This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Emma Hannigan started writing for catharsis while she was being treated for cancer. Since then she has had numerous bestselling novels with her latest, The Heart of Winter, out now.
The Heart of Winter is my second Christmassy book and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. As a person who is openly addicted to Christmas, it was a treat to allow my imagination to indulge in the spirit of things way past December 25th! The story follows the Craig family, who readers may have met in Driving Home for Christmas. Although The Heart of Winter is a standalone story, readers of the other book will instantly reconnect with these characters. It’s about a grown-up family coming together to save their childhood home. They are more like the Simpsons than the Brady Bunch, and I sincerely hope you’ll all have a hot drink and lots of chocolate to accompany you while reading it!
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Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I like dealing with emotional issues. So an idea could stem from a story from a newspaper or a documentary or, in the case of The Secrets We Share, by my maternal grandmother’s story.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I write every single day – even Sunday. I think it’s good to keep the mind active and to keep a story going in my head. I have an office near my home. It’s great for focus and knowing that I’m ‘in work’, so therefore I need to knuckle down writing. Having said that, I use my laptop non-stop too. I’m still having cancer treatment (currently for my 10th diagnosis), so I bring my laptop to the hospital too. I love my job though, so it never becomes a chore. I’m lucky I’ve found something I adore.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I’ve used my grandmother’s story loosely and I’ve also written about my own story in Designer Genes, which was my first novel, back in 2009.But aside from that, all my characters are purely from my imagination. I think it would be playing with fire to use ‘real’ people. They mightn’t take too kindly to it!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Gosh, there are so many. I actually enjoy certain styles of writing rather than individual books. I either click with an author’s unique voice or I don’t. I love Jojo Moyes, Marian Keyes, Sinead Moriarty, Adele Parks, Patricia Scanlon, Cathy Kelly… I love reading!
Cathy Kelly. She’s one of my closest friends and such a wonderful support. She encouraged me to write my first novel and pushed me to try and have it published. I’m blessed to have her in my life. I have many author friends who encourage and inspire me each day. I think women are amazing and I always learn from them.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
This Charming Man, Marian Keyes
How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plan first. I do a synopsis of each character from their physical appearance to their job or role in life. Then I figure out where they all cross paths. I usually have an emotional pull such as an illness, divorce or a contentious issue and I build from there.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I began writing from a hospital bed as I was being treated for cancer. I realised that writing was my therapy. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now. It’s cathartic, exciting and never the same. It’s also a constant learning curve. I wrote my first novel for fun, never intending to have it published. I submitted the manuscript and was astonished to receive two offers. I feel so lucky to have great publishers who believe in my work; it’s a joy.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Without doubt, people think it’s purely ‘creative’, that authors only write when they are feeling wildly inspired. For me, that’s total rubbish. Writing is a job, so it needs to be done! Also, people seem to believe all authors have an endless supply of free books – we don’t!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Go for it! Sit down and get started. Be passionate about your characters and believe you can do it. I have no formal writing training – I write from the heart and, so far, it’s working!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on my novel for 2017! My next book, The Perfect Gift, hits shops in spring of 2016 and it’s done and dusted. So I’m coming close to the end of the next one. It’s set in Spain and I’m really enjoying having my head in the sun while the weather is so awful here in Ireland! Ah, the heat of the sun in my imagination is lovely – and I can’t get sunburnt!