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Ask the Author

This month’s Q & A features novelist Lisa Conway, who writes historical fiction under the pen name Elisabeth Conway. Her trilogy, The Strands of Shining Gold, is set in 19th Century Singapore.

How did you start writing?

I’ve always been involved in writing, but up until a few years ago it was mainly non-fiction and documentary film scripts. I started writing short pieces of fiction when I took early retirement, but did nothing substantial until participating in a Creative Writing Course.

Your trilogy ‘The Strands of Shining Gold’ is set in 19th Century Singapore. What drew you to this particular period?

I have lived and worked in Southeast Asia for a considerable part of my life and have always been fascinated by the history, culture and people who have settled there. I had originally planned to write a History of the Straits Settlements [N/F], but when it dawned on me that the likelihood of anyone – apart from me – being interested, I decided to use my research as a springboard for writing historical fiction. I find Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore an intriguing figure and he provides the perfect backdrop for my fictional characters.

How did you approach the research aspect?

My primary sources are the British Library in London and the National Library in Singapore. I spend hours checking documents, maps, books, etc. The trick, I’ve learned, is not to dump all the information that I find so fascinating onto the reader -all that is needed is the bare bones and a light touch; just enough to provide authenticity.

As a published novelist, what has been your experience with promotion and marketing?

My publisher is based in Texas. They are a fantastic team to work with, but the downside is that I can’t get my books into Waterstones because the distribution networks are different. Hence, my promotion is mainly via small local events: book groups, libraries, etc. Marketing is via social media, word-of-mouth, etc.

Can you tell us about your background in documentary filmmaking?

I’ve been involved in making films for a wide variety of organisations: Christian Aid, the Ministry of Education in the Solomon Islands, the Scottish Film Council, etc. My role has been mainly R&D + scriptwriting, plus, in some cases, the production of associated training materials.

What is your typical working day?

Since Covid, there is no typical. I always used to write in the mornings, now I write whenever I feel it to be necessary – but there is always some point in every 24 hours when that happens.

How do you see the future of publishing in this the digital age?

I think small independent publishers have a great future if they aren’t bullied by the big guys. Printing on demand is a great asset and good for the environment, but I do hope real books survive and we don’t find ourselves only able to access books via e-books.

What advice would you give aspiring writers.

Write what you know about. Read as much as you possibly can and learn from that experience. Keep writing, keep editing, keep learning.

To find out more about Lisa and her books, visit her website:

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