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Writing Fiction, with Author Elizabeth Buchan

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With Elizabeth Buchan, author of the novel Everything She Thought She Wanted (and 9 others)

From Everything She Thought She Wanted:

“I had to be good at managing. It was my job. But, over the years, I had grown wary of using that word. Men, I noticed, were a little tricky on the subject of women and jobs. Being good at my ‘job,’ though, bought me a little time and space, which I needed. If Ryder was busy with his book, and the children with their sandcastles, I was free to think – like the Japanese who, it was said, had so little space in their crowded country that their only source of true privacy was inside their heads.

That morning I felt restless. A couple of days ago there had been a storm and the sea was still angry. I checked the three children, who were busy with their sandcastles, buttoned my cardigan over my swimming costume and announced, ‘I’m going for a stroll. Can you watch the children?’

Ryder barely looked up from his book. ‘Don’t be too long.’

I placed a finger against his cheek. ‘What if I never come back?’

‘Don’t say that. Even as a joke.’ “


What a joy it is to talk about novel writing with experienced authors who have learned by doing! You will love our free-ranging discussion with the delightful Elizabeth Buchan, who explains how she approaches everything from character to setting to coming up with just the right title.

Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer for Penguin Books, a position that was excellent training for a fledgling writer as it necessitated reading widely through the Penguin list. She later became a fiction editor at Random House but decided after a couple of years that she should do what she wished to do: write.

For her first two novels, she took as her subject very typical watersheds: the French Revolution (Daughters of the Storm) and the Second World War (Light of the Moon). The latter followed the fortunes of a woman Special Operations Executive agent in occupied France.

Her third novel, Consider the Lily, is the story of a 1930s woman who comes to terms with her unhappiness through gardening. Perfect Love took as its theme Mark Twain’s dictum, “No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married for a quarter of a century” and explored the bargains and accommodations that have to be made in any relationship. Against Her Nature reworked Thackeray’s Vanity Fair set against a backdrop of the Lloyds of London insurance disasters during the 80s.

These titles were followed by Secrets of the Heart and Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman, which was made into a television film for CBS. Her later novels are The Good Wife Strikes Back, Everything She Thought She Wanted, and the sequel to Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman , Wives Behaving Badly.

Elizabeth reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Join Elizabeth as she and host Paula B. explore the craft of novel writing, including:

  • Where she gets her ideas
  • How she grabs the reader’s attention from the very first word
  • How she uses imagery to illuminate her characters and their conflicts
  • How she taps into her subconscious to solve writing problems
  • How she deals with endings
  • How she makes sure she “shows” rather than “tells”
  • How she makes her minor characters memorable
  • When to eliminate minor characters
  • How she comes up with names for her characters, and why she works so hard to find the right name
  • How she feels about the use of adjectives
  • How she keeps herself from being overwhelmed by her research
  • Why she always writes three drafts of her books
  • How her preparation and writing process has evolved
  • What part of writing she finds the most difficult.

Interviewee: Elizabeth Buchan
Host: Paula B
Date: July 10, 2006
Running time: 01:00:01
File size: 47 megabytes
Rating: G
Elizabeth Buchan’s Web site:


Purchase Elizabeth Buchan’s books at Barnes and Noble:

Everything She Thought She Wanted
Everything She Thought She Wanted

Wives Behaving Badly
Wives Behaving Badly

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

Good Wife Strikes Back
Good Wife Strikes Back

Consider the Lily
Consider the Lily

Perfect Love
Perfect Love