I learnt a few valuable life lessons this weekend. The first is never to say anything bad about someone else in public- they could hear you! I was buying a copy of Emma Donoghue’s new book The Wonder, and I was LUCKILY talking about her kindly and how much I was looking forward to hearing her speak. “I hope you enjoy it” came a voice from behind me. I turned to see the shy smiling face of said Emma Donoghue. Could you imagine if I’d been saying we had trashed one of her books at my book club! (We haven’t). Then social faux pas number two nearly happened when my pal and I then proceeded to follow said Emma Donoghue to the lecture hall where she was speaking, and practically followed her onto the stage before we realised that we should actually be using the audience door.
But the real lessons came from hearing her speak. As a busy mum of three, juggling jobs, it was a real bolster to hear her speak about the pressures of getting the writing done before the kids come out of school. She writes as a novelist, a screenwriter, and a journalist and fitting them all in, on top of family life is a challenge. She confessed that her children provide an inspiration to work hard wherever you are and not get precious about writing in a certain way. I’m the Martini girl of writing – I have trained myself to write any time, any place, anywhere. I’ve had to. But often when you hear of writers sitting at their desk for 9 hours a day, or writing all evening, I feel insecure about the way that my life forces me to write – when I can. So hearing Emma admit to the same was really encouraging.
She talked about finding the nugget of a idea, and researching around it and letting it build until it becomes a full blown story. How dialogue drives her and that she has had to work on plot because she doesn’t find that comes easy to her. Again, encouraging to hear as someone who wrote her first book (still in the back of a drawer somewhere) with lovely writing and real chapters and everything but not a single thread of plot! It was good to hear that writers as good as her can still struggle with some aspects of the work.
She talked about not letting genre or fear of being pigeonholed stop you from writing the way you want to write. That honesty is the best policy and to write what you feel.
But most of all, it was learning what the feeling is you want to inspire in a reader. When Emma read from the first chapter of the book, everyone in the room groaned when she stopped. We wanted more. That’s how a book should make you feel. And when asked what inspired her, she said other writers, and other books. Just like she is inspiring many others.