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In conversation with... Samantha Ellis

What inspired you to write How To Be A Heroine?

An argument with my best friend! We were on a walk (really a pilgrimage) to Top Withens, the ruin that inspired Wuthering Heights, and arguing (over the wuthering) about which heroine we’d rather be: Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. I’d always loved wild, passionate Cathy and thought Jane was stoic and dull. But by the time we got to the top, I started thinking maybe I’d been wrong, maybe I should read my favourite books again, and meet my heroines again, to see how I feel about them now. 


Without giving too much away, who is your ultimate heroine?

At the moment it’s Scheherezade. She’s Middle Eastern (like me), and we’re also both storytellers and feminists. I love that she saves her own life by telling stories, and her stories are so liberating, so fantastical, that she opens up possibilities for herself, her heroines and her readers.


How do you relax/switch off?

I love a long walk (wuthering is optional), and I love cooking.


Favourite book?

So hard to choose! Before I wrote How to be a Heroine it was definitely Wuthering Heights. Now I’m not sure... 


Favourite film?

When Harry Met Sally. It’s the funniest film I know, and so sharp, and I love the idea that romance comes out of friendship. I also really love Moonstruck: Cher’s enormous hair! Nicholas Cage’s loopy, passionate performance! Olympia Dukakis being a total diva!


What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, reading trashy novels in hot baths scented with orange-flower water. Bagels and baklava. And poring over Vogue.


What are you listening to at the moment?

The soundtrack to the first series of Girls; perfect for dancing round the kitchen.


Finally, what have you learnt from your literary heroines?

So many things. Anne of Green Gables made me a writer, Lizzy Bennet showed me that I could laugh at the world and square my family’s expectations with my own, Scarlett O’Hara taught me to be tougher, Franny Glass helped me over losing my faith, Flora Poste was my guide to the art of being single and happy...I could go on, but all my heroines are amazingly empathetic, and use their empathy to be fantastically altruistic. That’s something I hope I have learned to do—and am still learning.

You can buy a copy of How To Be A Heroine here.