Growing up in the wilds of Angus kindled the imagination of author Abi Elphinstone to write a wonderfully evocative series of magic, mystery and adventure of which her novel, ‘The Dreamsnatcher’ is the first.
Catching the imaginations of children across the country, it has already been named as one of the ‘Top 10 Children’s Book Not To Miss in 2015’ by The Bookseller and is a best-selling children’s new release on Amazon.
After the second rejection I started to think maybe I wasn’t quite good enough, but there was something deep down that believed I could do it.Abi Elphinstone
Despite the thoroughly researched and richly imagined plot, success did not come easy to Abi and it was only through sheer determination that ‘The Dreamsnatcher’ is now available. She said: “I sent my first book to 30 literary agents – and it was rejected by them all.” Abi went on to face nearly 100 rejections before Simon & Schuster took her on. “I wrote The Dreamsnatcher over the course of a year and I literally threw everything at it because it was finally a story I wanted to tell: I watched wildcats prowl in the New Forest, carved wooden flowers with a Romany gypsy and spent every spare second writing until it felt like there were no words left inside me,” she explained.
“I grew up just outside Edzell where I spent most of my childhood building dens and running wild across highland glens. I didn’t have to create Moll’s outdoor world; it grew out of my own.”
ACP’s Amanda Taylor speaks to Abi:
An author who grew up just outside Edzell has tapped in to her happy childhood memories of the area to inspire a popular children’s book.
Abi Elphinstone has written The Dreamsnatcher, a novel aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds, that has been named in the Top 10 Children’s Books not to be Missed in 2015.
However, it wasn’t an easy road to literary success for Abi, who was rejected 96 times before finally achieving a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster.
Speaking about the rejections, Abi admitted: “It was pretty bleak at times. I wrote three different books over six years and with the first I just wrote it and sent it out to 30 agents and publishers. Responses ranged from not good enough, to others saying there were glimpses of good work. There were enough responses that said my writing was good that made me work on another book and send it out.
“After the second rejection I started to think maybe I wasn’t quite good enough, but there was something deep down that believed I could do it.
“My Mum kept telling me to keep at it. She used to tell me - ‘Some people say they’d like to write a book, others say they’re going to. You’re the second one.’ She’d tell me not to expect to get lucky quick.”
Abi made sure to use the comments she received from the publisher to hone her talent. She continued: “You’ve got to be humble and receptive to criticism. I wrote a different book each time and made sure I took on the advice from the rejections and used it to make my writing better.
“Of the 96 rejections, maybe 70 were generic rejections. There were enough ones that made me think - ‘I won’t stop until I get an acceptance’.
“The very first agent that replied to me said there were glimpses of greatness and I think that made me keep working on it.”
Abi used the criticism to her benefit, explaining: “Criticism is something to build from, not hide away from.
“I can really see a difference from what I am writing now to what I was writing then. It was a combination of resilience and tips from professionals.”
Abi’s book, The Dreamsnatcher, centres around 12-year-old Molly Pecksniff who is more important than she knows. The Oracle Bones foretold that she and Gryff, a wildcat that has always been by her side, are the only ones who can fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic.
The book is now a bestseller on Amazon. Discussing her success, she said: “It’s been amazing. I walked in to WHSmith yesterday and seen that my book was above David Walliams’ in the chart.
“It feels like it isn’t really happening to me. I tried so hard to get it published that I start to doubt it would happen. We are in our second print run a week after it was released which is way above anything I expected. All I’ve wanted is to see my name on a spine. I didn’t expect it do quite so well.”
Abi also suffers from dyslexia, but when it comes to writing, she found that planning means she’s not affected by it. She said: “When I am writing a book, my mind is so chaotic anyway that I have to get everything under control before writing. I plan everything so meticulously that when I come to write the book I know exactly what I want to do. As I child I found it so frustrating and embarrassing. Now as an adult I find I’m much more forgiving with it.”
The inspiration for Abi’s book stems for her adventures in Angus countryside, She said: “From when I was eight to 12 I had my happiest moments in my life, and they were full of magic and adventure. I can remember it so vividly.”
She also credits her parents with helping inspire her. She continued: “There were two things that really helped inspire me and that was the surroundings - the glens, rivers, woods and lochs - and my parents.
“They really encouraged adventure. My Dad would always be taking me up to the glens, and we would do the blue door walk and my parents would points out the trees that were magical and were the fairies lived. My mum was an English teacher so she was always giving me books and encouraging me to be imaginative.”
Her fond memories of Scotland could even feature in a future books. She added: “I hope to make it a trilogy, the publisher has bought two books so we will see how they perform, but I‘ve started writing the places in Scotland I’d want to feature and the blue door is one of them.”