We were delighted to sit down with author Eleanor Ray, whose debut novel, Everything is Beautiful is out on the 15th of April. This exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places.
Give us your elevator pitch for Everything Is Beautiful.
Everything is Beautiful is about an artist who turns to hoarding when her loved ones disappear – because she knows that possessions, unlike people, will never leave her. When a family with two young children move in next door, they discover a clue to her past under her collections that leads her to question what really happened all those years ago.
What inspired you to write this book?
The idea came to me while I was pregnant with my second child. As my belly grew bigger and I found it more difficult to lift my toddler son, he started collecting objects in the park: twigs, empty bottles and wilting daisies.
He treasured these objects almost compulsively, I think holding on to his possessions in expectation of the changes that were to come. It made me think of an instinct many of us have – to hold onto things to help us feel secure – and what might happen if that spiralled out of control.
If your book was a film who would you cast as your leading characters?
For Amy, it would have to be someone with a little vulnerability to them but with underlying strength – a brunette Emily Blunt or Carey Mulligan would be fantastic. And I’ve got a soft spot for a bearded Tom Hiddleston as Richard, the lovely man next door.
Where do you write? – do you have an aesthetic workspace, a cramped kitchen table, a cosy bed base?
I always write reclined on a sofa – being at a desk feels too much like my day job in an office (though that’s sofa-based too now we’re all working from home). I used to write in the living room, but after several incidents with split apple juice, sticky hands grabbing my laptop and the general chaos toddlers leave in their wake, I’ve moved upstairs to the little room my husband originally claimed as his man cave. So I’ve got a dart board, a bottle of scotch and a large replica of Darth Vader for company.
Tell us about your writing journey – have you always known you wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
It’s always been a dream, but I never thought I’d make it as a published author. I studied English literature at university because I love books so much, but then didn’t go for the creative writing class because I was worried I wouldn’t be good enough. I regret that now – I would have loved it.
Then when I found myself between contracts at my day job, I booked onto a yoga holiday in Turkey that came with creative writing sessions. I went for the yoga, but was older and braver so I did the writing too. The teacher was incredible – she’s Philippa Pride (AKA The Book Doctor, and Stephen King’s UK editor) – and really motivated me to follow my dream. I was lucky enough to join a wonderful regular workshop Philippa runs back home in London for a fantastic group of writers. We still meet now, via Zoom, and it really keeps me going.
It was on maternity leave with my second child that I wrote Everything is Beautiful, while my baby daughter had her naps.
Do you have a favourite book? If so, what is it? If not, is there a genre or style you prefer?
There are some books I just want to read again and again, and it’s always because of the characters. One Day by David Nicholls is a masterclass on writing relationships, with his protagonists’ love for each other shining through despite all their faults and foibles. In a time when human interactions have been limited, I love it when books remind me why, ultimately, people are better when they are together.
Here at the Little Book Café we love pets! If you have a pet we’d love you to share a picture and a line about them.
Sorry, no pets yet! I’d love to get a cat one day, but I think I should wait until the kids are old enough to know not to try to eat cat food (or worse) that they find on the floor.
'This book took hold of me and wouldn't let me go until I turned the final page' BETH O'LEARY
'Funny, tender and uplifting' BBC RADIO 4
'Beautifully written and thought-provoking' KATIE FFORDE
'This is one of those books you just want to gulp down in one' GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
When Amy Ashton's world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.
Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.
Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves - soon there'll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy's carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she'd lost still be hers for the taking?
Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places
Everyone is talking about Eleanor Ray:
'Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant' Candis
'A total treat of a read - warm, enchanting and intriguing' Holly Miller, author of The Sight of You
'Like the objects Amy collects, this novel is a treasure all of its own' Woman
'A joy to read, and very beautiful indeed' Lisa Dickenson, author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas
'Uplifting' Sunday Express
'Beautifully written and full of compassion, kindness and hope' Irish Independent
'A gorgeous, warm hug of a novel' Sinead Moriarty, author of A Perfect Match
'A tonic for the soul' Lesley Kara, author of The Rumour
'Charming' Claire Kendal, author of The Book of You
'Eleanor Ray has perfectly captured how it feels to not quite fit in' M W Craven, author of The Puppet Show
'A wonderful celebration of the power of kindness' Hannah Tovey, author of The Education of Ivy Edwards
'Heart-warming and thought-provoking' Andrea Mara, author of The Other Side of the Wall
'I relished it from start to finish' Amanda Robson, author of Obsession
'Dazzling' My Weekly
'A wonderfully huggable and uplifting debut' Love Reading