5 Questions for Sylvia Bishop

This month, we caught up with Sylvia Bishop, author of Erica’s Elephant to find out a little more about her writing process and the advice she gives to young writers.

Where did you write Erica’s Elephant?

When I wrote Erica’s Elephant, I was still a full time student, and I was meant to be writing a thesis about cotton! So I wrote in the library next to my notes on the cotton trade, and on buses, and in cafes, whenever I got a chance. I finished it in my local library – Redhill library – after my studies finished and I went back home to stay with my parents for a while.

Who is your favourite character in Erica’s Elephant and why?

Erica and her Elephant are of course very special to me. I am often asked if I am Erica, but the truth is I’m the Elephant – I had just spent the summer in a strange difficult new place, and I was still thinking about that when I wrote him! But less obviously, there is a policeman in Erica’s Elephant who also turns up in my second book, The Bookshop Girl. He makes me laugh, so I keep finding ways to slip him in.

How long did it take you to write Erica’s Elephant?

I wrote it over about six months, in between all the other things that I was really meant to be doing! There was a few weeks working with the editor, Lucy Rogers, to polish it up ready for publication.

What advice to you have for young writers?

Read, read, read! There’s no better way to learn to write. Keep everything you write. I’ve lost a lot of my old stories, and I really wish I still had them. Finally, enjoy it. If you love to write, you are very lucky: writing is something that you can do anywhere, without any expensive kit. And you can write about good times and difficult times, things that excite you and things that bore you, people who make you happy and people who make you sad or mad – wherever you are and whatever’s happening, you can write about it. All of life is rich and interesting for a writer.

How would you describe yourself as a child?

Tall! I’m still tall, but I grew much faster than my friends so for a while it was ridiculous. Bookish, brim-full of emotions, quite serious. And really, very tall.

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