My First Time...with Emily Thomas
Credit: Emily Bowling
Emily Thomas was born in London, and has lived there most of her life (apart from as a teenager when she lived in Essex, on a boat). Having worked as an editor and publisher since the late 80s, she now works 9-5 in publishing children’s and YA fiction and non-fiction, as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Brixton and really wants a cat – if you know of one that doesn’t need a garden, get in touch!
Emily will be reading from her debut novel Mud at The Riff Raff on Thursday 12th July...
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?
I was sitting at my desk one lunchtime in 2015 and the first page (of what became MUD) came into my head. I scribbled it down and when I got home later, wrote it up on my laptop. I didn’t know if it was going to be a book then. I just needed to write it down. But then I carried on writing, and the next day and the day after that, so then it became clear that it was turning into a book!
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
I wasn’t quite prepared for how emotional the process would make me feel. Mostly in a good way; I felt very close to my central character. But the very personal nature of the content meant that feelings were evoked from long ago and at times I felt very protective of the book, especially during the editing process. I don’t know if I could have done anything about my emotional response, but to know they were coming might have prepared me!
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
TV – often series like The Bridge or Spiral, but I remember being very aware that my obsession with Nashville was a massive diversion from writing. I cried a lot during Nashville, and I think it was transference (to stop myself from crying during the writing of MUD). Also, food, chocolate, and wine.
Any tantrums while writing it?
Yes. Especially when it just wouldn’t come as I wanted it to or I realised I had made a mess of the chronology somewhere along the line, or written a massive plot inconsistency that goes on for 10 pages. I would then go and sit in the bathroom to cool down.
Best thing about writing your book?
How fun it was, how much comfort and inspiration my main character gave me, and how cathartic it was; writing about a very challenging period in my life with humour and an understanding and forgiveness that I didn’t have at the time.
And the worst?
Knowing that I was writing essentially about my life, and at times the feeling of exposure was unbearable. Also those ‘block moments’ when I felt it was rubbish.
Go-to writing snacks?
Prawn crackers from Marks and Spencers.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Conversations between strangers overhead. My mother, who died when I was 10 and who I want to know more about as the years go by. I have ambitions to write for TV – when I see good writing in television drama I feel I would love to do that. But also writers I love reading – Kate Atkinson and David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Hilary Mckay, Joan Aiken…(just a few)
The book that changed you?
I don’t think a book has ever 'changed’ me, exactly, but Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole was so startlingly brilliant when it came out, and so immensely unpatronising to its child readers, it was groundbreaking. It meant that kids could read books without having to immediately understand subtext. Also Love Lessons by Joan Wyndham is an underrated diary masterpiece. Sheer joy and brilliance. And the audio edition of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which has moved me to tears every single time I have listened to it (approximately three times).
Your pump up song?
In the writing of MUD, with its early 80s setting. I listened to Duran Duran’s Rio.
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?
Separate that ambition from the book you want to write. It’s hard not to dream of being published, but more important than being published (unless you are purely doing it for money) is to write the story you want to write, however weird or hard it feels at times. Don’t write what you think people want to read.
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