Janet Ellis and I met at the Club at Cafe Royal for the latest in the Books That Built Me salon series to talk about the books that inspired her to be a writer. The Butcher’s Hook is often described as her debut – I have done so myself on these pages – but Janet actually wrote her first book at the precocious age of ten yet became rather distracted from her vocation by the allure of a career on television, acting and presenting before the Curtis Brown writing programme lured her back to her path. Ellis has a two book deal with Two Roads, and I’m sure they won’t have to wait quite as long for her next novel – which, as Janet told guests, involves adultery and the 1970’s.
Guests drank Champagne Bollinger and ate Prestat’s fabulously creamy white chocolate (possibly the nicest white chocolate I’ve tasted – the kind the Milky Bar Kid might collapse from joy after tasting) and Janet told us why poetry fired a love of how language sounds on the tongue and on the page, why National Velvet turned her into a voracious reader, how the fifties ‘nature/nurture’ best seller, The Bad Seed, and Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On a Train, gave her a fascination with the fine line that divides ordinary people from transgressive acts, and why Candia McWilliam’s heartbreaking memoir is a love letter about loss.
Here are the Books That Built Janet Ellis
The Golden Treasury of Poetry, selected by Louis Untermeyer
National Velvet, Enid Bagnold
The Bad Seed, William March
Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
Good Behaviour, Molly Keane
What to Look for in Winter, Candia McWilliam
You can listen to Janet talking about her Books That Built Me on the podcast (below on soundcloud, but it’s also available on as a podcast on iTunes here )