The Worried Writer Ep#55: Emily Royal ‘Keep At It!’
I have a great interview for you today with a dear friend of mine, historical romance author Emily Royal. Emily has written several novels and is impressively prolific, but 2019 is her first year as a published author. She has gone from submission hell to having several books out in one year, so there is lots to dig into, and I’m sure you will enjoy her story.
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I have also been sorting through all of the notes I took at the publishing conference in Edinburgh. One of the many things it’s made me think about is my branding as an author. I have been trying to work out what my ‘promise to the reader is’ as although my books tend to have a wee bit of magic in them, they do span different genres such as supernatural thriller, women’s fiction historical, and urban fantasy.
There was a brilliant session from Derek Murphy (CreativeIndie) and he spoke about the importance of working out how you want your readers to feel when think of you/your books, and how that is linked (or should be linked!) to the way you present yourself (your branding)
As I mentioned last month, one of the most important things I got from the Edinburgh conference was a mindset shift. It could perhaps more properly be described as a mindset confirmation. Doing this author thing is a wee bit odd, and stepping outside the traditional route and running it as a business is another step away from the usual… Much as I love it, I hadn’t realised how and uncertain I still felt.
Physically being in the same space with hundreds of talented, successful, businesslike authors and small publishers, was transformational. It confirmed that I’m not alone in doing this (or delusional!). It was amazing to hear from people who are extremely successful, who I would like to emulate, but it also helped me to recognise the success that I have enjoyed and the things that I have achieved. Since I’m pretty rubbish at doing that, it was really helpful!
Another great tip I got from the conference was a reminder on the importance of working out your core ‘why’ for writing. People spoke unselfconsciously about their ambition for their writing and publishing, about financial and other goals, and about their core values and reasons for writing. It was another reminder that I’m on track for my core goals, and confirmed that my heart and head are in alignment.
It also reaffirmed my commitment to being a hybrid author, with some projects done through my own publishing company and some with other publishers.
I know that many of you are aiming for the traditional route, and may prefer not to deal with the business side at all, and that’s completely fine. For me, though, it’s an exciting and creative part of being an author, and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity and control.
If you have any questions about writing, process, procrastination or the business side of things such as marketing or publishing options, email me, leave a comment on this post, or find me on Twitter.
I give a shout out to some lovely folk on Twitter, including humorous suspense author Bill Cokas. I throughly enjoyed his interview on Paul Teague’s podcast, Self Publishing Journeys. I’ve recommended Paul’s podcast before (especially if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of running an author business), and this interview with Bill was great.
Also, long-time supporter of the show, Clare Sager, has started a podcast called Confessions of a First Time Author.
IN THE INTERVIEW
I’m still trialling the full transcript of the interviews (see below). I want to make the podcast more accessible for those who prefer (or need) to read, rather than listen. I would love to hear what you think! Do you like the full transcript or do you miss the ‘selected highlights’ of the old format?
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Sarah [00:00:09] Emily Royal writes historical romance in both the medieval and Regency periods. Her debut novel The Sins of the sire came out in March this year and was swiftly followed by Henry’s Bride, Book One in the London Libertines series. Now, full disclosure, Emily is a close friend of mine. and I am thrilled that she is finally being rewarded for all her hard work and tenacity. Welcome to the show. Emily and thank you so much for joining us.
Emily [00:00:40] Oh hello Sarah. It’s so good to be here at last. After so many years of rejections and rejections and rejections it’s great to be here and I’ve been a bit of a fan girl of your show for ages, so it’s lovely to be on the other side of the microphone.
Sarah [00:00:55] We got here! I’m so glad, too. Before we get into your twisty path to publication which I’m very excited about, I was hoping that you could just kick things off by telling us all a wee bit about the London Libertines series, because I believe Book 2 is actually going to be out quite soon.
