Last Saturday (27th February) award-winning novelist Emma Healey visited UEA to give an interview. I’ll embarrassingly admit that this was the first time I’d ever heard of Emma Healey – I think I’ve been living in a box in all honesty – but she was remarkable.
She said so many things that I just totally connected with. The interviewer began by asking where her passion for books came from. Her answer was as mine would be: she had no idea, all she knew was that she’d wanted to write and create books as long as she could remember. The interviewer then asked her about her writing journey, which inspired me to consider my own (see my post here). Emma discussed her education, saying she’d hated A-levels and gotten a job – she worked in a book shop and then an art gallery – before applying to University to study a book binding course (this is where the ‘creating’ books part comes in). After finishing this course and deciding not only that there were very few opportunities for jobs in book binding but also that she wasn’t very good at it (and frequently got things stuck in her hair), she decided to apply for the prestigious MA in Creative Writing at UEA (this is where the ‘writing’ books part comes in). Upon completing the MA she was introduced to a number of different literary agents, and this is how she found her agent for Elizabeth is Missing, her debut novel.
During the hectic business of finding out what she wanted to do with her life, Emma Healey never gave up writing, and this is probably what I admire most about her. Even juggling other jobs, she always made time to write, to hone her skill and improve. It might have taken her the best part of three years but she eventually formed a manuscript she was happy with.
For me, this interview was eye-opening. Obviously it increases sales; it’s a publicity stunt, (now I want to go and buy Elizabeth is Missing and see what all the fuss is about) but it was also part of a career day at UEA. Emma Healey’s achievement makes me feel that getting published is no longer a pipe dream. She makes getting published seem like an achievable feat. She has inspired me to continue writing and one day send my finished manuscript to a literary agent. Of course, many have this dream and not all of us end up being a Sunday Times bestselling novelist, but we can always hope.
It’s pretty rare I get to listen to/meet/get a book signed by an author, but I would definitely recommend it if you get the opportunity. Even if you’re not familiar with the text they’re discussing, hearing their passion for it, or their passion for the written word in general, is wonderful. It’s also fascinating hearing about the writing process if you’re a writer yourself.
Emma Healey was so genuine and down to earth – maybe the fame hasn’t had a chance to go to her head yet, but I doubt it ever will. She is a young girl, just like me, who had a dream, just like me, to write a novel, just like me. When she was a little she stapled bits of paper together to make ‘books’, and I’m pretty sure I was doing similar things writing about ponies on my typewriter (a gift from the grandparents) and stapling them together. Sometimes authors seem to be a million miles away from reality, famous names in print of the front of famous books, but they’re not, they’re people like you and me, and this interview reminded me of that. Emma Healey studied at the same University as I do, and was quite frankly the sweetest, funniest girl with so many of the same interests as me she could have been my best friend, but last week she sat in front of me a bestselling author. What an achievement! Maybe I could be her one day, just maybe.
That’s all from me. I’m going to go and buy this book now. Ciao –