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21 November 2011

Meet Grace Elliot - a treat for animal and romantic fiction lovers

 I had the pleasure of meeting Grace Elliot at the Festival Of romance recently and I'm delighted to be able to welcome her as the special guest on my blog today.

Fasten your seatbelts, take your favourite drink from the replicator and settle back to learn more about this fascinating lady.  To start with, here's her bio:

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace works in a companion animal practice near London and is housekeeping staff to five moggies, two teenage sons and a guinea pig. She turned to writing as an antidote to the stress of modern life and believes intelligent people have the greatest need to read romance!

Grace’s published work includes the acclaimed “A Dead Man’s Debt”, new release “Eulogy’s Secret” and a non-fiction book “Cat Pies” (feline historical trivia) - due out December 2011.

HL: Tell us a little more about yourself – you’re a veterinarian, and as you know I’m an animal lover as are many of my friends here and we’d love to know a little more about your work.

GE: Being a vet is both the best and worst, job in the world. The best because you get to work with animals - the first thing I do every working day is to check the kennel room, say hello to in patients and give those that want it a fuss or cuddle - it’s like having a never ending supply of pets! Strangely, the worst side isn’t what you might think - putting animals to sleep, because there is the comfort of knowing their suffering is at an end. For me the worst aspect is aggressive dogs.

So many owners fail to understand the need their pet has for discipline and treat dogs like toys. A bit like careless drivers, that’s fine until someone gets hurt because of it - as was the case when 70 kg Mastiff, treated like a cuddly toy by his owner, grabbed me by the throat. I’m only here today because of my quick reflexes that meant his jaws didn’t lock in place. Have that happen to you once and you're guaranteed to become quite preachy about responsible ownership!

HL: I couldn't agree more, as you say, a badly trained animal can be a danger to itself and those who try to handle it. but back to writing. When did you  actually start writing?

GE: I started writing in 2002 after a school reunion. To my surprise, school friends who I hadn’t seen for twenty years, were eager to know if I still wrote. They remembered the stories I wrote for English homework being read out to a hushed class and were convinced I’d go on to be a multi-published author!! Being reminded of those stories was a real “Eureka” moment. The enjoyment of writing for pleasure, of creating new worlds and escaping to them, came back to me and after a 20 year gap I started writing again.

HL: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

GE: Characters - without a doubt!
And the key to establishing a character is to decide on the right name - just like naming a baby!

My latest book “Eulogy’s Secret” was inspired by the word ‘Eulogy’, which in turn sprang into my mind when I saw a poster on the London Underground for a memorial concert. I couldn’t shake the feeling that ‘Eulogy’ would make such a sad, enigmatic name, and that for anyone to call their child Eulogy there must be a heart rending story behind it - perhaps the death of the mother in childbirth, or worse….but as for what Eulogy’s secret is and why she was named thus, you have to read the book.

HL: I certainly agree about characters, and the importance of names.Tell us about Eulogy's Secret' and what you think readers will enjoy about it

GE: My second book, “Eulogy’s Secret”, is a story of greed, prejudice and a stolen identity. Again, characters and how they react in circumstances beyond their control, is key to my work. I aim to write the sort of page-turning book that I love to read and hope readers will find this to be true.

Eulogy’s Secret is a story of contrasts about a heroine who has lost everything and yet sees goodness everywhere, and a hero, who is wealthy but cynical and jaded. It is a story about truth, trust and love finding a way - the literary equivalent of a long soak in a warm bubble bath after a hard day at work.

HL: It sounds  so intriguing - if someone were to play one of your characters in a movie, which character, and what actor would it be and why?

GE: This is such a good question! I have something akin to a photographic memory and write by closing my eyes and describing the action as it plays like a movie behind my eyelids. Being able to clearly see the hero and heroine in my mind’s eye is crucial….and so on reflection, I’m not going to answer this because I’m curious to see if anyone picks up on who the inspiration behind Eulogy Foster and Jack Huntley really are. Winks.
HL: Grace, I didn't realise you were such a tease! So what have you learned about writing since you were published that surprised you the most?

GE: Two things spring to mind.
Firstly, how anal some critics can be about minor punctuation errors. Don’t get me wrong, I can be pretty anal myself, but when it comes to a rollicking good read I don’t get too stressed about the odd misplaced comma or colon.

