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Q&A  •  5 February 2024

 

An interview with Ela Lee about her debut novel, Jaded

We caught up with debut author Ela Lee to learn about how she made time for writing while working full-time, her ‘big break’ into publishing and more.

What was your writing process like for Jaded? Did you have a writing routine or any regular rituals?

While writing, I didn’t have an agent or a publisher. I was working full-time and wrote in secret on my weekends. No one besides my partner knew I was writing a novel, which helped remove any external pressure. 

I didn’t really have a routine, apart from committing most of my time outside of work to writing. It involved a lot of early starts, late nights, missed social events and taking annual leave to write in order to get it across the line! 

How did you first come up with the idea for the book? 

The idea for the book had been jostling in my head for a long time, from an accumulation of personal experiences and anecdotes from other women of colour including friends and former colleagues.

One day, during one of the Covid lockdowns, I just started writing and it all came out in a cathartic tumble. I think that pent-up energy comes across in Jaded

What was your big break into publishing?

I knew no one in the industry, and everything I knew about publishing came from Google! So my big break was meeting and signing with my agent. She had so much passion and expertise, and we shared the same vision for the book. She truly shepherded me in the right direction and steered the book into the hands of the perfect editor for it.

How long have you been working on this book?

I was twenty-five when I started writing and will be twenty-eight when it is published. That makes it a three-year process, start to finish.

What was the publishing process like (finding an agent, submitting manuscripts, etc.)?

Querying agents was a very anxious and vulnerable time because I still hadn’t shared the book's existence with any friends or family, and now, strangers would be reading it. Like everyone, I was also very afraid of the risk of rejection.

A lot of the process is undeniably down to timing and luck: catching the right agent’s attention at the right time. After signing with my agent, we did an in-depth edit on the manuscript together and then we submitted it to publishers. That process was a whirlwind – I’m very grateful that my editor immediately shared the same passion for the book, and we knew right away that we had found the right publisher.

What most excites you about your book being published in 2024? 

Writing Jaded ultimately came from a place of wanting to feel seen and wanting to help others like me feel seen. Although the book follows Jade’s journey, her story could be that of so many women. I hope that readers will resonate with her story and will find in her a friend to relate to, to laugh with, and to understand. 

Do you have a favourite book or author?

So many! One that springs to mind, because I consistently re-read it at least once a year, is Homefire by Kamila Shamsie. No matter how many times I read it, it breaks my heart all over again.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I grew up immersed in books, as most writers do. My parents hardly let me watch English TV because they wanted me to learn their native languages, so I was always reading in my spare time instead! 

Into adulthood, I continued using books as my main comfort. During the pandemic, in a time of collective heartache and helplessness, I found myself turning to books again, this time by attempting to write one.

What surprised you most about the publishing process? 

Until I became a part of the publishing process, I took for granted the books that I read. I've found the amount of dedication, passion, time, teamwork and expertise that goes into getting a book onto shelves – and then to readers – remarkable.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

As a child, I was often told that I’d make a good lawyer (in hindsight, I’m not sure that was a compliment!), so I’d set my sights on that career path from quite a young age. 

I was so set on ‘arriving’ at that destination that I was a bit rudderless when I got there. I wish I could say that I always knew I would be a writer, but I’ve learned now that no path is completely straightforward and my first career has provided me with both the skills and the context to be the writer I am now.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Very few people have the luxury to write full-time, so my tip would be to find the time/environment that you can write best in and protect it as much as possible. 

I work best in the mornings and struggle to find the motivation to write after work in the evenings. While writing Jaded, I rarely made early plans on the weekends, and I woke up two hours early to write before work (which I imagine would be hard for anyone with children). 

Writing a novel is indeed a marathon, not a sprint. For me, regular bursts of writing were the best way to make progress despite life's other demands.  

If you could go back in time and give your past-self one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

The state of your manuscript in its current draft is the worst it will ever be. It can only get better from here.

What is the best writing lesson/tip you have ever received? 

The only way out of a draft is through!

Feature Title

Jaded
For fans of Queenie, The List and I May Destroy You, this razor sharp debut novel will capture your heart, make you laugh and sob, and will leave you asking yourself: what would you have done in Jade’s situation?
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