Hyperactive Elizabeth Revill has packed much into her life, but still found time to write. Now a successful author, she talks to Alison Jones.
Elizabeth Revill bumped into an old school friend recently. The two began reminiscing, as old schoolmates do, over their years spent at Bartley Green Girl’s Grammar.
Elizabeth’s pal had been the studious type, too intent on her studies to make time for much else.
“Not like me at all,” says Elizabeth. “I was singing with the band, in this play or that play. I was always doing something. I belonged to the choir, played in the school teams.
“She said ‘I always envied you in school. You always had so much fun’.
“And I did. It was a great school. I loved the teachers and made fabulous, lifelong friends.”
This hyperactivity is a trait she has carried through to adulthood. She carved out a career as an actress but when motherhood demanded a more stable lifestyle than that of the theatrical gypsy, she switched to teaching.
However, she continued to add more strings to her creative bow and took up writing.
She started with a thriller called Killing Me Softly, which became the first in a trilogy set in her native Birmingham.
Though she now lives on a farm in north Devon, with her husband, she often returns to the city to see friends.
Elizabeth’s most recent book, Shadows on the Moon, is the second in another trilogy, which started with Whispers on the Wind and will conclude with Rainbows in the Clouds.
The heroine is Carrie Llewellyn, a young Welsh girl who loses her mum, sees her dad turn to the bottle before burning half his face on hot coals, suffers horrific abuses at the hands of the farmworker who manages to con her father into signing away the family acres, and finally leaves to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, training first in Birmingham and then working in London.
It is probably Elizabeth’s most personal story, as much of her insight into nursing comes from her own mother’s experiences. Her father was consulted to ensure the Welsh colloquialisms that pepper the text were correct.
“My family is Welsh on both sides and are Welsh speaking. My dad took a teaching job in Birmingham and that’s where I was born and brought up.
“My mother was a great raconteur, as is my father. I remember hearing so many things at their knees and thinking ‘Gosh, I must write this down some day’ and they crept into Shadows on the Moon.”
Her mother started her training at Aberystwyth Maternity Unit before moving to Birmingham’s Dudley Road Hospital.
She then relocated to war torn London, which will feature heavily in the next novel.
“My mother was one of six nurses who was bombed during the Blitz.
“She was buried under the rubble and protected five other nurses who were beneath her. She was on top. A patient dug them out and got awarded the George Medal for saving their lives.”
Elizabeth taught history when she was raising her son and was able to draw on that when writing about the outbreak of war. Although a number of her parents’ anecdotes have been incorporated into the tale, it is largely fictional. The protagonists endure torrid times and tragedy, though the tenacious Carrie rises above it all.
“Whispers on the Wind is a burning passionate story, “ says Elizabeth. “I don’t know where it came from. It just poured out of me. It was an adventure for me as well as the reader.
“The second part, Shadows or the Moon, was a little bit more controlled and disciplined.”
Some scenes are difficult to read and were tricky to write but Elizabeth defends the explicit paragraphs as being necessary to illustrate the darker side of the characters’ natures – which includes Carrie’s brother’s incestuous feelings towards her.
“I think all these issues are important, having taught and been the confident of a number of pupils. There was a girl I knew who was abused very badly at home and she confided in me.
“Things get buried, get forgotten or get twisted. It is important to be aware there are these problems in society.
“I never shy away from anything like that but I never put anything into my novels unless it is absolutely essential, not gratuitous.”
One of the characters in Shadows on the Moon becomes an actress, entertaining the troops, and Elizabeth used her own experiences in theatre to guide her words.
She grew up in Egbaston and, after training as a teacher in London, returned here to attend Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.