My First Time with...Emma Flint
Emma Flint grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, and has been writing fiction since she knew what stories were. She graduated from the University of St. Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, later completing a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She worked in Edinburgh for four years, and now lives in north London.
Since childhood, she has been drawn to true crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases. She is equally fascinated by notorious historical figures and by unorthodox women – past, present and fictional.
All of these themes informed and inspired Little Deaths, a heady blend of sex, murder, obsession, noir and a femme fatale. Set in 1960s suburban New York, the novel re-tells a horrifying true story with a modern feminist slant.
Here's the blurb for Little Deaths...
It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York, shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.
Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to the obvious conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation.
Covering the story as his first big assignment, reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press, and the underbelly of the city he now calls home.
Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.
Ruth Malone is mesmerising, challenging and unknowable: is she really capable of murder?
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.
I don’t remember the moment I decided to write the book because it took me a long time to realise I was actually writing a book rather than a character study or a short story. I do remember the day I started writing: I was lying on my sofa in July 2010 and decided to write a piece about a woman putting make up on…
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
That I needed to focus more on telling the story and on the characters than on getting every single historical fact correct. I spent too long meticulously researching tiny details of the case that inspired Little Deaths.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
Internet ‘research’. I can get lost on Wikipedia for days.
What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?
I don’t remember having one, but my friends and agent may disagree...
Best thing about writing your book?
Reading the final draft, knowing that I’d written the best book I could, and feeling really proud of it.
And the worst?
What it took out of me. I didn’t have a holiday for six years, and during the last year I was working 80-hour weeks, balancing my day job with finishing the edits. No-one tells you how physically hard it is to write a book!
Go-to writing snacks?
Coffee and water. I write better on an empty stomach.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Other writers I admire: Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters, Jill Dawson, Megan Abbott. Reading a good piece of writing gives me something to aspire to.
The book that changed you?
Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which I read when I was 22. It made me realise that crime fiction could be literary, and that the question of 'why' is as fascinating as the question of 'who'.
Your pump up song?
'Born To Run' by Bruce Springsteen.
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?
Jane Austen. She had a wonderfully acerbic and sarcastic sense of humour, and I’d love to hear her speak in real life. Only 160 of her 3,000 letters survive – I’d love to interview her about her life, how and why she wrote, and her views on other authors.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
Read as much and as widely as you can. You can’t write if you don’t read. And – if I’m allowed two – join a writing group. You need honest feedback from people who are less invested than you, and you need to learn to take criticism and act on it.