Sunday, 16 April 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Ella Harper

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Ella Harper is an author with a few firsts, first book under her real name, first under her new pen name, and her latest release is her first book for new publisher Canelo, which makes her a perfect guest for Fab Firsts - welcome!

Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My first book as Ella Harper (I have four novels published under my real name Sasha Wagstaff which were glamorous, aspirational reads, so very different) is called Pieces of You. It’s about Luke and Lucy, a couple who have suffered multiple miscarriages during an eight year struggle to have a baby together. When Luke ends up in a coma after a horrific accident, the three key women in his life fall apart and Lucy in particular, finds herself reassessing her entire life with Luke, especially when a stranger arrives with a shocking secret. I absolutely loved writing this book as it was my first foray into real life issues and emotional conflict and I also enjoyed weaving Lucy and Luke’s love story in and out of the current day drama with romantic flashbacks and insights into their past.

What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I think I have always loved books and reading and writing. Although I enjoyed a successful career in banking for a decade, I always continued to enjoy reading and then I started to write something of my own on my commute into work. Whenever I used to read a novel, my mind would always ask questions: how would I feel if this happened to me? What if this idea was pushed even further and another area altogether was explored? Why would a character behave like that…what would force them to act in a particular way? So translating this into my own creative ideas seemed the next obvious step. With my Ella Harper novels in particular, I love exploring deeply emotional issues – some based on experiences of friends, some based on things I have personally been through.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Probably a few years, if I’m honest! But this was very much on and off as I had a high-powered job which didn’t allow me much writing time or creative head space. These days I can write a novel in a much shorter space of time as long as I have entire days to do so, as this is how I work best. I become very engrossed in my story and actually resent having to terminate my writing time when I’m in full flow! 

Amazon UK
I wrote my new novel One Last Wish about a child who has terminal cancer and is on a romantic crusade to reconnect her parents in a series of intense chunks and it’s a very emotional book so I was exhausted at the end of it!

If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

Hmmmm. I would say that I struggled in the first instance to get to grips with how to structure the novel as I had three female viewpoints plus current day perspectives as well as flashbacks and this was new to me. However, I wouldn’t change how I went about it because writing is a learning curve and a journey and anything that happens along the way is worthwhile and to be learnt from. No regrets, as they say!

Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

Pieces of You was traditionally published. The decision around this was mainly based on receiving good offers and weighing up who might be best to promote my novel and reach the right audience. But I think whatever way a novel is published is absolutely fine as long as the book is out there and reaching readers.

Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

My tip for first time authors is: never give up on your dream. It’s a tough business but if you really want this, go for it. Don’t give up until you get there so you need a truckload of self-belief and a hide like a rhinoceros. Find your voice, know you have something and plug away until you reach your goal. I wrote two other novels before I secured my first deal and I had to just let those other ones go and know that they were my training wheels – necessary steps to get to where I wanted to be.

Tell us about your first…

Book you bought 

It has to be Wuthering Heights. I read it in three hours and I collect old copies of it wherever I go even now.


My brother buying me a little navy handbag with a red heart on it for my third birthday.

Person you fell in love with 

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. It was a crush that lasted for an embarrassingly long time….

Holiday you went on 

With my parents to Spain. We all had nicknames based on things that happened on holiday. Mine was ‘el chocolate’ which probably isn’t grammatically correct but it was because I drank hot chocolate like there was no tomorrow!

Prize you won

 I can’t remember the first prize I won at school or anything like that, but I can tell you the prize I won that meant the most; Pieces of You won the Romantic Novelists’ Association epic romance award. I was literally speechless – even though I then had to get up and make a big speech.

Sport you enjoyed participating in 

Gymnastics. Loved it for years.

Sammy, a lovely black and white cat.

..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author
Pilates instructor. I am actually also a Pilates Instructor! I love both my jobs for different reasons – Pilates is active and social, writing is solitary and creative – the perfect balance.

…toy that you recall loving

A toy bunny, imaginatively called…Bunny. I’m sure I could come up with a far better name now; I deliberate for hours over my character’s names.

… time you felt like an adult

When I moved into a house at Uni. Paying bills, buying my own shopping, cooking every day, that kind of thing.

… time you were really scared

On a hot air balloon-style ride in Florida when I was ten. I was absolutely petrified and so was my dad. We don’t do heights!

Thank you so much Ella for answering my questions about your fab firsts. I absolutely loved all four of your Sasha Wagstaff books and would love to see more of them. I also have really enjoyed your Ella books so far, and just hope you continue to write great books. And of course congratulations on your RNA Epic Romance award.

About Ella Harper

As a teenager, I devoured novels and immersed myself in learning foreign languages. I imagined I might get a glamorous job speaking French somewhere but after acquiring a BA in French and Russian studies, I followed in my father's footsteps and ended up in banking instead. I climbed the ladder, became an Assistant Vice President then starting writing a book on my commute into work. I then left my job to become a writer, publishing four successful novel under the name of Sasha Wagstaff. Pieces of You is my first novel as Ella Harper and it was inspired by a personal loss and fertility issues suffered by friends.

For more information about me, please follow me on Twitter @Ella__Harper and on Facebook at EllaHarperBooks. You can find information about my other books on my Sasha Wagstaff page on Amazon, on Twitter @sashawagstaff.

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