Discussing all things Sunderland, writer’s block and the reality of being an independent writer, Caroline Dask chats with fellow bookworm and best selling author Ellie White…
It’s true when they say those who read have lived a thousand lives. Each book allows you to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. Reading is a way to escape and to be someone else for a while.
With so many people in the world, so many lives lived, and so many creative minds out there, reading is a form of curiosity too, a glimpse into a stranger’s perspective. Yet the moment when all of our lives synchronised and stopped, saw us all go through the same experience – lockdown, isolation, and the fear of the unknown.
As journalists, our job allows us to talk to a variety of people, business leaders, artists, musicians, designers – you name it. However, something that is a recurring pattern in a lot of their stories is the fact that when the Covid 19 pandemic hit, they used that time to start something of their own. Ellie White, a writer from Sunderland, is no exception.
“I’ve always had a passion for the written word, however, I only started taking it seriously in late 2018. Covid-19 arrived, and I gave birth to my daughter a week before the lockdown, experiencing redundancy as well. It was a difficult time, and I needed something to help me through all of this.
“So, I started putting the stories that were in my head down on paper, and that was the start of my journey as a writer,” she says.
Not long into our conversation, Ellie mentions that being a writer is just one of her titles. Besides that, she is also mother to a five year old and a three year old, and a full time employee, working as a team leader in customer service.
The Process Of Self-Publishing
“Because I work nine to five, my title as a writer only really begins at night. Normally, I’ll dedicate three or four nights of the week to writing, then a night for doing things like social media, accounts, administrative tasks etc. But then again, if I get to the point where I don’t feel like doing any of that, I don’t have to do it. That’s one advantage of being self-published. You make your own schedule,” Ellie explains.
What started with ideas on a paper in 2018, finally blossomed into Ellie’s debut novel – Love & London. A fellow bookworm, and with the words ‘write a book’ on top of my bucket list, I’m curious what the process of self-publishing a book is like.
“I didn’t write Love & London with the thought of publishing it, it was only when I finished it that I thought: ‘Oh, maybe I could actually publish it’.
“Traditionally as a writer, you would pitch it to an agent and then try to get traditionally published. But because it was never something that I’d really thought of, I decided to just self publish.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but at the time, I thought no one was going to read it, apart from myself and my mum,” Ellie laughs.
“So, once the book was written, I was left with the first draft, which I’ve edited myself. Then, I paid for a professional editor to tidy it up, hired a cover designer, and then it’s the administrative things that you wouldn’t even think about.”
The Pressure Is On
When Ellie decided to upload her book to Amazon, she was quite surprised when her book went to number seven in the top 100 romantic comedies. It became a bestseller, with readers from all corners of the world sharing one good review after another. Ellie’s readers loved her work and were craving for more.
Whether you’re a musician, an artist or a writer – no one wants to be a one-hit wonder. Something that on the surface seems like success, has a layer of pressure underneath it. This time, with something bigger, better and more captivating.
“There were 18 months between my first and my second book. While I was incredibly happy with the feedback on Love & London, the pressure was on. I knew that the second book was going to be really hard to write. I wanted it to do just as well as my first one. But then I realised that I’m not writing to chase numbers, I’m writing because it’s my passion. Once I got over that fear, Love in the Wings was born.
“After it was released, it got lots of good feedback, it did really well. It didn’t quite reach number seven, but it was still out there,” she says.
Ellie White And The Process Of Writing A Book
With four books with Ellie’s name on them, she expands on how the process of writing each one differs:
“In my first book, Love & London, the main character goes through some quite intense feelings of grief. At the time I was writing it, I recently lost my cousin. He was killed when he was 22 years old in a car accident, it hit me quite hard, it was a big shock. For me personally, it was really hard to process those emotions, so I worked through them writing Love & London.
“Love in the Wings is where I really embraced my love of theatre. I’ve thrown myself into that world, I got in touch with the Sunderland Empire and went on tours there. They were really supportive of me and gave me a lot of useful information.
“Playing For Her is where my love for football flourished. It’s a sports romance, and there’s a lot of female representation in it.
“My latest book – Romance For Christmas was an interesting one. I didn’t plan on writing it,” Ellie laughs.
“I was writing the follow up to Playing For Her and I had a particular scene in my head. Because I usually have an outline for each book, some scenes that come to me out of the blue might not fit or sit well within that particular book, and so I was stuck. I didn’t really know what to do, or how to make it fit. So, eventually, I wrote it down on a blank page and it ended up being the opening scene for Romance For Christmas.
Ellie White And Writers Block
“I wrote the whole book in about three weeks, the words were just flowing. The whole process was so refreshing, it’s the only book I’ve written without an outline. To this day, I think this method is also the best one to tackle writer’s block. If I ever encounter writer’s block, I just start writing something else, and it always works,” she explains.
When it comes to inspiration, Ellie admits that a lot of it comes from her surroundings, particularly her home – Sunderland. She is very much aware that Sunderland sometimes gets a bad reputation, but there has not been a time when Ellie didn’t like where she came from.
The power of home is undeniable. It’s where your heart lies, it’s where you feel accepted and understood, it’s where you can truly be yourself and no matter its reputation and its imperfections, home is just one representation of unconditional love.
As we talk about Ellie’s strong connection with her home town and her readers, the conversation drifts to the subject of the reality that comes with being a self published writer. Having a best selling book might mistakenly lead one to to rest on their laurels, but Ellie opens up about her, quite different, experience with it.
“People think being a self published writer is an easy way out because you’re not dealing with agents or publishers. But there’s also the stigma around it, where the world thinks that you’re not as good as a traditionally published author, so you have to work harder to prove your worth.
The Reality Of Self-Publishing
“Unlike a traditionally published author, I don’t have a big team behind me, so everything from book covers to format conversions falls on me. It’s not easy but it’s so worthwhile when you can see your book and know that you’ve done it all,” she continues.
“Another reality check is the conventions, events, book festivals, releases etc. There’s been a time when I was there with my books and only one person showed up. It was a bit of a hit to the confidence but at the same time I had such a good conversation with him about writing and what inspired everything, and it felt like this person really cared about what I had to say.”
As someone who always tries to see the glass half full, Ellie and I come to an agreement that there’s so much value in fewer numbers. There’s a personal element to it as well when one is capable of dedicating the time to connect with readers.
“During lockdown, I created an Instagram page and this is where I really connect with people, I found some really good friends this way and there’s also a big community of independent authors, so there’s a lot of understanding of what each of us is going through. We support each other and share each other’s work, in that way sharing readers too,” Ellie smiles.
Ellie White And Her Upcoming Titles
As we chat about our favourite authors, books, and exciting upcoming projects, I am keen to know how people could support Ellie and other independent authors.
“Word of mouth is probably the most effective marketing tool there is. So, read, share, tell a friend and most importantly, leave a review!”
A sneak peek into Ellie’s line up of publications reveals exciting sequels to books such as Playing For Her and Romance For Christmas, both of which will allow you to step into the world of love as seen through the eyes of Ellie.