Clare Mackintosh, number one bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You
Jane Corry, Sunday Times bestselling author of My Husband’s Wife
Cassie had it all – the fairytale wedding, the stunning home, the perfect husband. But when she arrives on the intensive care ward at St Catherine’s hospital in a coma, it soon becomes clear that she has a secret; a secret that changes everything.
Alice, the chief nurse on the ward begins to feel a connection with Cassie and can’t help but wonder if things are not quite as they seem.
Frank, another patient, can hear and see everything around him but cannot communicate. He understands that Cassie’s life is in danger and only he holds the truth, which no one can know and he cannot tell . . .
I am delighted to have Emily Elgar on LoveBooksReadBooks for a Q&A session talking about writing, her debut novel If You Knew Her and offers a great piece of advice to writers who are just starting out.
Emily thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for providing a copy of If You Knew Her to give away to one lucky reader. (Folks details of the giveaway will appear on LoveBooksReadBooks tomorrow).
1. If You Knew Her is your debut novel what gave you the idea and how did you develop the storyline?
I listened to a radio ethics programme about a woman who was in a coma and (spoiler alert!) it came to light she was pregnant which hugely affected not only her care, but the way in which the people caring for her responded to her. It was hugely emotional and such a challenging discussion – I thought it would make an interesting premise for a novel. I then started thinking about other patients on the ward and – having always loved ‘fly on the wall’ type characters found Frank came fairly organically from there.
2. Do you write every day and is there a particular structure to your days when writing?
I wrote the first draft for If You Knew Her in a bit of a frenzy as I was still working full time. I used to get up at 4am and write until 8am when I had to go work. It was intense and I don’t think I was much fun to be around!
Now things are much calmer – I like to get into my shared studio space at 8am and will write until lunch. If I have the energy for more writing post lunch I’ll get on with it, if not, I’ll do research and other admin. I have adopted a mantra from a friend which is ‘manage your energy and not your time’ – it helps remind me that some days I can write 2,000 words without breaking a sweat and on other days it’s like blood from a stone which is when I need to step away from whatever I’m working on and go for a long walk!
3. Are you writing at the moment? Can you say what it is?
I’m just in the final editing stages for my second novel ‘Grace is Gone’ which I’m delighted to say will be published in January 2019!
4. Can you tell us anything about it?
Like my debut, Grace is Gone is again a fictionalised account of something that really happened. I’m afraid I’m completely useless at talking about work in progress – I get myself into knots as I find it quite impossible to not give the plot away. But rest assured, it’s another suspense book and I’ve been told has some more great characters.
5. I read that you attended the Faber Academy course for the enjoyment of writing rather than with the intent of becoming an author. So has writing always been a part of your life? How did you feel when your manuscript was accepted?
Writing had always been my dream but it always felt completely crazy – too otherworldly. When my granddad died he left me enough money to apply for the Faber Academy. I wanted to have something in my life that wasn’t work or home related – was something just for me. When my wonderful agent said she wanted to represent me I felt like I was walking on air for weeks! Then when a few months later Little, Brown made an offer to publish the book I think I lost gravity completely. It’s such a surreal process. But then of course, the hard editorial work started (mine lasted for many months) which was incredibly tough but also wonderful – knowing with the help of expert eyes – my book was going to be the best it could be.
6. What advice would you give to some one who is just starting out and feels they have a story not only worth telling but worth being heard?
Just write it! Don’t think about anyone else reading it – friends, agents, publishers, readers – just write what you enjoy. Give yourself COMPLETE permission to go for it and whatever you do – don’t read it back until you finish! Editing is a completely different craft to writing and trying to do the two simultaneously is – in my experience – never going to end well.
If You Knew Her is published in the UK by Little Brown /Sphere
If You Knew Her is/will be available in the following countries:
Harper Collins (US)
Mlada Fronta (Czechoslovakia)
I’m an 80’s child and grew up mostly in the West Country, but I’ve had spells in New York, London, and Southern Africa. I now live in East Sussex with my husband and our cat, A-Dog.
I started taking writing seriously when I was accepted onto the Faber Academy six month novel writing course in 2012. At the time, I was a support worker for male, female and transgender sex workers in London. I took the course because I love writing, not because I was necessarily seeking a change in career. It felt too audacious to transform myself into a novelist! After some knocks, I wrote – in a frenzy at 4am one morning – what is now the preface to If You Knew Her. From the off, it felt different to everything I’d written before. The words galloped out of me.
I met my agent, the brilliant Nelle Andrew, soon after the course finished. Nelle sent an early draft of If You Knew Her to publishers and in October 2014 I signed a contract with the fantastic Lucy Malagoni at Little, Brown.
What followed was an intense, but enjoyable, two years of completely reworking the book. The result is If You Knew Her. I really hope you enjoy it.
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