To celebrate, we spoke to the author about the novel and what’s it like seeing it back in print. (Interview cross-posted from the Second Look website)
First of all, Libby, congratulations on the release of the new edition of Eleanor Elizabeth in Second Look! We are so thrilled to be bringing this wonderful novel back to a new generation of readers. In your new introduction to the book, you wrote about how the book came about. How does it feel like, revisiting your first novel?
It’s a strange experience. I feel so proud to see it back in print. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, I didn’t know if it would ever be published and so revisiting it brings back all the pleasures of creating it while at the same time fearing it would never see the light of day.
One of the striking things about this novel is the sense the reader gets of the natural environment, which has a real role to play in the story. How did you build up that vivid background?
I wrote the book while I was living in Europe so I was missing my homeland at the same time as wanting to place my characters there. I spent a lot of time focusing on my own memories of landscape and the difference between where the story starts and where the family moves and lives. The new environment helps shape the main character. It’s almost a character in the story.
Elizabeth’s diary is almost like a kind of time-travel device, plunging Eleanor back into the past. How did you recreate Elizabeth’s world?
I knew enough about rural life in the late nineteenth century – that’s the story of my mother’s family. I had to spend time looking at the kind of language Elizabeth would use. Diaries were a great help – especially Ethel Turner’s, despite it being about twenty years later.
You have gone on to become one of Australia’s most acclaimed and popular authors. What role do you think Eleanor, Elizabeth played in that?
The success of Eleanor, Elizabeth gave me confidence to keep going. I had written it while I was a member of a writing group in London and that group was very demanding in terms of finding the right image and language and sentiment. It encouraged experimentation. I still have that in my head as I write. I think I have also been lucky.
The Second Look edition of Eleanor Elizabeth is available in all good bookshops. ISBN: 9780994234070, RRp $18.99.