Emily [00:01:18] Yeah. Book 2 should be out in a couple of weeks time. Just doing final tinkering on the format. So yeah the London Libertines series, I suppose you could describe it as Jane Austen with sex and dark stuff. There is a set of romances which currently is set in the Regency period but I suspect as the years progress it will move into Victorian. Set mainly in London but also in the country and country states and everything. And the heroes are unashamedly alpha males, so you could say it’s a bit bodice-rippy. But the heroines are all misfits in one way. So the heroine in the first book she’s quite plain, she’s awkward, she’s gawky, she’s intelligent and she speaks her mind, and she’s a bit of a social outcast. In the book that’s coming out in a couple of weeks time, Hawthorne’s Wife, the heroine is a complete outcast who’s afflicted by a childhood trauma and lots of horrible things happen to her and she has to overcome it. And actually in the third book the heroine is recovering from a mental breakdown. So it’s actually quite dark stuff. It’s interesting to put it in a regency setting, so it’s not your typical frothy sparkling romance with glittering gowns, it tackles some quite horrific issues sometimes.
Sarah [00:02:42] Excellent. And as I mentioned in the intro, we’re pals, so I do already know your path to publication story, having lived it alongside you a tiny wee bit, but it’s so inspiring. Especially since your debut year is such a busy one. Would you mind talking us through your path to publication?
Emily [00:03:12] Yeah. So how long have you got? I’ve been tinkering with writing for a couple of years. If we go back to kind of 2013, 2014, which is, yeah, five-six years ago, I’ve been writing for a couple of years and I think I ended up having three books that were really really rough and overly long. I remember telling you ‘I’ve written a book, Sarah, and it’s a hundred and eighty thousand words long’ and you kind of burst out laughing and said ‘yeah, you’re going to need to cut it down’.
So I had these books and I stumbled across the website for the Romantic Novelists Association, and on their website they talked about this new writing thing which they have. Where there’s a limited set of unpublished authors who can join the association so they get all the benefits of the magazine and access to seminars and conferences etc.. But with that comes a full critique of a novel. And I thought, yeah yeah I’m gonna have some of that. It’s massively oversubscribed so the slots are like T in the park tickets they get oversubscribed within about two minutes of the beginning of the year beginning. So it was March 2014 so I already missed the boat, but 2015, I stayed up at 2 minutes past midnight on the 1st of January and got in. And I got this critique in June of that year and it was really really positive and it was quite scary because that was the first time anyone had ever read anything I’d written because I just had you under the bed and didn’t even show it to my husband and kids, I was terrified of it. But it was really positive, so I though ‘brilliant brilliant’ and I started submitting to agents. And I got agent interest in September of that year which, for me, those three months submitting and getting rejections was just forever, but actually looking back I think that was pretty quick.
I got signed at the end of the year and I thought ‘Oh this is it. This is it. I’ve made it, I’m going to get a three book deal, I’m gonna get books in Waterstones.’ And now I look back and think you naive little fool! I just knew nothing about the publishing industry. So fast forward three years, nothing happens. I went through two books with my agent. I had periods of submissions to publishers, waiting to hear, lots of rejections, lots of radio silence. I can remember being stressed waiting for emails back from my agent and publishers, and every time my phone pinged it was like ‘yes, yes, check it!’ and it was an email from the Carphone Warehouse with an offer for a new phone and I just turned into a complete obsessive with this thing and it just stressed me out so much. And then I got to the end of it, and the second book failed to get a deal. So this was at the end of 2018, beginning of 2019, so a long time, and my agent and I decided to part company. So yeah, that was long and tortuous.
