Hello Reading Friends!
It’s always a joy to share an author Heart-to-Heart💗, but today’s is particularly inspiring as Emma Robinson completed her debut novel, The Undercover Mother, as a fortieth birthday challenge. As Emma explains, her first three novels are humorous (and goodness we’ve needed a laugh over the past year!), but now she writes the emotional, female-led, heart-tugging fiction that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love. Her latest release, His First Wife’s Secret, is one of my favourite reads of the year, sensitively exploring grief with both hope and warmth. (Click to read my full review).
So, let’s get started…
Welcome to an author Heart-to-Heart💗, Emma. Please share a little about you and your writing…
Reading is like breathing to me. Growing up, my favourite book was Little Women and I yearned to be Josephine March, sitting in the garret, reading books and eating apples. The one time I did not have a book in my hand was at the dinner table and, allegedly, I would read the labels on the condiments instead.
Getting a book published became a lifelong dream. My first novel about the poignant relationship between a girl and her dog (full colour illustrations by yours truly) was launched to rave reviews by my mum, dad and baby sister. But, in my twenties and thirties, life took over and I rarely wrote more than a short story or a couple of chapters before the interest fizzled.
However, after a lifetime of writing scraps and never finishing anything, I promised myself I would produce an entire novel the year I turned forty. Completing the first draft with a couple of months to spare, I put it away in a drawer for six months and brought it out to edit the following year.
Once I thought it was ready – it wasn’t – I sent the manuscript out to agents and one was kind enough to give me some really good pointers as to how it could be improved. She also directed me to what I now know was a turning point for me: the Self Edit Your Novel online course with Jericho Writers. A year after finishing the course (and doing the hard work on my novel with the new writer’s toolkit it taught me) I sent The Undercover Mother to Bookouture and signed my first deal with them a few weeks later.
What an inspiring journey! We are so glad you set that writing challenge and have completed your dream several times over… But what drew you to write the kind of emotional novels that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love?
My girlfriends are very important to me. I have been extremely fortunate to meet – and keep – a lot of great women in my life. Some of my friends are from school, my twenties, my thirties and some I have met since I turned forty. For that reason, all of my books have strong female friendships at their core.
I also grew up in a house with a lot humour and my parents instilled in me the belief that, if you could laugh at something, it lost its power to hurt you. Perhaps this is why my first three novels were humorous, but also enabled me to process some of the most difficult times in my life. The Undercover Mother, Happily Never After and One Way Ticket to Paris are all stories about mothers and their friendships, but writing them was also a way for me to work through my experiences of the difficulties of new motherhood, of working somewhere that was making me unhappy and of losing my father.
When the time came to discuss a second contract with my publisher, my editor suggested a genre change to emotional fiction because, she said, most of the reviewers of my books had picked on the more serious threads in my books as the part they most connected with. Although I was nervous about tackling these ‘big’ topics, I found that I really enjoyed researching and exploring how the power of family and friendship can carry us through the most challenging circumstances.
Stories about the uplifting power of family and friendship are exactly what’s needed now. Let’s focus on your latest release. What inspired you to write His First Wife’s Secret? And what do readers love about your story?
My last three novels – The Forgotten Wife, My Husband’s Daughter and His First Wife’s Secret – have all been dual narratives. I really enjoy the way that enables us to see the same situation from two different perspectives.
Pre-natal depression is something I have wanted to write about for a long time, because it is an area of mental health that is not often publicised. Using a dual narrative, I could explore how this looked both internally and externally for the character of Emily. As always, though, when I pitched this idea to my editor she said, ‘That’s a great theme. But where is the plot?’ It took me a while to find the character of Caroline and how the tension between a first and second wife could take the narrative through many twists and turns which sometimes took even me by surprise!
Reader reviews have commented on the poignancy of the storyline and how it has affected them emotionally, but they have also found it uplifting and hopeful, which is exactly how I wanted it to come across.
His First Wife’s Secret may be the first novel I’ve read that focuses on pre-natal depression. Interestingly, Frankie Bridge (from pop group The Saturdays) was on breakfast television, only this morning, sharing how hard she found pregnancy and how difficult it is for women to admit to suffering during a time when they are expected to bloom with joy, which shows how important it is that the topic is explored (which your novel does so movingly)… We love your writing, Emma, but which authors do you enjoy?
My degree is in English and European Literature and I teach English A-level, so I do enjoy literary fiction. My favourite classics are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Jane Austen’s Emma. Other, more modern, favourites are Captain Correlli’s Mandolin (Louis de Bernieres), Possession (A S Byatt) and Small Island (Andrea Levy).
Nevertheless, I have a wide taste in fiction – if the characters feel real, the plot keeps me engaged and the writing is good, then I am happy – so I am also a lover of well written commercial fiction. There are several authors whose books I would buy without even reading the blurb. Marian Keyes, Liane Moriarty, Taylor Jenkins Reid and Nick Hornby are the ones who spring to mind, but there are many others.
Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and Small Island are two of my favourite modern classics too.Can you share what’s next?
The next year will be very exciting with my first American paperback hitting US bookshops and My Husband’s Daughter being translated in Europe.
October 2021 will see the release of my eighth book: To Save My Child. The idea for this book actually came on a writing retreat with my wonderfully clever and side-splittingly funny author pals Susie (SE) Lynes, Kim Nash and Sue Watson. We were talking about motherhood and Sue said something about the fact that you would sacrifice anything for your child. If your child needed a kidney and you had to go to the person you hated most in the world to ask them to be a donor, you would do it.
As is often the case, the idea got bounced around in my author brain for several months before I came up with a theme that I wanted to explore (no spoilers!) and Sue’s kidney comment was the perfect starting point. In To Save My Child, Anna’s daughter Libby needs a kidney. Anna is not a match and there is only one person she can turn to: the man who nearly broke her.
To Save My Child sounds exactly the kind of novel Heart-to-Heart💗 readers enjoy, and one I’m off to pre-order! Thanks so much for sharing, Emma and we wish your novels success in both America and Europe, as well as looking forward to reading To Save My Child.
To discover more about Emma and her writing, follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!
To connect with Emma and keep up-to-date with her latest releases, just follow her social media links…
To pre-order To Save My Child, click on the links below…
Amazon: https://bit.ly/3wDZE5k :