Written by JJ Barnes
I am proud to share my interview with author Sarah Bourne. She shares her experiences of writing her latest novel, Ella’s War, discusses her career so far, and offers writing advice to inspire others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Sarah Bourne and I live in Sydney, Australia, although I’m a Brit by birth, born and raised in London. I love to travel ( when it’s possible!) and my most intrepid journey was cycling in India, Nepal and Tibet in the late 1980s. I also love walking, swimming and skiing. I read a couple of books a week in various genres, but nothing too scary!
I have three grown up kids, two of whom live in London, a husband who plays guitar WAY too loud, and two old dogs.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I never wanted to write a book. I was bored one summer a few years ago. The kids were teenagers and didn’t need me (except to chauffer them around!) and I decided to try writing a short story. That effort became a YA paranormal romance trilogy. Sadly, I don’t think it’ll ever be published, although I had some great feedback from an agent here in Australia who encouraged me to keep writing.
When did you take a step to start writing?
The YA trilogy ignited a love of writing, and I kept going from there. I now have several manuscripts either finished or in various stages of completion.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The Train, published in April by Bloodhound Books, was a long time in the making. I spent four months researching various issues and about a year to write it. I then put it away for a few months so that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. Revisions took about three months, and it was published about two and a half years after the initial idea came to me.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Ella’s War, was released on 28th June was two years in the making, and Bloodhound Books accepted it in December last year, so all up, two and a half years again, from concept to publication. Seems to be a pattern forming here…I hope I can speed up a bit!
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Ella’s War?
I was talking to my aunt about a family member who had been in the Royal Army Medical Corps in WW2, and thought how interesting that must have been. I stated researching, and discovered that WW2 was the first time female nurses were allowed at the Front. I wondered what it would have been like to be one of those young women, and what they must have seen and experienced. And so the plot was hatched.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Ella’s War?
Making sure the research was as thorough as possible. There are still people alive who remember this period of history, and I wanted to make sure no-one could read it and say, ‘that’s not how it was.’ Also, writing about war and the horrors that people can inflict on each other was confronting at times.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
My protagonist had to be someone with courage and compassion, but also someone like the girl next door, that people could relate to. I have worked in Mental Health for many years, so I drew on a number of people when creating Ella, and hopefully she’s a complex character with flaws as well as good traits.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
In many ways the War itself is the antagonist in this book. It is the horrors of the conflict that Ella struggles against. Her abiding question, ‘how can I remain human in the face of all this ugliness and conflict?’
What is the inciting incident of your Ella’s War?
Ella wakes up in hospital with amnesia. She remembers nothing of her past and doesn’t know who she can trust. Her question here is, ‘can you move forward in your life when you can’t remember your past?’
What is the main conflict of Ella’s War?
Ella has to confront her past, the good and the bad, and come to some sort of resolution. She has seen and done some things that are hard for her to reconcile with the person she wants to be.
Did you plot Ella’s War in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I always plot loosely and then go way off! But having done lots of research, and having ‘cooked’ my characters for quite a while before I start writing, I trust that they’ll take me where I (or they) need to go.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Ella’s War need?
I belong to a Writers Group, and workshopped the book with them. Then I found an agent who had editorial input, and Bloodhound Books have fantastic editors too. I worked with Ian Skewis to fine tune Ella’s War.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Do it! But don’t be in a hurry to get words on paper. Allow your imagination free rein for a while, and the plot and characters will become clearer. Also, and I know this is a controversial issue, I would say write when you feel like it rather than setting a time or a word count each day. I know that for me if I try to force words out because I feel I should, I always end up deleting them. Sometimes I write for several hours at a time and get thousands of words down, other days, I think about the story but don’t write anything.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m excited to be embarking on the DI Luna Bright murder mystery series, the first one of which I’ve just sent to Betsy at Bloodhound to see if she’s interested. I have another five books planned in the series at least. I also have another book coming out with Bloodhound in September – InVisible – about a young woman mistakenly arrested after the London bombings, and the consequences for her and her life.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am so proud. Writing takes so long, and can be a lonely path to tread, but when you know people are enjoying your book, it makes it all worthwhile. And to be honest, it’s not the writing that feels like effort – it’s the revising and editing and sending it out and getting rejections. So yes, when you see it in print or available on Kindle etc, it’s a fantastic feeling.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
FB Sarah Bourne Author
Link to The Train
Link to Ella’s War: