Eloise Williams


Eloise was the inaugural Children’s Laureate Wales 2019-2021, an initiative run by Literature Wales. 

Having originally trained in Theatre at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, she went on to work as a performer, theatre maker and creative practitioner for over a decade before studying for a Masters in Creative and Media Writing at Swansea University in 2011. Honesty and Lies is her fifth book for young people with Firefly Press.

Her latest novel, Honesty and Lies, is set in the winter of 1601. Storyteller Honesty travels from Wales to London seeking fame and fortune. She befriends Alice, a maid to Queen Elizabeth I. But can Alice be trusted?

It’s a tale of friendship, intrigue, scheming and plots set in the spellbinding world of the Elizabethan court.

Many thanks to Eloise for sharing news of her latest novel…

What inspired you to write Honesty and Lies?

Landscape is often my first inspiration when I’m writing, and this was certainly the case with Honesty and Lies. I’d worked at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank many years earlier – sadly for me as an actor at that time, in the bar not on the stage – and had walked alongside the river in all weather conditions, early in the morning and late at night. I’d always been inspired by the power of the Thames and the thoughts of all it must have witnessed. Water weaves its way through most of my stories in some way or other as I’m fascinated by it. It can be beautiful and treacherous, save lives and take them, it’s ethereal and liminal and magical.

A few years ago, I visited Greenwich for the first time and took a boat ride back to Southwark. Seeing London from the water brought back to the surface those feelings of interest and awe. I began to imagine again what people would have felt as they travelled the river in different times and who those people might have been. What story would they have told us? How would it be different to mine?

History is endlessly astonishing. People did things which seem so weird and wonderful to us now. From the vaguely strange brushing of their teeth with sugar, to the positively gruesome displaying decapitated heads for all to see and fear. Elizabethan London gave me so many opportunities to illuminate and challenge my characters. I am drawn to writing stories with dark and dangerous elements and having done a little research into the period, I knew it would be rich with interesting details, whilst providing a perilous setting for my two protagonists.  

Of course, I couldn’t leave out Shakespeare and the Globe theatre, various nods to poor hygiene and the privies, the beautiful dresses worn by royalty, ear scoops and whalebone farthingales, and the unusual foods too.

In the end it was a combination of things which inspired me! A love of London and of history, wondering at the power and knowledge of water, a precarious society and fixed social positions, theatre in all its forms, appearance and reality, rich and poor, honesty and lies.


Cover image of Honesty and Lies


Tell us a little about the story …

Honesty and Lies is set in the winter of 1601. Storyteller Honesty travels from Wales to London seeking fame and fortune. She befriends Alice, a maid to Queen Elizabeth I. But can Alice be trusted?  

It’s a tale of friendship, intrigue, scheming and plots set in the spellbinding world of the Elizabethan court.

Where do you draw writing inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from so many places. Landscape is something I adore writing about so walking is always a good place for me to start but also, snatches of conversations, films, music, museums, historical buildings, reading, food, people watching, learning anything new. The more you do with your life, the more you open your mind to imagination.

There’s a quote from Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild which I love – ‘Put yourself in the way of beauty.’

I say it to myself but change it slightly to ‘Put yourself in the way of stories.’ I hope she wouldn’t mind!  

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Sticking with one idea to the end. Stories are slippery things. They often decide to take themselves in different directions. Or new bright and shiny ideas will appear begging to be started. I have learned to write a summary of those glittering new ideas on a piece of paper and put them firmly away in a drawer until I’ve finished the story I’m supposed to be working on.  

What comes first for you – the plot or the characters – and why?

The characters come before plot for me. I’m interested in getting inside people’s heads and working out what their motivations are for different actions. In this case, I got to have double the fun, inventing two different interior monologues as each chapter is told alternately by Alice and Honesty. I really enjoyed playing around with what people were saying as opposed to what they are really thinking. It’s also fun for the reader to know that the characters are hiding something from each other. 

Plot has always been a lot more difficult for me. It usually comes from putting my character into a challenging landscape and then deciding how they will deal with the problems they face. I am no fan of planning ahead though I’m getting better at it.  


Get to know the Author Poster for Eloise Williams


What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

This is such a difficult question to answer. I think finding your own style and voice is important. Telling the story, the best way you can. I often start writing a story multiple times before I find the right way in. Perhaps saying something which in some way illuminates the human experience. Holding a mirror up to life. Creating something which somehow connects with readers, or which communicates something you feel passionate about. Sharing your own individual take on life through fiction. Or none of these things. I don’t know!   

If you had to describe yourself in just three words, what would those be?

Enthusiastic. Quiet. Creative.  

What books inspired you as a young reader?

I was an avid reader and loved everything and anything. Magical stories set in parallel worlds were a favourite, but also stories which were grounded in our world but had an element of the strange. I read a lot of mysteries and tales of the sea, and any ghosts stories I could get my hands on. Those early influences have definitely stayed with me, and I still adore these genres.  

What book is currently on your bedside table?

My bedside table always has a teetering tower of books on it, and I tend to read about two or three books at a time. The three at the top at the moment are The Gifts by Liz Hyder, Fear Ground by Jennifer Killick and The Haunting Season – Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights by eight award-winning authors.



If you could invite any three people for dinner, whom would you invite?

I’d like to time travel and meet three ‘ordinary’ people at random. I often think that everyday lives are far more interesting than they are given credit for.  

In what way have libraries influenced you during your lifetime?

I was extraordinarily lucky that I grew up living opposite a library. When I looked out of my bedroom window, I could see all the books, so I have been close to and inspired by libraries for as long as I can remember.

I loved the feeling of being surrounded by books when I was young. Choosing a stack to take home with me. Just holding them made me feel magical and powerful.  Val, the librarian, held the key to all sorts of worlds but not content with this, I made my own library at home too, complete with tickets, and date plaques. My sister was my only customer, and I’m certain returns were often overdue, but I was happy enough.  

Libraries are a place of sanctuary for me. I’m very quiet as a person, so to go a place where there are no expectations, save reading and learning, is truly joyful.

During my studies for my MA in Creative Writing at Swansea I spent a lot of time in Swansea University library, and I often sit in the library in Carmarthen when I have a tricky bit of writing to do.

It’s so important to use and celebrate our libraries. They are a cornerstone of our society and our freedom.  

Do you have suggestions of how to encourage children and young people to read more for pleasure?

I think my first response is to celebrate reading in all its forms and don’t judge what they are reading. I often hear people saying that a story is only for girls, or only for boys, or too babyish when their children are choosing books. Let children and young people read what they want to read.

Read along with them so you can have discussions about the story. Tell them about stories you love yourself. Leave books lying around if you have the means. Read yourself as an example. Make sure they are members of the library!  

It’s really easy to connect with authors too. That can be a really good way of getting young people interested in reading.  

Do you have any plans for future titles?

I have so many plans but I’m only working on one. The others are all glittering away in a very firmly shut drawer until I’ve finished!

Honesty and Lies will be published 6 October by Firefly Press (Twitter @fireflypress)

You can find the latest updates from the author on Twitter @Eloisejwilliams

Read our Get to Know the Author flyer for further information about the author.

See also our Authors of the Month writing in Welsh.


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