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Writer Wednesday: Ella Craine

Ella Craine was born on the wrong continent and spent far too much time trying to guide safaris around her various back gardens before moving to Africa and doing it properly - but not before accumulating a handful of interesting yet irrelevant university degrees.

Having worked and worn khaki in some of South Africaʼs most magnificent game reserves, sheʼs got plenty to write about. And she likes cookies.


1. Why did you become a writer? 
I think I started referring to myself as an ʻauthorʼ when I was about six years old! Iʼve just always loved it - coming up with something creative and seeing it on a paper. From the beginning, itʼs been about wanting to share all the crazy things in my head.

2. Whatʼs the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
Definitely coming up with the motivation. I can go for weeks without writing a word, and then write thousands of words a day for weeks, but I have to be in the right mindset to write, and it doesnʼt come up as often as it needs to. Editing is definitely a very close second!

3. Whatʼs the most enjoyable part of writing? 
When it all just ʻclicksʼ and flows and comes together. To me, thatʼs the most satisfying feeling - when you donʼt have to sit and spend forever analyzing a sentence youʼve just written. Itʼs the best feeling when you suddenly look up and realize youʼve written thousands of words and havenʼt even thought about it.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why? 
Definitely ʻThe Stinky Cheese Manʼ by John Scieszka. Unlike a lot of people, I didnʼt grow up with it as a classic. I only discovered it a couple of years ago in a bookshop when I was book shopping for a child. I think I sat in that shop and read the whole thing! Naturally, I bought it and Iʼm pretty sure it was the best gift ever. Scieszka has the most fabulous and twisted sense of humour and itʼs not so different from how Iʼd write if I felt I had total, absolute freedom. I think itʼs completely wasted on children!

5. If you could go back and experience again one of the moments you share with us in your book, which would you pick and why? 
In ʻAn Unlikely Safari Guide,ʼ I talk about a night safari I led where we ended up caught in an epic thunderstorm. I was scared senseless at the time, with lightning striking all around us, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I want to see that beauty and feel that adrenaline kick again. I could try and write it a thousand times, but Iʼll never be able to convey what really happened that night.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character, who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
Adrian Mole. No doubt about it. I canʼt decide whether Iʼd sit him down when heʼs about fifteen years old and try and explain some life facts to him that might have helped him in the future or Iʼd wait until he was a few years older and offer to read his entire ʻLo! The Flat Hills of My Homelandʼ manuscript. Every ʻauthorʼ deserves a chance to be read...

7. What can we expect next from you? 
Iʼm currently close to finishing the first drafts of two new books. Iʼve tried dabbling a bit in fiction, but I just donʼt think itʼs for me! My next book will be the as yet untitled follow up to ʻAn Unlikely Safari Guide.ʼ Iʼm also writing a book called ʻWhat I Learned From Birds,ʼ about my experiences working in bird rehabilitation (yep, thatʼs a thing).

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish youʼd been given at the start of your career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out? 
Oh dear. Itʼs not so much advice I wish Iʼd been given - itʼs advice I was given and chose to ignore. The advice was to write a piece and then forget about about it for a month or two. Before you even think of publishing, read it back again from a fresh perspective. It sounds really obvious and even though I did read back through my book several times during the editing process, I didnʼt read it as a reader. It meant that when I read my book just recently, there was so much I was unhappy with. So donʼt be in such a rush to publish - youʼll regret it.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you. 
Lots of coffee! Coffee in the morning, and maybe some red wine or Pimms in the afternoon... At the moment, I love getting out into the sun with my MacBook and sunglasses and just go for it. Iʼve never been the sort of writer who can devote an hour a day to writing, although I wish I could be that disciplined. I might not write for days or weeks but when I write properly, itʼs an all day thing. I start as soon as I get out of bed and go until the sunʼs gone.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment? 
Iʼm never reading less than three books at a time, but the one thatʼs really special to me right now is called ʻLife List: A Womanʼs Quest for the Worldʼs Most Amazing Birds,ʼ by Olivia Gentile. Itʼs a biography of Phoebe Snetsinger, who became the first person in the world to see more than 8000 different species of bird after being diagnosed with cancer. As a fanatical birdwatcher myself, Iʼm completely in awe of what Phoebe did and how she grew in the process. I know, itʼs really geeky...

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Ella Craine sees the world in a different way. Ever wondered why a hamerkop is better than you? Or thought about which animal has the weirdest tongue in the Kalahari? Probably not.

A collection of true safari stories and quirky wildlife observations, ʻAn Unlikely Safari Guideʼ will leave you astonished at the antics of eccentric safari guests and giggling the next time you think of a wildebeest. And if it all goes to plan, youʼll crave a plate of cookies by the end. From menacing mongooses (or is it ʻmongeese?ʼ) to philosophical antlions, ʻAn Unlikely Safari Guideʼ is delightfully unlikely.

Follow Ella on Twitter | Buy An Unlikely Safari Guide on Amazon |

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