Category Archives: Author Interviews
Letters to Eloise – The story behind Abelard and Heloise
Letters to Eloise is the heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.
Thank you so much for welcoming me onto your blog for my guest post. Today I am going to talk more about the story behind the quotes from ‘Abelard and Heloise’ that are woven through my debut novel Letters to Eloise. I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers so I will leave these out and hopefully tantalise you with a snippet of the story so you’ll want to find out more! Letters to Eloise is my debut love story that was published by Lutino Publications last month.
The blurb …
‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.
When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?
‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’ – Abelard to Heloise.
The story behind the name Eloise …
When I first started writing Letters to Eloise, I had planned the overview of the plot, and then was in the process of deciding the names of the characters. I have always loved the name ‘Eloise’ and looked it up in a babies name book to find out more. I researched each name in the novel this way to try to fit the names meaning with the characteristics of the character. The meaning of the name Eloise is ‘famous warrior’ and the name is linked with the Germanic name derived from ‘hail’, which means robust and healthy. The name fitted this character perfectly.
Love is incapable of being concealed; a word, a look, nay silence speaks it all. Abelard to Heloise
I read about how the name became famous due to the tragic love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and her tutor Peter Abelard. This lead to my further research into the love story of Abelard and Heloise, and the tragedy of their relationship. I became interested in this true story and bought a book of their letters to read. The website ‘Sacred Texts’ had translations of their letters to each other and this source was invaluable in my research. I would recommend a read. I had never even heard about the ancient tale before, and found myself fascinated.
The relationship was a scandal at the time, due partly to Heloise’s age and Peter Abelard’s position. Tragedy followed their illicit relationship as other people fought to keep them apart. However, by writing letters — for over twenty years — their love continued to burn for each other despite the tragic circumstances. The story is an inspiration, as is their courage and passion, which kept their love alive despite the separation between them. The quotes from their letters to each other fitted parts of the storyline of Letters to Eloise perfectly, so I interwove them into Flora’s letters to her unborn child.
Heloise and Abelard is a passionate, true love story and I knew the name Eloise was a perfect fit.
God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself. I wanted simply you, nothing of yours. Heloise to Abelard.
Read Letters to Eloise, which is out now on kindle and in paperback, to find out more about the story of Abelard and Heloise and to follow Flora’s story and her own predicament.
US – http://a.co/0VshOdw
Follow Emily on twitter @EmilyRMWilliams
Emily has also been kind enough to share some editing tips so pop back on Wednesday to find out more.
I’m very pleased to introduce The White Hare, and Zephyr to you today. The White Hare by Michael Fishwick is the launch title for Head of Zeus new children’s imprint, Zephyr.
This beautiful hardback book is a lyrically mythical delight. Michael Fishwick, already the author of two novels, Smashing People and Sacrifices has kindly written a guest post on dealing with death in children’s books.
Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.
When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt.
But who is the hunter and who the hunted?
Strangely, both my first two novels began with a death, and I’m not entirely sure why. I remember showing the opening pages to my wife, because I was worried her father, who seemed old then, to me, might die as I wrote the book and I didn’t want to jinx it, or him. As it turns out, he’s still very much alive at ninety-six, though sadly my own parents died as I wrote The White Hare, something that took me years to address and some of the effects of which worked their way into Robbie’s own experiences.
When I write I don’t have a target reader in mind. I want you, the reader, to be drawn in and entranced, held captive by the fiction, and I want to create a reliable and absorbing texture. What interests me, above all else, is how we experience our lives as human beings. For me, both in my day job as a publisher and as a fiction author, writing is part of a journey to understand and as importantly feel what those experiences are all about.
In Robbie’s case, I wanted to develop a vibrant and suffering voice, one that is experiencing adversity and facing up to it. I wish that when I was being bullied at school I could have responded with the tough, leathery bravado that Robbie does. Once, I was in the local library and I was just leaving the children’s bit to find my dad on the other side of the building in the adult bit (this was in Dulwich, south London) when some boy who seemed twice my height took my books and put them on top of a van where I couldn’t reach them. He then asked what I was going to do about it. I stood there, my eyes on a level with his stomach, and I knew what I should do, I should drive my fist into his stomach as hard as I could; but I quailed, and ran. My little brother had seen what was going on and scooted ahead, so I found my dad belting out of the library towards me. I’ve never seen anyone box anyone’s ears before or since, but that’s what he did to the bully.
So when thinking about Robbie and his mother’s death I really wanted to get the essence of the relationships and the emotions. A lot was based on my own childhood in south London; my parents then went abroad and I was sent to boarding school, and at the age of fourteen was hauled into my housemaster’s study to be told my beloved aunt had died of cancer. I was fourteen. I had no idea how to respond; I had enough on my plate with the bullying. She was witty and kind and read PG Wodehouse and made me sandwiches with very thin bread when she took me out of school and we sat under the lamplights on Clapham Common in her dark green mini before she took me back. With Robbie, his response was to go wild and burn things; it’s all about anger, an emotion that fascinates me. At that age I think death is incomprehensible. I remember realizing that I would die, again at boarding school with no one to turn to, when I was about twelve. So I just didn’t think about it for a long time. But when writing about Robbie I wanted to get down the essence of the experience on paper. With Fran, who chooses it, it seemed a natural part of the white hare legend, and here I wanted to write about the ruthless brutality of love in one of its aspects (in another it is kind and forgiving, of course). When someone chooses to kill themselves, some react with horror and a lack of forgiveness, but I think of the depth of sorrow and madness and churning feelings that make you not want to exist anymore.
What I am really trying to do in The White Hare is through imagination and empathy find a way of confronting and defying the reality of death, and that whole process begins for all of us in childhood.
I really enjoyed this story and oddly it reminded me of Watership Down and the film Lady in White in its tonal quality. The image below, a sentence about tears, shows a flavour of the beautiful writing in this book. I would describe the genre as magical realism because it is through the supernatural and mythical elements that Robbie, his friend Mags, his father, and the reader learn more about, and begin to deal with the nature of death. I think I might need to re-read to fully appreciate all the nuances. I liked how Robbie is just friends with two girls and it was refreshing for romance not to be a main element. I also felt the rural and seasonal setting added an certain innocence to which the violent episodes in the book was in stark contrast. It’s interesting to see the author write about his personal experience of bullying and then how that is played out in the book (I’m not sure I entirely agree with the method Robbie uses on occasion). I could really see this as a Sunday afternoon BBC family series, in the vein of Moondial. Gosh this book is bringing back memories. If you like your stories lilting and poetic do give this one a read.
Huge thanks goes to Blake at Head of Zeus for the copy and to Michael for sharing this story. My opinions are, as ever, my own. Please do check out the tour banner below and head along to the other stops to learn more about The White Hare. I look forward to seeing what other books Zephyr has to offer.