But during that, what I did was I just carried on writing more books. And what I did was the first book that my agent couldn’t get a deal for, I started submitting that to smaller publishers, and I finally managed to get a contract for that. That took about six months, and that book’s actually not out yet. But I got a deal for that middle of 2018. And then the second contract I got actually came out as a result of a Twitter pitch, which was a book that my agent looked at it and just went ‘No I’m not touching that, that’s way too dark, way too violent’. And that was that the Sins of the Sire. And I chucked it up as a Twitter pitch, May 2018, just really to see whether I could write a half decent tweet, whether I could do an elevator pitch. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but I got a ‘like’ from an editor at a publisher called Tirgearr which is based in Ireland and I’d heard good things about them, they’ve got quite nice covers and some of my friends published with them. I sent in the book and I gave full disclosure, I said ‘look, this book is way too violent and I’m sure it breaches all of your guidelines, but just out of courtesy here it is’. So I was quite blunt about it. Didn’t think anything of it. And I heard back from them a few weeks later and I didn’t even open the email because I just thought it was gonna be a rejection. And about two to three hours after I got the email, I came back into my hotel bedroom because I was actually away with work, had a couple of beers, thought ‘let’s see why they’ve rejected me’ and this email actually says we’re actually quite interested, what else are you writing? And they offered me a contract, which was a bit of a shock!
[00:08:03] And then the third contract was absolute lightning fast. It was just after I’d parted company with my agent beginning of 2019. My agent was based in the States and I wanted to have closure on publishers in the States, but there was one more publisher I was really interested in because they had great authors on their list who are topping some of the some of the charts, authors who I admire, who I fangirl over, so I thought I would kick myself if I didn’t at least chuck it at them and see what they thought. So I chucked it at them and then two days later I got an e-mail saying can we talk? I got back home that night and she phoned me up and then three or four days after they offered me a three book deal!
[00:08:44] So actually that one took a week to get a three book deal on that book and yet everything else has been years and years and years. Sorry, that was a long ramble!
Sarah [00:08:53] Not at all, thank you for sharing that. It’s an absolute head spinner how much things have changed and turned around for you. And there was that long torturous waiting period while you were agented, and I know so many folk listening will be able to empathise with that hugely. That glacial pace of traditional publishing and how it can go like that… Slow, slow, slow, wait, wait, wait and then fast! It is so normal, unfortunately. The rejection and the submission process and getting an agent doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, but when we’re going through it we feel as if we’re failing or that it is a bad sign. So I’m so grateful for you being willing share it, because I think it’s really helpful for other people who are either going through it or looking to start submitting or whatever. So, in terms of speed, you went from effectively nothing, to, I believe several out this year?
Emily [00:10:28] Yes. So this year, I’m probably gonna have five books out, which is completely insane. It’s like I was sat with my engine idling for three years, getting really stressed, and then wallop I’m up to 100 in half a second. I still haven’t quite recovered from it.
[00:10:50] And there were so many lows during those three years. I can remember just being absolutely gutted and heartbroken with some of the rejections and the close ones were the worst. I mean, I had one where a publisher from a pretty half decent imprint was showing lots and lots of interest in my book. It was the first book that my agent tried to submit and actually then my agent really came into her own. She was really interactive and there was loads of communication and they were talking about careers, and three book deals, other projects, where is my career going, blah blah blah… And she was like ‘No, no, this is really positive’ and then it fell at the last hurdle. The editor really wanted it, but they just said no it’s the wrong timing, we’re not we’re not taking it. And that went from being just on the brink of this massive high, and I just plummeted off a cliff. I look back and say what was the worst day of my life. It probably wasn’t, it sounds quite melodramatic, but that was a low. And then for this to happen, particularly with the DragonBlade contract, as I kind of blinked and it happened. It was like, you look away and that’s when the unicorn just trots in front of you…
[00:12:07] Yeah it’s insane. It’s not this process of, it takes you six months to get an agent and it takes you a year to get a contract and a year to get another contract. It’s not a straight line, it’s up and down and all over the place it’s backwards and forwards and, yeah, it’s completely mental this industry.
Sarah [00:12:24] Having just been through that, is there anything that you wish that you could go back and tell yourself or what advice would you want somebody listening to hear if they are going through the same submission hell?
