Saturday, 19 May 2012

Interview with Oxford author Rebecca Emin

Last week I caught up with fellow writer Rebecca Emin, described by many as “the nicest author on the internet.” She’s already had two books published this year and is about to release a third.

Where are you sitting right now? Is it your usual place for writing?
I usually sit at our table so I have a view of the garden. I always look out to the garden when I am thinking. My other writing spot is a coffee shop with ceiling to floor windows and a view of fields.

In your new book, When Dreams Come True, you use dream sequences to reflect the changing emotions of your teenage protagonist. This can be quite an exciting way to move the plot along. Were you inspired by other authors’ use of this literary device, or did it come from your own personal experience?
I’ve always had incredibly vivid dreams myself so really that was where this book came from. I was talking to a Twitter friend one day about the dreams I had and she said, “I’m sure there’s a story in that,” and that got me thinking.

Do you believe that dreams reveal our subconscious thoughts?
I think it’s possible that some of them do, or at least they can stem from thoughts. It’s almost like writing fiction in fact; you can have one little idea and it sends you off on a tangent.

Is the character of Charlie based on yourself at a younger age or on your own children?
There are definitely similarities between Charlie and myself, but only because when I write fiction for the 10-14 age group, I try to get in the mindset of a child of that age again. I was a tomboy as a child so I think that is the characteristic I could say was based on me.

Imagine When Dreams Come True on a 13 year old girl’s bookshelf between two other books. What are those books?
Well hopefully my debut novel, New Beginnings would be one of them! I’d like it to be next to one of Tamsyn Murray’s Afterlife books as they are fantastic.

You grew up in the early 80s. How does the life of a thirteen year old now compare with life back then?
It’s like a whole new world, with the Internet and all the games consoles that are around now. But I think, fundamentally, in the eyes of a thirteen year old the most important things will remain the same – friends, films, music, and the fact that it’s hugely important to get a boyfriend/girlfriend before all of your friends do so you’re not the last one who’s “single”!

Do you worry about kids reading less; is internet junk food for the mind; and is kindle going to kill the bookshop?
I don’t worry about my own children reading less because thankfully the three of them are absolutely fascinated by books. I think the Internet is a fantastic thing, used in the right way. It’s like everything though; if you over-use it or use it for the wrong reasons it’s not going to be a good thing. However if it wasn’t for the Internet I wouldn’t be here on your blog, so I have to think it’s good from a writer’s point of view.
I sincerely hope the Kindle doesn’t kill bookshops. I do own a Kindle but I have to say I much prefer paperbacks. Having said that my four year old comments on me “plugging my book in to charge”. Goodness knows what will happen by the time he is my age.

This is the second book you’ve self-published. How do you maintain discipline with regards to your writing quality? Isn’t it tempting to just put it out there as soon as possible?
For me it is exactly the opposite. I have got a massive loathing of typos in my own work for a start, so I would never ever publish a book without having both an editor and at least one proof reader go through it. But before I even get to that stage I ask my beta readers to have a read and tell me what they think. Further down the line for my novels, I have a team of ‘test readers’ who are in the target age group, and I ask them questions and they give me feedback which is essential. For example I mentioned ‘Space Dust’ in an early draft of When Dreams Come True and three of my test readers had no idea what that was, so that had to go.

It is my aim to deliver a product I can be proud of, that is of at least equal quality to that of a book published by a publisher. It’s actually quite a lengthy and consuming process, but I do think it is worth it.

Charlie is happiest when biking with Max and Toby, or watching films with Allie. But when Charlie reaches year nine (age 13), everything begins to change. As her friends develop new interests, Charlie's dreams become more frequent and vivid, and a family crisis tears her away from her friends. How will Charlie react when old family secrets are revealed? Will her life change completely when some of her dreams start to come true?

A few cheeky questions to finish…

Your favourite childhood snack compared with your favourite snack now?
I can’t actually remember my favourite childhood snack – but I do remember sneaking to the village shop for a bag of penny sweets when I shouldn’t have been doing so – just before school!
Even now I don’t have one favourite snack… I am more of a savoury person than sweet though.

Your blog is about trying to write as well as being the mother of three. Any parenting tips?
Hmm. Well, I have three children and it is definitely a learning process when you have three. The dynamics are complicated and there is always something to keep you on your toes. My main tip would be to look after, and make time for, yourself as well as everyone else. That is the hardest thing to learn, but it is essential in the long term.

You can only take one book to a desert island. Choose between your favourite novel, one of your books, or a novel you’ve yet to read.
Well you said I could take one book so I’m going to be very crafty and take the biggest notebook I could find – which of course comes with one of those multi-leaded pencils in the binding. Actually that sounds wonderful… an Island, a notebook and unlimited thinking time. When do I leave?

Thanks Rebecca. Some great answers there.

Rebecca’s first novel for older children, ‘New Beginnings,’ was published by Grimoire Books in January 2012. When Dreams Come True is officially launching on 28th May 2012.

Catch up with her on facebook, twitter and goodreads


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me here today, Chris and for that lovely quote at the top which has made me blush!

  2. Great to see such a hard-working writer and editor having success. Congrats to Rebecca :)

  3. Great questions and great answers! I love the view from your writing spot.

    1. Thanks, DJ. I've tried writing in our study but in there I face a wall and it just doesn't work for me!