I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for the fantastic Joan Ellis and her novel, I Am Ella. Buy Me (You can get your copy here) As well as reviewing Joan’s brilliant novel later on today, I have been lucky enough to ask Joan about her writing career as she shares her experiences working as a copywriter, and her love for almond croissants…
Hi! I spent years penning letters from dogs. As an award-winning copywriter, you have to be adaptable! With a full-time job in a London advertising agency and a new baby, I did what any right-minded woman would’ve done and set up a comedy club. I even appeared on the same bill as Jo Brand. Once. As a university lecturer I taught advertising to comedian Noel Fielding and Wordsworth’s great-grandson. One of his slogans might be: Buy a host of golden daffodils and get a yellow one. Free! I also wrote a regular column in a fashionable glossie about my young daughter. She is eighteen now and has never read a word of them. A Londoner, I now live beside the sea-side and eat mainly cream teas.
Can you tell us a bit about your novel, I am Ella. Buy Me. (Released 20th July 2014)
‘I am a ginger tom. I am a boy racer. I am a housewife. I am a pain in the arse.’
The opening lines set the tone for a funny, fast-paced novel set against a backdrop of 80s London when money trumps morals and lust is a must. As a girl in man’s world, Ella battles her lothario boss, Peter on her way to the top. Faced with losing her job or sleeping with him, she turns to her friend, Adam. Can love help her go from a girl in the firing line to a woman calling the shots? Ella doesn’t always make the right choices but she values love over money. She’s as real as you or me. She’s Bridget Jones meets Peggy from Mad Men; it’s chic lit with extras.
I love the synopsis for the book and I read that the novel is based on your own experiences as working as a copywriter for a top London ad agency. What was that career like? Do you miss it at all?
Soho’s mad, bad Adland in the 80s and 90s was a man’s world – real life on e-numbers. I got to work with talent like film director, Tony Kaye. Harry Enfield, Paula Yates and Jennifer Saunders brought my words to life. I even cast a cat as John Wayne! It doesn’t get much better than that.
I miss the people – smart, funny and inspiring – and getting paid to eat Milky Bars by the truckload.
It seems as though you have a lot of strings to your bow and you’ve been a comedian too – what’s your favourite joke?
Anything written by Ricky Gervais or Micky Flanagan, and Noel Fielding is a comedy legend.
What was the best thing about writing a romantic comedy?
The characters got to say the smart, funny stuff I can never think of in real life.
You’ve written three books in total, can you tell us a bit more about The Killing of Mummy’s Boy and The Things You Missed While You Were Away?
‘I slit someone’s throat,’ the man told the woman on the 4.20 from Waterloo to Portsmouth.
Any normal person would have moved. Not me. When the man on the train casually dropped into conversation he had slit someone’s throat, my first thought was not to run but to listen. Here was the beginning of my next novel. In the sixty minutes that followed, I was sickened, shocked but never bored by what he told me. He wanted me to go off with him. In real life I declined but hiding between the pages of my novel, The Killing of Mummy’s Boy, I gave it a try.
The things you missed while you were away couldn’t be more different. It’s an autobiography, comparing my daughter’s childhood in the 90s with my upbringing in the 60s. As neither of us knew what it was like to have our Dads at home, the book is written as a letter to my Father highlighting the moments he never got to share. It can be read by anyone who has been a child, if only to prove when we lose someone special, love comes from unexpected places to fill the space in our hearts.
Since you’ve been away, you missed so much – some of it funny, some of it sad, all of it magical.’
Rewrite. Edit. Repeat.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Eating more almond croissants.
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Garrison Keillor, Harper Lee, Gerald Durrell, Alan Bennett, J.D. Salinger, Jerome K. Jerome, Dodie Smith, Edna O’Brien, Helen Fielding, George Orwell, Laurie Lee, D.H. Lawrence, Iain Banks and my friends Jeanne Willis and Paul Burke.
I love books that make me laugh out loud when I shouldn’t.
And finally – what are you working on at the moment?
My second psychological thriller: Guilt. Guilt is a powerful and poisonous emotion. In the novel it impacts on a young girl’s life in unimaginable ways. I’ve nearly finished which is a shame as the characters are writing this one for me!
If anyone wants to share their thoughts on my work, please stop by my website and send me an email.
Thank you so much. I’ve had a great time!
A huge thank you to Joan for participating in this interview, and to Leah from Girls Love To Read for organising the I Am Ella. Buy Me blog tour. ♥
Advertising copywriter, comedy writer, performer, lecturer – Joan Ellis has been them all. With a full-time job in a top London advertising agency and a new baby, she did what any right-minded woman would’ve done and set up a comedy club. She even appeared on the same bill as Jo Brand. Once. A career highlight was casting a black and white moggie as Humphrey Bogart for her award-winning cat food commercial. Other great performers who brought her words to life include Penelope Keith and Harry Enfield. As a lecturer, Joan taught comedian Noel Fielding all he knows about advertising before encouraging him to showcase his creative talents on a wider stage. Working for The Press Association, she tutored Wordsworth’s great-grandson in the art of copywriting: Buy a host of golden daffodils and get a blue one, free! Suffering from swine flu and sweating like a pig, she moved from London to the Isle of Wight where she lives on cream teas with her beloved husband, daughter and two cats.
About The Book…
‘I am Ella. Buy me.’ Written by Joan Ellis Based on Joan’s own experiences in top London advertising agencies, this funny, fast-paced tale is set against a backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain where money trumped morals and lust was a must. ‘I am a ginger tom. I am a boy racer. I am a housewife. I am a pain in the arse.’ Working in Soho’s mad, bad Adland in the sexist 80s, Ella David is a rare beast – a woman in a man’s world. When her lothario boss, Peter Richards, bored with his ball-clicker, demands something or someone new to play with, Ella finds herself battling more than just fat thighs. Faced with losing her job or sleeping with him, Ella turns to her friend, Adam Hart the one constant bright spot in her life. Can love help her go from a girl in the firing line to a woman calling the shots?