Elizabeth Mundy began writing creatively not during her English Literature degree, but on a yoga holiday years later with the encouragement of Stephen King's UK editor.
|Year of Graduation
Why did you choose the University of Edinburgh?
I was wrapped up for an arctic expedition when I came to have a look around the Edinburgh University campus. I lived in London, it was the first time I’d been to Scotland and I thought there might be penguins. In fact, it was the first time I’d been north of Birmingham. But it was bright, beautiful and I was surprised at just how magical the city looked in the soft glow of Scottish sunshine. Needless to say, once I was a student I made full use of my arctic gear in the heart of the Edinburgh winter. And once I even managed to get sunburnt in George Square gardens in April.
I spent the first year at Pollock Halls, and loved the views of Arthur’s Seat on the horizon. In Freshers’ Week, I went on an organised expedition at 2am to climb it and see the sunrise, having been at the union all night. It was the coldest I have ever been and I ended up snuggling under a gorse bush for warmth. I shivered my way back down hours before the sun came up and drank hot chocolate in bed instead.
I got involved in the Student newspaper, writing reviews and features for the Books and Theatre sections and loved working with the other student journalists. I also played violin (badly) in one of the university orchestras.
I spent my third year in Barcelona on an Erasmus programme, and had an amazing time soaking up the culture, the sunshine and the cava. I attended the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, which was a fervently Catalan place with frequent strikes against Madrid rule. The campus was very impractical, the buildings stark and the layout hard to navigate, but I’ve been told it looks stunning from the air.
As finals approached, I found myself spending a fair amount of time in the library. I thought I’d finally lost it when I looked up to see dozens of ladybirds crawling over the inside of the window in front of me. I had to check with someone else that they could see them too. They could, thank goodness.
I absolutely loved my degree: it not only changed how I read books, it also changed how I viewed the world. The lecturers were fantastic, the books varied and stimulating and the literary theory fascinating.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
My first novel, "In Strangers' Houses", was published this year by Constable Little Brown. It’s the first in a new series of murder mysteries featuring Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London. She’s forced to turn detective when her friend goes missing, and discovers that all her clients have dirty secrets to hide.
I’d wanted to take a creative writing module in my final year at university, but was worried I wouldn’t be good enough and it would drag my grade down. I didn’t actually begin writing until I went on a yoga holiday in Turkey, years later, which came with creative writing classes with Philippa Pride, who is Stephen King’s UK editor and a brilliant teacher. I started writing my first novel with her encouragement and she’d been my mentor ever since.
I’ve got a three book deal and have already completed the second book: "A Clean Canvas". It was due the same week as my first baby, and I was able to deliver both a few days early. It features Lena again, this time working to clear her name of theft after a painting goes missing from a commercial gallery she cleans. It will be published in January 2019.
I’m currently writing my third novel in the series, tentatively titled "A Messy Affair", while on maternity leave. As my own life is full of dirty nappies, I have made it the raciest of my novels to compensate.
I absolutely loved my degree: it not only changed how I read books, it also changed how I viewed the world. The lecturers were fantastic, the books varied and stimulating and the literary theory fascinating. However, I don’t think you need a degree in English Literature to be a novelist: you just need to read widely, love stories and make time to write.
My day job is as a marketing director for an investment company. I arrived at that after a couple of years at a financial magazine and a further ten or so working in advertising.
When I complained that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to work on my novel and keep a full time job, my writing teacher Philippa Pride said to me ‘you vote with your time.’
It’s true: make sure you spend your time doing the things that you love.
In Strangers' Houses (Amazon)