Good morning my lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying the scorching sunshine and staying safe. Today I’ve got 2 posts for you. First up, is a brilliant and entertaining Meet the Author interview. I’m talking to Ellan Aldryc about Tai Chi & secret competing, the book we should all read, anxiety, embarrassing celebrity moments, and My Friend, the Gifted – her book which is published TODAY!
Science fiction, Fantasy = Sci-Fantasy!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’ll start with the most random fact and make my way up to something more relevant. I don’t like tomatoes, but I’m pretty keen on tomato derivatives, like ketchup and passata. I currently live in London near one of the most haunted streets in the city, but I’m a total immigrant. I moved to the UK ten years ago from the faraway land of Slovenia to improve my English enough to pursue a literary career, and voilá. I speak between five and seven languages, depending on the day and level of inebriation.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
Me and a couple of other creatives I know have this theory – you always have two types of artistic expression that you’re good at. One is the one where you’re just in awe of all the good stuff, and the other one makes you feel like ‘hmmm I could do this better’. For me the first one is music, and I can listen to a nice chord for hours. This is why I’m a bad musician. I get stuck in the beautiful details and never finish anything. But when it comes to books, I’m really selective and I think that’s where the inspiration comes from. The reader hat is always secondary to the creative impetus.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
My first real job was in a bookstore, where I was exposed to people’s reading habits for the first time. Booksellers do judge people’s choices, but not nearly as much as you’d think – choosing a book is such an intimate pursuit and every choice is valid. My latest and favourite stint was managing in one of the busiest restaurants in London. On a typical Sunday morning I could easily be on the phone with the ambulance, on the radio with the kitchen, and still greeting guests at the desk all at once. I love the thrill. Now that I’m out of that, I use cons as a release valve and chat to as many people as possible.
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I think Tai Chi is probably the biggest thing in my life besides writing. Even though it’s actually quite bizarre when you do it outside – people stare, like a lot. And I never know whether it’s because they’re not used to seeing slow form, or because they can tell my posture is weak. Ah, the joys of anxiety. There’s a guy in the park I exercise in that does this whole thing with wide postures and fans, and we always position ourselves really far from one another, so that it doesn’t look like we’re competing. But we are. And I think I’m winning. I’ll keep you posted.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
There’s a lot of competition in this category and I’m sure all of my mates will get angry because I didn’t tell the one where they were around. But here’s my favourite and quite possibly the origin story of my urban fantasy autobiography. When I was ten we went on this school camping trip. It wasn’t a real camp, more of a forest lodge with bunk beds, but that’s how we roll in Slovenia. We had a talent show coming up and I decided that the only thing with enough shock value for this jaded crowd was a live seance. And I can tell you. The performance was poor. I spent more time telling ghost stories for effect than actually conjuring. I didn’t have a candle. Fire safety. I used a flash light. Nothing went right. It was hardly a seance. After the end, there were a couple more acts, and then a girl came to the common room screaming, saying she saw a ghost on the balcony. And I kid you not, all of the kids started running around screaming. Fourth grade mass hysteria at its finest. The teachers were trying to get things under control when the electricity went out. I honestly thought this was all my fault. It’s safe to say no one slept that night.
Name one book you think everyone should read and tell us why?
I’d say that the book I force feed to people the most – and I don’t do it often – is Slaughterhouse 5. I’m quite happy that Kurt Vonnegut isn’t alive at the moment, because I’d probably find him and embarrass myself in front of him so badly that the earth would open and swallow me. It’s kinda my thing. Slaughterhouse 5 has the unique appeal that will please down-to-earth lovers of war literature, because it depicts the horror of Dresden first hand, but it’s also ridiculously surreal and funny in a way that I won’t spoil. For me, it takes about an hour of talking about books before I start telling the story of the single most influential moment in metafiction as the one where the author identifies themselves in the story. That thing literally flipped my mind inside out. But no spoilers! Read Slaughterhouse 5. Stop reading this interview. That’s how passionate I am about it.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
Seven Psychopaths. I love movies about writers, because they embody the self-reflective narrative of fiction that’s aware of its conventions and its artificiality. That adds a whole other layer of storytelling mastery that needs to happen – by now you’ve probably found out that I’m passionate about narratology, and this movie makes a masterful mockery of thriller conventions.
Imagine an Irish writer who wants to write a thriller about Seven Psychopaths, and has no plot, just the concept. But then his weird friend drags him into a pet-kidnapping scheme that leads to some disturbing adventures and psychopath galore. The plot twists in this movie are insane. The cast is superb. Cannot recommend enough.
Describe yourself using three words only…….
Weaponized anxiety machine.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you (that you’re willing to share?!)
I have insane social anxiety, but that makes me really brave in social situations because my adrenaline levels are expecting to wrestle a tiger. So whenever I see a celebrity, I need to go there. I need to. I’m no chicken, no sir. And awful things happen.
My worst encounters so far are: Repeatedly asking Robin Wright if she’s Robin Wright just because I wasn’t sure and she didn’t want to confirm it in a busy restaurant and I was completely oblivious to the fact that she wanted me to simply leave. Asking an actor I won’t name because the wound is too fresh, to dedicate a print I bought ‘to himself because he does a great job’ and he repeatedly refused and I just kept asking. Shall I go on? Talking to Mark Dawson and getting so nervous that I asked him if he happened to be the guy who shouted at me on a train from the Stonehenge solstice celebration nine years ago. If you ever see me at a conference or a convention, follow me. Cringe will ensue.
You mentioned postmodern narrative and self-awareness in fictional works a lot. Is this something we can expect to see in your books as well?
Not in an obvious way. I think using the accepted conventions and rules of a story and playing with them is great, unless it takes away from the enjoyment – and I don’t want to be a person who’d force feed you metafiction, I’m not about that life anymore. My books are (hopefully) brilliant stories filled with interesting people. That’s it and I use my knowledge of literary structure to increase immersion, not alienate the reader. However, we’ve seen a great increase in using self-reflective story devices in mass media recently, to the point where they’ve received popular counterparts to their names. Intertextuality became crossovers, and metafiction became ‘breaking the fourth wall’ so I think that these can be used effectively. In my books, subtlety is key…
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
The moment of truth! Exciting! Four lovely books are coming out this year, starting with My Friend, the Gifted (see the glorious cover art).
Think futuristic sci-fi, but not dystopian. Mysteries, conspiracies, plenty of secrets to go around in an Institute tasked with a simple goal. Inject the magical into science. Make the world a better place.
Or, plunge it into absolute darkness if the group of our protagonists messes up, which seems
increasingly likely. My Friend, the Gifted is centred on Elodie Marchand, who struggles to find her place among the geniuses and overachievers – until the gifted, a controversial group of supernaturally abled people invite her into their midst. But not all is as it seems.
Rivalry, a search for the truth, and a couple interesting tips on how to play the clarinet. All this and much more awaits you in the path to the Universe of Infinite Wonder.
This is an off-the-cuff description. Go search the book on amazon for the cool blurb I’ve been slaving on for weeks!
final words from chelle…
Thanks Ellan for this brilliant interview and HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!! I love your interview and it had me chuckling in places! It sounds like your ‘seance’ didn’t quite go to plan, and your celebrity moments sound cringe worthy (you poor thing!). I’ve never previously heard of Slaughterhouse 5 but now definitely need to check this out – history is my other passion and it sounds brilliant so it’s been added to my long book wishlist – thank you!!
If you have any questions or comments for Ellan, then drop a comment below!
Have a wonderful day everyone!