‘She will come for you.’
Lark struggles to settle when her Roma family moves to a new site by the sea. Her mother is ill, her little sister Snow isn’t talking and she has fallen out with her best friend. She distracts herself looking for sea glass on the foggy beach. But is someone following her? Who is the figure that Snow keeps drawing, the girl in green? Do the locals who tell them to leave the site just hate travellers, or is there something about the history of the beach that Lark needs to find out? A story that perfectly combines the chill of a ghost story with the warmth of a family tale about standing up for each other and being brave.
We are delighted to have been invited to do the cover reveal for Eloise William’s forthcoming novel, Seaglass. Eloise’s Gaslight has become one of our best-selling older children’s and adult books – it has been received with huge praise by our young customers, by teachers and by many adult book groups too. It’s been such a pleasure to watch Gaslight pick up awards and nominations – it is very well-deserved! We adore ghost stories and gothic fiction of all sorts, so we are really looking forward to this next book!
The cover design for Seaglass is stunning! It was created by Anne Glenn; and inside the book there are illustrations by Guy Manning. This is the same team who created the striking cover of Gaslight that looked so extraordinary in our window display last year. The cover of Seaglass has lettering and stars in silver foil, and has an overall look similar to Gaslight.
But… we all now have to wait until September to read it! As she was preparing to heads off to take part in the London Book Fair, we took a little time to chat to Eloise and find out a bit more about Seaglass. Hopefully this will satisfy curiosity sufficiently to keep you all going until September! Here is our conversation:
Interview with Eloise Williams, award-winning author of Elen’s Island, Gaslight and Seaglass.
Tamsin: I adore ghost stories; it is such an important genre in literature, so I’m really looking forward to it – but what made you choose a ghost story for your next book?
Eloise: I adore them too. There is absolutely nothing better than settling down on a stormy night in front of a log fire and reading something which scares you silly! I wanted to try to create a story with that wonderful creepiness. It felt like a natural next move after writing a mystery thriller. I like to set myself challenges and thought that writing a ghost story would be fun. It was definitely fun, and definitely a challenge too!
Tamsin: Sea glass features in Gaslight too, as something collected and treasured. Tell us a bit about sea glass – what is it and why it is important to your work? And does this mean that your new book has links to Gaslight?
Eloise: Sea glass is a glass which has been tumbled by the sea and is found along beaches. Before we became conscious of the damage we are doing to the planet people used to tip their rubbish straight into the water. Glass, when it has been bashed about by the tides and currents, and polished by salt corrosion from the oceans, becomes smooth and frosted and is then called sea glass. I like to think of sea glass as jewels from the past. It’s a peculiar thing, sea glass. It’s made more beautiful by the years it spends out there, travelling the oceans. I love wandering along on wintry days, listening to the haunting cry of the gulls overhead and the echoing turn of the tides and imagining who held these pieces of glass before they were tossed aside. What were they used for? Where have they been? I live very close to the beach so every day I go out and pick up plastic to try to clear the detritus washed up on the shoreline. Occasionally amidst all the horrible thoughtless litter I find a piece of sea glass. I’ve become quite obsessed by it and the stories it conjures.
The book does have links to Gaslight in that it’s a mystery and set in Wales, but it’s a completely separate story and takes place in the here and now. I included the sea glass in Gaslight as a little nod to one of my favourite things and to future writing plans.
Tamsin: Can I ask you about language – when you write a ghost story, or want to create something with the atmosphere that Gaslight has, you use a very different sort of language and tone from when you might write something funny or romantic for example. How do you go about finding the right language to make something ghostly?
Eloise: Creating atmosphere is one of the things I relish most about writing. Ghost stories, like mysteries and thrillers, give a writer the scope to work with intoxicating, syrupy, magical, ethereal language.
In Gaslight I wanted to use some Victorian words and phrases but to mingle in contemporary language too.
My aim was to create a book about Victorian Cardiff which was instantly accessible to a modern reader, so they would be drawn into the story without consistently having to question what was happening or what the characters were thinking. I wanted people to be engaged in a fictional world. One where illusion meets reality, poetry meets dream, danger meets courage. I picked out some of the most delicious Victorian words and phrases and played with them to give the book a Victorian flavour and atmosphere.
Seaglass is a contemporary ghost story so it brought different challenges. I wanted to keep the traditional ghost story format whilst bringing it up to date. I let the story and the setting inform the language for this one. Also, my main protagonist’s voice: I wondered how Lark would react to things and tried to be true to how she would put her thoughts into words. Part of the beauty of creating fiction is letting words play with each other. Sometimes a phrase or a way of saying something would pop into my head out of the blue while I was on a walk. Sometimes I grappled with trying to say something for days while I chewed up a dictionary. Even when my books have gone to print I am still editing them in my head.
Tamsin: Let’s talk about landscape and setting too – Seaglass is set on a misty beach, which is perfectly in the tradition of the British ghost story; many of MR James’ ghost stories are set in the areas between land and sea. Would you consider that the landscape itself is a character in the novel?
Eloise: Absolutely. Very much so. The landscape here in Wales is endlessly inspiring and the setting for Seaglass breathes atmosphere and taps at my window every day so I am extremely lucky in that respect.
The area where I live is salty, windswept, and rugged, but often calm and always beautiful. I walk in that landscape it daily, so I know it well. It changes all the time. You can see life and death close up. Birds smash mussel shells against rocks. Creatures wash in with the tides. People celebrate and enjoy, party and relax. The sea brings stories with it. It brought me a Victorian child’s boot before I started Gaslight. It was on a misty beach walk that those first glimmers of Seaglass came to me. It really is the perfect place for a ghost story.
Cardiff was a character in Gaslight and Wiseman’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire, is a character in Seaglass. Both are reimagined versions of real places just as characters are imagined versions of people.
Tamsin: I have to ask about green! A green dress was significant to the events that unravelled in Gaslight – does this mean that the two books are connected? And why green?
Eloise: I seem to have an obsession with green dresses don’t I!
There’s so much superstition surrounding the colour. Fairy folk get offended if you wear it because it’s their colour and they want it back. You shouldn’t wear it on stage because it’s bad luck. It used to be made with arsenic, so it could have killed you. All these things make it brilliant to write about. It’s evocative, mystical, unlucky, and also my favourite colour.
The books aren’t directly connected though there are similar themes. Illusion, light and dark, myth, fear, bravery, family ties, water, and green, green and more green!
My pesky characters tend to choose their own clothes and sometimes I just can’t talk them into wearing anything else. I tried putting the girl in a red dress but she told me I was wrong. Black dress… no. Blue? Not a chance.
Tamsin: Can you tell me a bit about your way of working? All writers I talk to have very different ways of creating a book – do you plan a book out carefully first, or do you allow it to develop as it will? How does this work for you?
Eloise: My book writing technique varies. I’m of the – procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, sit down and start writing under duress, start to enjoy writing, become obsessed with writing and do nothing else from dawn till dusk – school of authoring. Sometimes I plan but there is a danger for me that too much plotting will kill the story before I’ve even started. I like to see what unfurls as I go along. I like to make a mess with words, so I can go back and craft them afterwards. The honest answer is I’m a mixture of plotter and a ‘by-the-seat-of-my-pants-er’! A mixture and a mess. Sometimes this leads to a well-developed recipe. Sometimes it leads to a soggy-bottomed cake. Getting it wrong and right is half the fun.
Tamsin: Tell me about some of the other people involved in creating this book – what research did you do, and what is it like working with an editor?
Eloise: So many people helped me and I’m eternally grateful to them for their support. If I were to name them all this would be an extremely long interview! Readers, authors, sea-people, beach-people, family, friends, dog. Watson Jones, dog, should come first actually because he has been my staunch companion throughout!
My research came largely in the form of spending time on the beach and in the woods in all different weathers and at all times of day and night, so it was delightful on the whole. A few times I freaked myself out because I’d be thinking about ghosts and suddenly something would dart at the corner of my eye, or an inexplicable noise would sound right behind me. It’s incredible how powerful your mind can be when you are thinking scary thoughts.
Janet Thomas, my editor at Firefly, takes my messy, soggy-bottomed cake and holds a wooden spoon with me to mix it up more smoothly. She puts the icing on the sponge and I’m extraordinarily grateful to her… even if I don’t always sound it! Sorry Janet!
Tamsin: Talk to me about this cover design and the person who created it.
Eloise: Anne Glenn created the cover for Seaglass and for Gaslight. She works magic with her designs. I’ve had them both next to each other on my computer screen for a while and I can’t believe how beautiful they look. I’ve never met her in ‘real life’ but I know that she is a Goddess!
Anne Glenn’s cover design work includes many children’s books as well as thrillers, sci-fi, non-fiction, and poetry. Anne’s cover design for Gaslight made a stunning display in our window in 2017. You can find out more about Anne Glenn’s work here. Artist Guy Manning has also worked on both Seaglass and Gaslight. Guy is a Wales-based artist whose numerous exhibitions in the UK, France, Germany and New York have been extremely popular; his work is held in public and private collections across the world. You can find out about Guy’s work here.
Tamsin: Give us a little teaser and tell us about something creepy we can look forward to in this next book!
Eloise: Have you ever heard of a corpse candle?
Tamsin: Lastly, the obligatory question: have you ever seen a ghost?
I don’t believe in ghosts.
At least, that is, I don’t believe in ghosts until the middle of the night when that figure appears at the end of my bed.