But this leads onto my second point which is that as a writer, you’re never as good as you want to be. Writing is a constant learning curve - you crack one aspect of the craft, only to discover you could do better elsewhere - lucky then that I believe in learning through my mistakes and moving on.

HL:  This is so true, as writers, we are always learning. What’s you’re writing process? Has it changed since writing your first book?

GE: This year, for the first time I enrolled on NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month), which is a challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. I can honestly say my writing process had changed dramatically because of this. Previously, I wrote for a minimum of twenty minutes a day. If the muse didn’t visit during that time my conscience was clear and I would stop. But with NaNoWriMo I’ve learnt to stop procrastinating and write no matter what. The increase in my productivity has been astounding.

When November draws to an end I fully intend to keep up the habit of writing at least 1,667 words a day - who knows, I may even stick to it.

HL: Snap on the NaNo.  I've done it twice, although I'm way behind this year, but it is a great motivator.  Apart from this, what is your personal definition of success?

GE: My personal definition of success is more philosophical than materialistic - I just want to be content and bring happiness to those around me. Sounds sickly I know, but it happens to be true.

HL: What is your favourite source of inspiration?

GE: Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. As I said earlier, “Eulogy’s Secret” sprang from a poster on the London Underground, whilst “A Dead Man’s Debt” came from a portrait of Emma Hart (she married Lord Hamilton and later became Admiral Nelson’s mistress.) Book two in the Huntley trilogy (working title, “Hope’s Betrayal”) was inspired by the coast of the Isle of Wight, whilst book three was inspired by a visit to the Hell Fire Caves in West Wycombe. Who knows where inspiration will strike next!

HL: That's so interesting, I love how a picture can spark off a train of thought that becomes a plot, and I've visited the Hell Fire Caves too, so I can see how that would be inspiring for an historical romance writer.  

Well sadly, we're nearly at the end of the interview and I have one last question. (I can't resist.) If you were an animal, which one do you think you would be, and why? (I have a sneaking suspicion I know the answer to this one already.)

GE: Lyn, you are naughty - I’m chuckling now! And yes, you guessed it - I’d be a cat!
Cats have so got life sussed. What is that saying? - “A dog has a master but a cat has staff.”

That sums life up in the Elliot household. At this moment Widget is snuggled against my leg, Noni is roughing it on two faux fur rugs (folded into quarters and stacked on top of each other), Wallace and Pilchard are curled up on a cushion my bed, whilst Gromit is out hunting - but will be back later for a snack and to sleep with my eldest son.

That aside, my body metabolism is already geared to being a cat - sleeping 20 hours a day and waking for biscuits suits me perfectly!

HL:  *Grin*  Absolutely! Cats seem to have life perfectly sussed out! Thank you so much for a fascinating insight into your writing life, Grace, and as an animal lover it's been great to learn a little about your veterinary work.  Before you go, let's find out a bit more about your latest book EULOGY'S SECRET.

Eulogy’s Secret - a story of greed prejudice and a stolen identity

In the four weeks since her guardians’ death, Eulogy Foster has lost everything. Penniless and alone she seeks the help of her estranged brother, Lord Lucien Devlin. But Devlin throws Eulogy out onto the streets and the mercy of a passing stranger, Jack Huntley. 
As Eulogy seeks the truth behind her birth, she is drawn into the world of art and artists, where her morals are challenged and all is deception.

Jack Huntley: bitter, cynical and betrayed in love. He believes women are devious, scheming, untrustworthy creatures - and when he rescues a naïve Miss from being raped, his life is about to change forever. As his attraction to Eulogy grows, caught in a deadlock with both denying their true feelings, events take a sinister turn as someone seeks to silence Eulogy….forever


If you would like to know more about Grace please visit her blog:
or website:

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'STARQUEST' 'CHILDREN OF THE MIST' (The sequel to Starquest) Dancing With Fate 'Freeread':'A BARGAIN WITH DEATH'STARQUEST' 'CHILDREN OF THE MIST' (The sequel to Starquest) Dancing With Fate 'Freeread':'A BARGAIN WITH DEATH'

Also available on Kindle