Emily [00:12:39] Actually the advice that you gave me, Sarah, was along the lines of just keep at it, you’re getting closer. And the only way to make sure it never happens is to give up… Just carry on, just chalk it up to experience and write another book, the market goes up and the market goes down, tastes change, it’s all a matter of timing, just keep at it and you will get there. And I remember looking at you thinking ‘Yeah well it’s all right for you because you’re on the other end of it’ but it is true. Just keep at it. Be true to yourself sounds like a cliché but just carry on writing what you love.
[00:13:19] The only way to get a deal is to just keep it keep writing books. You’re not going to build a career on one book. So even if you get a deal you’re going to have to write another book at some point, so you might as well crack on with it while things are out on submission. So long as you’re getting decent feedback so that you can see where the issues are, but you can see what’s good about it, what needs to be done, then you’re always going to be learning and you’re always going to be getting that bit closer.
Sarah [00:13:47] I think that’s excellent advice, and I do think your advice to keep on writing – if you can – while you’re going through the submission hell is really a super-good tip.
Emily [00:13:59] I think the reason, or the main reason I got the DragonBlade contract is because when we were chatting she did say well we would like to have books in series and relatively rapid release, and because I’d been writing and writing and writing during this desert period, I already had three books which were drafted, and I think that was one of the things that swung the deal. So, yeah, keep at it.
Sarah [00:14:24] If it’s okay with you I’d like to go back to the beginning a wee bit and ask that very common question, did you always want to write?
Emily [00:14:32] Yeah I did. I never really liked English at school, so I didn’t like English language. I didn’t like having to read a book that you never would have read in the first place and having to analyse the characters. So I was never really good at that, but I was a hopeless romantic at heart and I always loved little romantic stories and occasionally we would do creative writing in English and I’d do little medieval romances with little drawings of girls in pretty dresses and everything. I’ve obviously got a lot darker since then… But I do remember saying to an adult when I was about 10/15 years old saying I’d love to be a writer and I’ve got some ideas for romantic stories’ and they just turned around and said to me ‘Oh yeah I’ve got a friend and she’s actually good and she’s not never got published so you got no chance don’t do it.’.
[00:15:17] [Laughter] The look of horror on your face! Slight digression. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TV show Lost, when they crash on this kind of weird magical bizarre island? And there’s a character in there who is my favourite character called John Locke, and he’s a bit of a misfit in society. He’s disabled, he’s kind of the typical mark for con men, so he’s not valued in society but actually in the island he really comes into his own. All throughout his life in the real world people say to him you can’t do this you can’t do that. And he stands up and says ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do’. And actually that really struck me when this adult said to me you got no chance. I thought don’t tell me what I can’t do.
[00:16:07] But that kind of festered and lay dormant in my mind until thirty odd years later. So I always wanted to do it. Actually that’s one thing I think that drove me forward during this kind of three years of horror of submissions, I though someone told me I can’t do this, I’m gonna prove them wrong! So it’s almost like a 40 year grudge that drove me through it.
[00:16:31] I have always wanted to be a writer. But then when kind of adult life and you think the responsible thing to do is to get a job that pays a regular salary. I did that and actually I love my job. I love my maths and everything that I do, but this thing lay dormant and it’s kind of the creative side I think which is my release from all the mathematical stuff I do during the day. So yeah.
Sarah [00:16:54] And I was going to ask what led you to choosing a historical romance and whether it is easy to pick a genre. But you’ve just said that your very early stories were quite romantic. Was it very simple to choose that genre?
Emily [00:17:07] It was yeah I had what I read when I was beginning to write the romance stuff I was reading a lot of crime not quite dark crime stuff. And there always seems to be this stigma with romance. If people ask me what genre I write and I say romance, you sometimes see their eye twitches a little bit as if to say ‘Oh well that’s kind of rubbish, cookie-cutter type stuff’. And they don’t realise that romance is a fantastic genre and it’s everywhere, it’s all about emotions and everything. So, I think I kind of held back a little bit earlier on, just because I thought people don’t value romance, but actually people do. There’s just a little bit of snobbery associated with it. But it was really easy to do romance and the historical romance, just the whole thing about knights in shining armour although now my knights are always a little bit tarnished.
