This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Full of surf, art, music, woodwork, and love of the sea, Emylia Hall’s eagerly-awaited third novel, The Sea Between Us, was released last week and it’s a beauty. We sat down with Emylia to discover what inspires her, how she works and what advice she has for other writers.
The Sea Between Us is set in the far west of Cornwall. It’s a tale of girl meets boy, and a love story in other senses too – familial love, love of pleasure-giving pursuits – surf, art, music, woodwork, and love of the sea. I spent about a month on the Cornish coast while I was writing The Sea Between Us, and truly fell for its charms. I hope you’ll find that passion within the pages of the book.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
So far, I’ve always begun with place. I knew I wanted to set a story in a wild and wonderful part of Cornwall, and an image came to me of two people sitting atop a granite rock, staring out across all that water. I wanted to tell their story.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Since the birth of my son Calvin, I write in the afternoons. My husband and I share the care of him 50/50, so after a morning spent doing toddler things we have a lunchtime ‘handover’, and then I disappear off. I have a hut at the bottom of the garden and I work in there until Calvin’s teatime. Now that my time’s more limited, I find I cherish my writing sessions even more. I’ve turned my hut into a real den – full of books and colour and inspirational bits and pieces. It’s the perfect escape.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes. This, from American author Katherine Anne Porter, is wonderful (and thanks to my one-time Arvon tutor Louise Dean for introducing me to it):
“Now listen carefully; except in emergencies, when you are trying to manufacture a quick trick and make some easy money, you don’t really need a plot….First have faith in your theme, then get so well acquainted with your characters that they live and grow in your imagination exactly as if you saw them in the flesh; and finally tell their story with all the truth and tenderness and severity you are capable of, and if you have any character of your own you will have a style of your own; it grows, as your ideas grow, and as your knowledge of your craft increases. You will discover after a great while that you are probably a writer.”As to people – my husband, the writer Robin Etherington, is an inspiration, and invaluable when it comes to my writing (well, and many other things, but we’re talking about writing here, so…). He’s master of the motivational pep talk, and is also the first person to ever read, and offer thoughts on, anything I write.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
A tough question but … I’m going to say Rebecca. It’s a book that I can disappear into any number of times and it never feels tired. Just thinking about it now gives me a glow – the youth, the hope, the desire, the disappointment, the darkness, the intrigue … I first read it as a teenager and I love it just as ardently now.
What female writer has inspired you?
I adore Susan Fletcher’s writing. Five novels, and each is a true beauty. She writes with a genuine kindness – such a generous sensibility towards people and landscape – reading her books feels good for the soul.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
My favourite novel of last year was probably Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. Sarah Leipciger’s The Mountain Can Wait is also brilliant, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for an event in Bristol recently – she’s great, and as a person so perfectly matches the book she wrote. I’m really looking forward to the release of Jojo Moyes’ After You (me, and the rest of the world!). I want to see how Lou is doing, I want to know what she’s up to – maybe I’m still seeking a kind of closure from the heart-wrenching Me Before You (again, me and the rest of the world!).
I’m part planner, part diver. Which means I probably suss out my run-up, do a few stretches, check my landing spot, then … dive in. So far I’ve always begun with setting – place gets me excited first and foremost – and I make sure I know the heart of my story, the kind of mood I want it to have. As to what actually happens, I like to leave that a little open. That said, I almost always know where the story’s going to end up.
I’m quite meticulous about word-count when writing a first draft, as I like to feel I’m making steady progress – if I look at a timing plan and see that if I chip away consistently I’ll get to a first draft in X number of months it somehow makes the whole endeavour feel more manageable.
At some point in the process I like to take myself off on a solo writing retreat, and I also make sure I spend a good amount of time wherever my novel is set. I’ve done this with all three of my books and have come to realize it’s invaluable, as well as pleasurable. I understand now that I need to fall in love with the book I’m writing in order to feel truly immersed in it – and for me that’s best done by spending some quality, uninterrupted time with an idea, in an uplifting and inspiring place. A romantic getaway with a work-in-progress, if you will!
What was your journey to being a published author?
I wrote my first novel, The Book of Summers, over the course of about three years, and that included a year-long, self-styled sabbatical from my job in a marketing agency in order to finish it. I burnt through my savings, lived on a shoestring budget, but never regretted the decision. I wanted to give it my best shot, and in order to do that I felt like the greatest gift I could give myself was time, focus, and … a grand gesture of commitment, I guess. I felt like it permitted me to be more critical about my writing than I’d dared to be before, and also proved to myself how much I wanted to write, and how hard I was prepared to work at it.
Soon after I finished the first draft (though that ‘first’ draft had already been rewritten many times) I found my brilliant agent, Rowan Lawton. We worked on the book together for another couple of months, and then it was ready to go on submission. Within a week we had a pre-empt from Headline, and I had my first book deal. It was a truly, truly magical moment.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s a completely easy life. That you get to waft about in a land of make-believe, without any of the stresses and strains of other jobs.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Enjoy where you are, right now, because it’s a place of great possibility. You could be about to write the greatest novel the world has ever seen. Or – simply, and absolutely wonderfully – you could be about to write something that will allow you to articulate things you didn’t even know you felt, cheat time and space and place, render memories distinct and indelible, explore new worlds, fulfill your grandest wishes and greatest desires, and gain a greater comprehension of what matters to you. Through writing we can get to know ourselves better, and make sense of our relationship with the world around us. That’s all pretty cool, so … go deep, and enjoy it.
What are you working on at the moment?
My fourth book. It’s set on an Italian island and I’ve just come back from a few days ‘on location’, so I’m trying to do everything I can to keep riding that wave of inspiration. And the thing I said about falling in love with an idea? It happened. Here’s to amore, and all the possibilities that writing a new book holds.