In The Quiet is a unique and touching story of family, love and loss by the extremely talented young author Eliza Henry Jones. This is a novel of great maturity and depth so to discover the age of its author was pleasantly surprising, and made me want to find out more… which we did in this interview. Eliza Henry Jones is certainly going to be an author to watch.
Hi Eliza and welcome to Beauty and Lace. Thanks for talking to us.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a writing career?
Like a majority of writers out there, I’ve always loved writing and knew it would be a big part of my life. Being able to make a career out of something that I’m so passionate about is such a wonderful thing!
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I’ve written a novel a year since I was 14 and have also had short fiction published quite widely. I studied creative writing at university (alongside psychology). I interned at a publishing house and worked as a bookseller while I studied and then spent four years working in a family support program in the drug and alcohol sector. When I was twenty-two, I was picked by a wonderful literary agent for a manuscript about families and substance abuse. This manuscript didn’t get picked up, but by the time we heard back from everyone, I’d written In the Quiet. A good chunk of it was written while I was a young writer-in-residence at the KSP writers’ centre in WA. After a number of offers from some astoundingly amazing publishers, In the Quiet was eventually signed in a three book deal with HarperCollins Australia. It’s all still a lot for me to wrap my head around!
You were the recipient of a Varuna residential fellowship for 2015, can you tell us what that entails and how are awarded one?
The residential fellowship at Varuna was an absolutely incredible experience. The application was quite strict on word limit and it was a challenge to communicate everything I wanted to on a page. It’s then blind judged by Varuna alumni. The house is stunning, perfectly located with wonderful staff and the feel of it is just magic. I was there for two weeks, during which I shocked myself with how much I was able to get done. You’re there with other writers, which I loved. What is particularly lovely about Varuna is the evening dinners, where everyone gathers after a day of work. It was the perfect balance between feeling connected and supported and also having the space and time to get work done. A phenomenal experience and one I can’t recommend enough.
Your debut novel is In The Quiet, can you tell us about it?
In the Quiet is narrated by a mother who’s recently died, watching her twin sons, daughter and husband on their rural horse property. It’s an exploration of family, grief and memory.
Where did the inspiration for In The Quiet come from?
I knew I wanted to explore grief and our incredible capacity to feel so many emotions alongside it. And then I was struck with the image of a young girl, sitting on a verandah being showered with jacaranda flowers. And I just started writing.
The point of view used in In The Quiet is quite unique, what made you want to write it that way?
Writing from the perspective of a dead mother wasn’t a conscious decision. Cate’s voice just lent itself beautifully to what I wanted to explore. I think if I’d thought too hard about how and what I was writing, I would have been immobilised.
Can you tell us about your writing processes? Do you plot? Any quirky habits you care to share?
I don’t plot at all. I write chaotically, in big chunks. Learning to respect the time in between the actual putting-words-down-on-paper was one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt. I will write ten thousand words and then have a week or so where I don’t touch the manuscript and just let it all simmer in the back of my mind. I have a desk, but I have to move around when I write or I feel mentally stuck – so I write on the verandah, on the couch, in bed, in a beanbag. Everyone has their own way and being reflective and respectful of yourself is so important.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
My second novel explores bushfire trauma and will be out in 2016.
What do you love to do when you are not writing?
Horse riding! I currently have two horses: “Chequey”, my quirky, clever old eventer, who I’ve had since we were both fourteen. We’re both twenty-five now! And “Bertie”, my very cute and anxious Clydesdale cross, who I’ve been training up and taking out to a few competitions. I try to ride four or five times a week, but am having a bit of a break over winter. Horses are the most incredible animals to be around and I feel so fortunate to have them in my life.
Who do you love to read and what are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading Anchor Point by Alice Robinson and loving it! This year, I’m having a year of reading only women writers. I’m particularly drawn to novels – I love finding a story that breathes and stays with me. Lately, I’ve found that in a lot of contemporary Australian fiction. I particularly love the work of Jessie Cole, Gillian Mears and Carol Lefevre.