[00:17:59] Yeah it was easy and it was it was natural. I am by no means a historian, so it’s not like I do hours and hours of research, but I do enough so I’ve give a flavour of the period. It’s authentic in terms of the period, and the flavour and the ambience.
Sarah [00:18:26] So people can really get into the story and not be thrown out of it – enough detail to anchor them in the story.
Emily [00:18:34] Yeah. You don’t want a Regency heroine picking up her mobile phone.
Sarah [00:18:40] [Laughs] Not unless it’s a time travel one.
Emily [00:18:41] Wibbly wobbly timey-wimey time travel stuff.
Sarah [00:18:47] We’ve mentioned the fact that you have a really crazy year of publishing. I know I’ve said this to you personally many a time that you are having quite the introduction to being a published author. But it’s also true that you’ve always been incredibly productive in terms of your writing. And I admire it and I really want to learn from you. So while I’ve got you on the show I’d love to hear more about your writing process. So things like you know do you write every day and keep business hours Monday to Friday. What’s your routine?
Emily [00:19:28] I have to fit it around the day job which pays the bills. When I am actually drafting I do try to get myself in the zone, as it were, and I do try and be disciplined to write something every day. So if I’m in the throes of a draft and it’s all plotted out, it’s all good to go, I will aim for about two thousand words a day. Often I don’t reach that I then say to myself if I can make a thousand, which if I’m really concentrated I can probably churn out in about an hour of real concentrated writing. And if I’m really at full pelt, I can do five thousand a day but that’s normally if it’s a day off or if it’s a weekend. But I do try and make sure I’ve just put something in everyday, so at least every day I’ve moved forward even if it’s only by a little amount. I always feel that I might lose my touch if I don’t write, so I force myself to write a bit every day.
[00:20:27] In terms of how I do it. I plot like mad to the point of obsessive compulsive disorder. I have to have it all plotted out. And then I will blitz it through from start to finish. So in terms of plotting, I see it like a painting. I’ll kind of start fleshing out the story with big blocks of colour, with the themes and the character profiles, just to get some ideas. And then I’ll start fleshing out some of the detail by, say if I’ve got fight scene in Chapter 22, I might talk about who’s fighting who, what weapons they’ve got, whether there are any other characters witnessing the fight getting involved, what they say, ideas for dialogue. Eventually, once I’ve done that, I’ll have a whole mass of bullet points which just cover the scenes. Probably about 10 or 20 bullet points describing each scene. I’ll then colour code it, I mean I’m so obsessive, I will colour code it red for the heroine’s point of view, blue for heroes point of view, green for anybody else. Just to check whether the switches are happening at the right time, so that you haven’t got twelve chapters in one point of view in two lines in another. And that normally ends up being about 20 pages of A4. Then I lay it all out in front of me. Then I’ll do my character profiles with little spider maps. So the heroine on one side, hero on the other, with lines interconnecting all the other characters in between them. Once I’ve got that it’s good to go. And then I basically sit down and blitz through the first draft and just hide under a rock and write and write and write until at the other end a first draft is spat out.
[00:22:09] I love things like the National Novel Writing Month that happens in November where you aim to write fifty thousand words in a month. Because that’s like one thousand six hundred and sixty six words a day, which is quite doable if you sit down for an hour a cup of coffee. So I tend to use that as my month for really focused drafting a book. It works really well for me because I just I love plotting but I know there’s some people who just the thought of plotting in advance just freaks them out.
Sarah [00:22:42] But it works for you. Do you have any other tips for writing regularly or for producing lots of books? Do you have any other tips for productivity?
