Elaine Spires is a successful playwright, author, tour manager and after-dinner speaker. She also tutors drama.
The Hub is delighted to welcome Elaine and chat to her about her life.
Extensive travel and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine's keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels. Elaine's latest book The Single Best Thing, is a fitting finale to the Singles' Series, which has its roots in her background as a tour manager for a UK tour operator.
What started your journey into the world of writing?
I always enjoyed writing stories at school but it wasn’t until I joined the Anna Scher Community Theatre in London that I really got into writing plays. I wrote a one-woman show, What’s Eating Me, and performed it on the London and Edinburgh Fringe and it was well received. After that I decided to turn it into a book, with the same title. I then did the same with another play, Sweet Lady. I so enjoyed writing both of them that I embarked on Singles’ Holiday which turned into a series of six books.
Are you self-published or traditionally published and why?
I’m self-published. I don’t do rejection very well -ha ha! Not good for a writer or an actress! After a couple of rejections, I decided to go it alone and I’m glad I did. I’m not sure how well I would fare with a publisher. I’m very protective of my books and like having full control over the story and characters, although publicising your work is very hard when you’re a self-pubbie.
As a tour manager of a UK tour operator, you must have had some fabulous experiences, can you share them, any funny moments?
During my time as a tour manager I experienced everything except a birth! It was a very challenging yet extremely rewarding job most of the time. And there were many magical moments - sunrise at Uluru - complete darkness then a million stars on the Sounds of Silence experience in the Australia Outback - The Taj Mahal - Patagonia - the Valley of the Kings - dancing with Berber women - dancing with Masai women - dancing the tango with a hunk in Argentina - dancing the cha cha in Cuba - zooming through the wet, deserted streets of Bangkok in a tuk-tuk at 2am - Rigoletto at the open air theatre, Opatjia Croatia - attending the cremation of a village dignitary in Bali - teaching a group of German tourists and Argentinian folk dancers the Hokey Cokey in Buenos Aires. And, of course, there were funny incidents - far too many to mention- and other not so funny incidents - like the woman who on the night before we were leaving China told me she ‘remembered throwing my flight ticket away when I cleared out my handbag last night’. The guy who got frog marched away from the rest of the group at a Chinese airport for carrying a Swiss Army knife. People missing planes and coaches and getting themselves into all sorts of scrapes, some of which I adapted for my Singles’ Series. The locations and the names were always changed to protect the guilty!
You’ve spent a lot of time in Antigua and joined the Women of Antigua Movement – can you share your time and experiences there.
They were great times - with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Write! Don’t procrastinate worrying who might read your book because nobody will unless you write it. And don’t write what you think people want - be truthful to your own story and characters.
What is it you most enjoy most about writing?
Several things - I love developing characters, especially when they take on a life of their own and do things I wasn’t expecting! I also enjoy totally losing myself in the story. When I’m writing I’m completely transported to the location and time of the book. I suppose it’s a form of escapism?
You tutor online lessons, can you explain these, who are your students and how do they find you?
Most students find me through word of mouth. I tutor students taking drama exams or with their audition pieces. Watching them and giving critique just as if we were in the same room. The internet is wonderful for this! If it’s a languages lesson that too can be done easily over Zoom or FaceTime - they tend to me mainly oral lessons.
How do you celebrate on publication day?
By being really nervous!!! Usually by the end of the day I collapse with a nice glass or two of Rioja or Malbec and keep gazing proudly at my new baby on my Amazon page.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself:
I stole a PCs helmet in Trafalgar Sq New Year’s Eve 1977.
I relax by watching tennis. In a perfect world I would be a tennis commentator - travelling the world and watching tennis - heaven!
I opened the first Chinese Restaurant in San Antonio, Ibiza.
Elaine's latest book - The Banjo Book Two is the follow-up to The Banjo Book One and is publishing on 21st August 2020.
"A beautiful book which shows a realistic, entertaining view of working-class life in post-war Britain."
Elaine's short film Only the Lonely was made by Dan Films and won the Groucho Club Best Short Film Award 2019 and two Silver Awards at WOFFF 2019.
Elaine says that she is waiting for a film-maker with vision to turn the Singles Series into films or TV dramas. We feel sure that her wish is only a matter of time!