Melissa Mailer-Yates

Melissa Mailer-Yates

When did you first realise you wanted to write for a living?

In 1997 I created the first international exhibition of my art in New York. It was quite a prestigious show, and was attended by around 900 people on the opening night, quite a coup for an English artist with their first US solo show. However, a major part of compiling the event was the creation of a serious printed programme.

Within it I took time to discuss the paintings in detail. As the subject matter was very deep and expressive, albeit basically portraiture, I felt the need to expound on what I was attempting to portray. This led to a number of esoteric essays, discussing the power of the feminine in all aspects of life, expressing myself with words as much as the images did. I found there was a ubiquitous strength in the word I could be certain about, rather than the painted image which was far more open to interpretation and taste. I had painted since 1977, and my clients included the rich, royal and famous, so I was not about to replace one art form with another, but discovering the importance of the word was satisfying and important to me. During the long flights to the US over the next few years I took the opportunity to pen my first major work. Ellerker was based on the history surrounding an ancestor, and took years of research to compile. The 16th century left me with great gaps in the knowledge required, but opportunities to discover too, the writing as much an odyssey as the lengthy journey undertaken by the hero. Its publication 13 years later, six books in one, was a huge achievement, and I realised just how much I needed to do more. Since that time I have compiled a series of books for children based on the stories from Shakespeare, presented by a little white cat: Shakespuss, together with a few other children’s books, all gaining from my ability to be able to enhance them with illustration.

More recently, the story of an old schoolfriend inspired me to write my latest novel. Based on his truck journey to Romania to take relief to the abandoned orphanage children in Bucharest, a result of the tyrant Ceaușescu’s abuse ruling the country until 1989. Again, together with a great deal of research to ensure the accuracy of the detail, the story was extraordinary. It gave me the perfect vehicle to incorporate elements of my beliefs into the storyline, thus it was published as Reality.

As I had just begun to work with some people on projects within the film industry I felt the need to explore the potential for a screenplay. It was fascinating to re-format it somewhat to work as a movie, but even more so to get to grips with the demands of the scriptwriting format. I was inspired by this uniting the image to the word in a very powerful way. I felt confident enough to enter the finished product into a number of international screenwriting competitions, my first having just been awarded a quarter-finalist place. An achievement I am very proud of.

Which writer, past or present, do you most admire?

I simply adore Evelyn Waugh. I believe his evocative use of the English language to be unparalleled.

What was your first published (or performed) credit as a writer?

My first published book was Ellerker, the Journey from Packwood.

Which piece of writing work are you most proud of?

I believe Reality will prove to be a real landmark for my writing.

Who or what inspires you to write?

Stories with a fundamental basis of truth or history lead to the development of real characters that the reader can relate to so much more credibly.

How do you switch off when you’re not writing?

Nature is my drug, including tending my large number of fish.

Which one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Know your character in every way. Do not simply rely on a description, feel what they are enduring, hear their voice, put yourself in their place and use language to convey every aspect of their being.

Why are you a member of WGGB?

Sharing and understanding with other professionals is so important. Isolation can be very destructive. I love to be a part of the book-writing, creationary world.

Mailer-Yates is an internationally acclaimed artist of extraordinary depth and talent. Most recognised for her fascinating combination of abstract and representational painting centred on the female form, and also her award-winning equestrian work.

She is particularly articulate concerning her own work and its place within the halls of art history, creating a demand for public speaking events. Published books include: an historic novel, Ellerker, The Tales of William Shakespuss, a series of illustrated children’s books based on the plays of Shakespeare, and Reality.

Apart from the United Kingdom her works can be found all over the world.

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