Emily [00:23:10] Things like writer’s block. Some scenes I find really easy to write and others I find really difficult and I’m sure a lot of a lot of people find that. And a lot of people say to me ‘just leave that and go into an easy scene’ but actually I can’t do that. So one of the reasons why I do go from start to finish is I know that if I have got a difficult scene I just have to push through it. It’s like climbing a mountain, you might get a real difficult part and you think well you’ve got to do that halfway up or otherwise you’re never get to the top of the mountain. So I’ll just push through it, even if I think it’s gonna be rubbish, because at least then I will get to the other end.
I overwrite a lot, and I do know that if I’ve got scene which is difficult I’ll overwrite even more, so I just think just chuck words at it and eventually you will end up with something that can be edited down. And I always find, and I’m sure a lot of people find this as well, is that when I’m writing something I think it’s gonna be rubbish, it’s going to rubbish, but I keep saying to myself you think it is but actually when you look back at it with a clear head it’s never going to be as bad as you as you think it is. So I try to switch off the little devil inside me which says ‘you’re rubbish, this sucks, you suck, everything sucks, the world sucks’ and just push through that. And what I was saying before about forgetting submissions and cracking on with the next book, because you’ve almost always got something out on submission, so I try and switch off from that and just plough through the book. Arguing that whatever happens with the book that’s out on submission, I’ve still got to finish this book and I’m writing now so I force myself to do to do that.
[00:24:44] Oh another thing I do that stops, in terms of research and things you might if I’m writing something I’m not sure whether it’s absolutely historically accurate or I feel I need a bit more to make it authentic. I won’t stop and research and look up I will add in square brackets and capitals and ‘check the bit of history/add in a little bit of history here’ and then go back to it later on. That helps to keep the flow going of writing. So if you’re unsure about your facts I will always just stick a little note or comments. I always find that if I get interrupted when I’m writing that really causes problems. I stop and have to get back into it.
[00:25:27] Word races a great. I am I am super, super competitive, so as soon as someone says to me ‘right we’re going do a world race’ and we kind of connect on Facebook or something, think ‘right, I want to get more words out than the next person’. And I set the timer on my iPad and I blitz it for half an hour and that really helps out an awful lot words because then I’m just determined to get the words down and not worry about how perfect they are. And that really helps. Short bursts. If I try and set races for myself, I might think ‘right, I managed a thousand words yesterday, let’s see if I can do fifteen hundred in the same space of time.’ So I compete with myself as well.
Sarah [00:26:12] That’s a good tip. I meant to ask you this before when you were talking about outlining. Have you got any resources or books that you’ve read about outlining and so on that helped you to learn how to do it? Or is it just something that you’ve developed and naturally?
Emily [00:26:31] Yeah it kind of just happens. But in terms of ideas, I carry around a notebook in my handbag. And if I do get an idea and sometimes it might be in the middle of a in the middle of the meeting or in the middle of the office, I’ll pick up my notebook and excuse myself and nip into the loo and just scratch out a few little notes. So if ideas pop in, I make sure I write them down. I dream a lot as well, so I wake up in the morning and write down lots of dreams. Actually loads of the scenes in the book Hawthorne’s Wife, a lot of that came from a dream.
[00:27:16] So yeah, I’m constantly writing out lots and lots of notes of ideas that might be good for novel. I’ll often use ideas from stuff I’ve written in the past, I mean there’s one thing I wrote a kind of young adult thing which is the first thing I ever wrote, which is just awful, it’s never going to see the light of day, but some of the ideas from that I’ve been able to poach for future novels. So I tend to have a whole mass of random ideas and then I’ll start ordering them into plots. But it’s just a system that’s really kind of come naturally, although I am aware of things like you have to have a change of pace. You can’t have it all at a fast pace or slow pace, you need to have ups and downs and dark things and you’ve got to think about obstacles for the characters to overcome, so I’m kind of aware of that in the back of my mind, but I don’t set out to follow any specific structure which is outlined in a book about writing I just kind of get on with it and tinker it and massage it into shape. And I do find critique buddies and another pair of eyes, sympathetic understanding eyes, is good as well. Because if all my critique buddies come back and say ‘look that really doesn’t work, please change it’ then I will change it.
