Elisabeth Conway is a British author who grew up in the Worcestershire countryside, but who spent a considerable part of her life in Southeast Asia, which she first encountered as a student of social anthropology.
She now lives with her husband in Salisbury but returns to Malaysia/Singapore whenever she can both for research and pleasure. Hope Dares to Blossom is the second book in a historical fiction trilogy set mainly in Singapore in the early 1800s.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
The title went through at least six variations before I finally came up with Hope Dares to Blossom. A rare orchid is essential to the story, so I played with possibilities that included the word “orchid.” None of them worked because they didn’t provide a strong enough link to the plot. It was only when I returned to a poem written by Sri Chinmoy that I realised the second line of the poem [not the first, which I had considered originally] met my need exactly.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
Excited, pleased, full of awe. I had sent several images of orchids to Ronaldo, the art director, knowing that one of them needed to feature on the cover. My only other request was that the design dovetailed in with the image used on my first book, A Strand of Gold. I think he did a wonderful job.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I’ve always written non-fiction. Originally I thought I would write a history of the Straits Settlements, but a few years ago realised it would be of little interest to only a small group of people. I decided I could use my research as a springboard to write historical fiction, focusing on a part of the world that most people in the West know very little about.
I have been influenced by writers such as Lisa See [The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane] and Tan Twan Eng [The Gift of Rain]—stories set in SE Asia/China—Elif Shafak [10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World]—characterization—and Maggie O’Farrell [adaptation of real-life characters into narrative].
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I have done documentary film-making and worked in the Voluntary Sector and as a Training Consultant.
Something my readers may not know is that I design batik paintings.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Having a very supportive and encouraging team at Atmosphere to work with—and then seeing/receiving the end product.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Maybe the music for Singapore’s National Anthem, but no words as that would be too modern. Otherwise, it would have to be some harmonious traditional Chinese music, something to use for meditation.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
The value of true friendship.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I am writing the third novel in the Strands of Gold trilogy, entitled Living the Legacy. It begins four years after the end of Hope Dares to Blossom and sees all three of the main characters intent on reviving the dreams and notions Stamford Raffles had for Singapore, whilst initially being unaware of the threats posed by a man bent on revenge.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
I have had a very positive and enjoyable experience working with Atmosphere. I think they truly live up to their ethos of prioritising the human aspect of publishing.
I started by asking lots of questions before I signed the contract, which clarified any issues. Ever since, I have found them to be supportive, well-organised, professional, and friendly.