Hello Emma, thank you for joining me today. Firstly, What’s your writing day like?
It varies, depending on a lot of things – other commitments, my mood, the weather (yes, really). However, if possible, I do the bulk of my actual writing first thing in the morning. I’m an early riser, so this means no later than 6am in the winter and, often, as early as 4am in the summer. I love that time of day for its peace and quiet. No interruptions. And my brain seems to function best then. Later, if I can, I will go back to my writing and redraft or I’ll research things. There’s usually an energy dip in the afternoon, so that’s when I try to make myself do mundane but important tasks like tidying my desk (I’m a very messy writer), sorting, labelling.
Your new book is called The Valentine House. Can you tell me a bit about it?
The Valentine House is about an English family who go, every year, to their summer home, high up in the French alps and about someone from the village nearby called Mathilde. At the start of the story, Mathilde is employed to work as a servant for the family. She becomes involved with them in all sorts of ways, discovering a secret that affects them all. The novel explores the relationship between the two cultures and also the relationship between identity and place.
If you could have a chalet anywhere in the world, where would you have it and why?
I would have it in the French Alps. I can’t say where, precisely – there are so many beautiful spots to choose from. But somewhere that is accessible, yet feels remote, and, above all, somewhere with a view – of the mountains, a valley, a village, a river, a blue, blue sky. Why? Because I’ve seen chalets in places like that. They exist. It’s not a fantasy. People live in them. I’d like to be one of those people.
What’s your writing process like – edit as you go? Much planning?
My writing process is a mixture of editing as I go and planning. I’m not very good at planning in advance. I try to do it. I make myself do it. But I tend to write first and just see what happens. Usually, this results in a mess of words, which I then have to sort and turn into a novel. So the planning happens during and after, not before the writing, usually.
Do you have any writing rituals? Coffee, silence, tea?
No rituals, although I like silence and solitude. The only quirky thing is my use of 2B pencils. I have a big stock of them. I like to have them within arms’ reach wherever I am in the house. When things are going well, that means 2B pencils all over the place – on the floor, in my bed, next to the bath. They are used mostly for jotting, but sometimes for longer bits of writing, but my handwriting is terrible and, when I write quickly, even I find it difficult to read later. I have to type up my 2B jottings quickly, therefore.by