’s I was more accustomed to. I fully intended to be a playwright when I graduated. I’d mix my Drama skills with my writing skills and it would all be excellent and feel spot on right.
It didn’t feel right.
I tried poetry. It didn’t feel right.
I tried short stories. Nope.
Books for Adults. No. Very definitely no.
Argh. Pulling hair out I went for a long walk (not off a short precipice).
And that’s when I had an epiphany of sorts. My MP3 player was chock-a-block full of things that my sister Jo and I had shared as memories. The theme tune to Annie, the Nolan Sisters, some Wham (cringe to all) and the Michael Horden reading of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
And that was it. On the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, at the age of forty-something, I realised what I was meant to be doing. Writing for children. And since that day I’ve been doing it and it fits.
My first book ‘Elen’s Island’ was such an easy book to write.
I’d just moved to Pembrokeshire. I had very few friends here. I am incredibly shy.
I think I wanted to imagine my own situation from a young person’s perspective. Travelling somewhere unknown, making new friendships, uncovering histories. Of course Elen is a lot braver than me!
Luckily some of the people in the book are as kind to her as I have found people here to be.
What is your life like outside of writing? What makes you laugh, what makes you cry?
I have THE most brilliant life a person could hope for. I am doing something I love and am surrounded by brilliant, positive, wonderful family and friends. I love dog walking and spending time out and about in the countryside. I’m obsessed with reading, so I spend lots of time in my garden with a good book. I laugh a lot. Every day my husband makes me laugh at something. I cry at the state of the world and all the terrible things that are happening but I also cry at the incredible acts of kindness and compassion people are capable of. I live passionately and fully and give everything as much energy as I can.
Which Welsh person would you like to invite for dinner and what would you serve?
Anthony Hopkins. Some Fava beans and a nice Chianti.
What are you working on now?
My Middle Grade Debut Novel ‘Gaslight’ is due to come out next year with Firefly Press. It has been described as ‘a darkly atmospheric RUBY IN THE SMOKE style mystery, rich in voice and character and set in the dark, morbid, death-obsessed world of the grifters and scammers of the Music Halls of late Victorian Cardiff.
A PENNY DREADFUL for the 10+ market, GASLIGHT is set in the murky world of the Victorian Music Hall and follows Nansi, a feisty young foundling desperately in search of her missing mother, who becomes embroiled in a scam to swindle the newly bereaved, playing on the late Victorian obsession with death, mourning, mediums and making contact with the afterlife.’
Janet Thomas, acquiring editor for Firefly had this to say:
“We are so excited to have a new book from Eloise. GASLIGHT, a gripping gothic middle grade mystery, is full of Eloise’s signature pace and beautiful writing. Nansi is an unforgettable heroine, real, heroic and at times heart-breaking. Eloise has an extraordinary gift for voice and character, and that is clear in the vivid world she creates here, without ever losing the drive of the thriller for a moment. I can’t wait to get this book to readers!“
With this in the pipeline I’m working on a few other Middle grade Novels, all of which are set in Pembrokeshire. I find it such an endlessly inspiring place.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
This is where having ten year career as an actress really comes in handy! I am used to criticism by the bucket load! I used to find it very difficult to take but now I am fine with it. Of course there is always the option to disagree with criticism and that is an option one discovers with age.
Connect with Eloise:
Eloise writes words. Lots of them. Sometimes in particular orders.
Sixer of Pixies. Child of the 70’s. Survived encephalitis, pizza thrown in face, a decade as an actress, school, endless years of Heavy Metal abuse from younger sister’s room.
Likes confetti, bluebells, memories of Gran and Grampa, family, cwtches, the way ladybirds shelter in beech nuts, collecting seaglass on misty days, comfy jeans, stories about interesting things.
Spent too much money on ill-fitting clothes, too much of the 80’s planning marriage to John Taylor and/or George Michael, lovely times in Europe, one cold week in New York.
Lives in West Wales. Lives for the sea, love, repeats of ‘Murder She Wrote’, for as long as she can.
Has dog called Watson Jones. Has husband called Guy. Both of whom are handsome devils.
Her first book Elen’s Island was Highly Commended in the Tir na nOg Awards 2016. She is still tap dancing with excitement.
N.B. She can’t tap dance.