It has been a while since I've had a guest on the blog, and I'm super excited to be sharing this with you today. Today's guest is author Elizabeth Henry, who has recently published a book of poetry called 'Eliza's Book of Whimsy' which you may have seen featured in this months edition of Landlove magazine. It is an enchanting book, full to the brim with nature-inspired imagery and charm. Elizabeth's philosophy on life is 'simple pleasure' and with that in mind she has fashioned a collection of poems to cheer, uplift and satisfy the spirit. With poems such as 'The faerie Glen', 'The Hedgerow' and 'The forsaken Garden' it would be a delightful read (or gift!) for adults and children alike, and the beautiful illustrations by artist Delphine Jones compliment the poems perfectly. Here's a sneak peek into 'Eliza's Book of Whimsy' along with an entertaining Q&A session with the author herself.
About Elizabeth Henry
'My home is a charming but slightly ramshackle cottage in Shropshire, where I live with my horticulturalist husband and my eight-year-old son. In our vast and verdurous garden, we grow blowsy blooms and wholesome vegetables; we also keep five colourful chickens for eggs. We have oodles of adventures together, many of which are fantastical enough to write about … And so I do!’
... and on writing
‘My infatuation with books began at a very early age. I grew up in a house surrounded by them, and I loved to escape inside stories about ‘The Four Marys’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Jemima Puddle-Duck’. I yearned incessantly to have magical adventures with Enid Blyton’s fairy folk and to clamber through a wardrobe or a looking glass to a make-believe world. As I matured, I moved on to the classics, in particular the Brontës and Dickens, but now my taste has broadened, and as long as I can lose myself within the pages of a well-thumbed epic, I am content.'
A Q&A with Elizabeth Henry
What inspired you to begin writing ‘Eliza’s book of Whimsy’?
Lots of lovely things inspired me to write ‘Eliza’s book of Whimsy’! A charming poem by Kipling in the front of one of my favourite novels was the trigger, because before then, I had always written prose as opposed to verse. My first ever poem was about a cheeky little blackbird that was flitting and flouncing betwixt the branches of my apple tree. He was so vocal, I found him utterly endearing, and within minutes had laid down my tea and jotted a little ditty in his honour. It was on that day, sitting just to the right of the vegetable patch, that I discovered I’d a bit of a gift for rhyme.
What is the Kipling poem called?
The poem is called ‘The Bee-Boy’s Song’. It appears in a Santa Montefiore novel called ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’.
Your ramshackle cottage in the countryside sounds absolutely idyllic. Do you prefer to write at home or do you carry a notebook so you can write on the move when the moment takes you?
I write ‘whenever’ and ‘wherever’, and always carry a notebook! My cottage is idyllic and provides a fantastic stimulus for ‘simple pleasures’, but I am intrigued by all kinds of different places – the history of them, the atmosphere of them and most of all what part they might play in my writing. If I’m out and about and something catches my eye, I will scribble about it there and then. I have an unfinished novel called, ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’, which I must get round to completing sometime. It is set in lots of wondrous locations; none of them anywhere near where I live!
So which locations feature in this novel and when can we expect to read it?
It is set in Suffolk, the wilds of Northumberland, London and Italy. I am eighty thousand words in but need to decide on an ending; (severe case of writer’s block!) I hope to return to it one day but as for when? I’m not entirely sure. My poem ‘The Artist’ is based upon a leading character from the book; he is an impoverished painter who steals the heart of one of the sisters. Watch this space!!....
When you’re working on a particular book do you have a routine you find works for you?
Not really. I can get carried away with a project and when I do, I can’t leave it alone! My poor husband has to put up with me writing at midnight – (matchsticks propping up my eyelids and legs as stiff as a board.) Other times I can be quite lackadaisical; especially in the summer when there’s planting to be done.
I absolutely love ‘The Faerie Glen’ … did you actually meet any faeries while researching for that particular poem? :-)
That’s a nice thought, and wouldn’t it be great if I had!! I can’t recall seeing any, though I mustn’t dismiss hearing what sounded like some impish chuckles being carried in on the breeze.
Of all the poems in this book, do you have any favourites?
My three favourites are ‘The Walking Stick’, because it’s light and jaunty, ‘The Tooth Fairy’ because I wrote it for my beautiful son, and ‘The Faerie Mountain’, because Schiehallion in Scotland is such an overwhelmingly awe-inspiring peak. I hope I have managed to tell its story well and do its splendour justice.
The illustrations in the book are beautiful and compliment your poems perfectly. Did you give Delphine (the illustrator) an idea of what you wanted or did she just interpret your poems in her own way?
Delphine is a master at what she does; I didn’t need to guide her in any way. She said the poems were full of imagery and easy to interpret. Her front cover is my favourite of all her illustrations.
What advice would you give for anyone wanting to write their own book?
If it’s inside you and needs to come out, write it down! Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation; they can be corrected. ‘Just do it’; it’s an incredible feeling seeing your work in print.
A little bird tells me you’re working on book number two … can you tell us anything about it yet or is it top secret?
No, it’s not top secret; in fact, I’ve been blogging about it already. I’m working on a travel gazetteer and thoroughly enjoying it! It is a compendium of little-known but amazing places in the UK. It includes photographs (taken by yours truly), and poems (written by yours truly). It will feature everywhere fantastical, including secret beaches, hidden caves, stately castles, haunted ruins, spiring mountains and just about anywhere/thing else to blow your socks off! It is a very different kind of travel guide to what’s out there at the moment. It’s personal as I’ve been (and stayed) everywhere that’s mentioned. I can see it being quite a fat book as I’ve so much to write about!
Are you a crafty? And if so what crafts do you enjoy?
I’m a creative person and love everything homespun. I frequently attend ‘Sew and So’, our village craft group, (meets once a month and is a very good excuse for a natter.)
My current craft project is a rag rug; it’s very therapeutic and addictive. It also takes a very long time! I like to collect stones and paint them too - or jam jars, or unloved furniture. It’s tremendously satisfying resurrecting an old table and giving it a new lease of life with a touch of Annie Sloane.
Aside from writing what are ‘your favourite fings'?
Oh dear me, I’m like Pollyanna; I have so many ‘favourite fings’ – ‘fings’ to be glad about. Here are the ones at the top of my list (excluding family, of course):
Books (real ones, not ‘E’ ones; the more well-thumbed the better.)
Hoary old historic houses, which smell of damp and lavender polish.
Flowers – the scent of them, the feel of them, their pure unadulterated showiness.
Birds in my garden – the cacophony of their morning song and their vibrant colours (or ‘not’ in the case of the blackbird!)
My cats and chickens and my fruitful veggie patch.
Sleeping beneath the stars.
A capering coal fire.
Freshly laundered sheets on a washing line.
My big, soft old bed.
A certain beach on the West Wales coast – (to be revealed!)
Antiques and bric-a-brac.
My stripy knitted rucksack.
Elderflower champagne – hence the poem!
Badges (any kind but the brighter, the better.)
Music – of varying genres!
My paisley eiderdown.
A good period drama on a Sunday evening.
The smell of a Christmas tree.
Where is your most favourite place in the world and why?
My most favourite place in the world is home, because no matter where I go, I always like home best!
If you'd like to buy Eliza's Book of Whimsy you can do so via her Website or Amazon. If you order via her website quote 'handmade' in the order box to receive a £1 discount!