Sarah [00:28:26] Oh that’s fantastic advice. And you handwrite your outlines and you type your drafts. Is that correct?
Emily [00:28:35] The notes are all handwritten. When I actually start plotting things out with the bullet points, I will then type that so I can cut and paste scenes.
Sarah [00:28:58] Excellent. Now as you said earlier, you’ve really had quite a launch into being a published author – so many deals and so many deadlines! How are you feeling having finally achieved this dream? How is the difference between writing for fun and for external publishing deadlines?
Emily [00:29:18] Yeah. When I got the publishing contract that’s when reality struck. Before I got published, it was like ‘oh that’s the dream, isn’t it wonderful isn’t it happy and like I’d have unicorns and rainbows stars flying out of my ears when it happens’. But then when it happened, I actually felt quite low two days afterwards because it was like ‘okay this is no longer a dream’. I’ve actually got to got to stand up and do something and step up to it and treat it as a business and take a professional approach to it, as opposed to an airy fairy this is my dream. That actually was a bit of a shock.
[00:29:50] In terms of marketing, that just seems to be some form of dark art which hopefully I will learn when I enter the non-Muggle world later on. But, yeah, writing to deadlines I’ve never actually had to draft to a deadline, yet, because I already had these three books done, which was which was quite good. That will be something I’m gonna have to do next year, I suspect, certainly if DragonBlade are interested in more books in the series. So it might be you have to ask me that in a year’s time.
Sarah [00:30:36] How have you found being out there as an author, having your work read widely and that side of things because I found that incredibly terrifying. How have you found it?
Emily [00:30:48] I think having Emily as a pen name, I can detach a little bit from it. So if you do see a bit of a stinky review, even if it gets personal about the author, you think ‘oh they’re talking about somebody else, I’m not her today, I’m me.’ And when I step into Emily’s shoes, hopefully she’ll be able to cope with it. I actually find it more scary having my books read by people I know, because then they look me in the eye. And it’s people who know me and think yeah I can see which aspects of you are in that book. Whereas if it’s a complete stranger, it’s just like a book they’ve liked or not liked. So in that way it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but yeah when you start seeing reviews coming up on Amazon or GoodReads it is a bit of a daunting thought. I think because they’re strangers and we’re all detached and it’s all online, you’re not standing in a group of baying readers who are chucking things like you physically it’s not quite so horrific.
Sarah [00:31:55] And has anything about the experience surprised you – either in a good way or a bad way?
Emily [00:32:04] I think it was a surprise how quickly I came down from the high when I got the deal, because then I did realise that I’ve got to take a professional approach to it. I did burst into tears the other day. I got an email from someone – I just had a really bad review on Amazon – and I got an email from someone that came through from my newsletter. A complete stranger. Just to say lovely things about the book, saying they absolutely love it. They talk about the characters and said I’ve fallen in love with the character and I was like ‘blimey, that’s a complete stranger’ has actually opened up their email and sent me a note to say they love a character which has come out of my head and I didn’t realise what a rush that would give me and what a warm glow inside. So that that actually is amazing when a total stranger gets in touch.
Sarah [00:32:51] Brilliant. I’m just going to spoil your wonderful, positive answer, now, as I do want to ask you whether you ever suffer from creative block. You were saying you’re good at writing down ideas and you’re extremely prolific, but do you either suffer with creative block or self-doubt, or are there any parts of the process that stop you or freak you out?
Emily [00:33:22] Yeah, I’m always terrified that my work is rubbish, terrified that it sucks. Even if someone says something nice, a little voice in my head says to me they’re only saying it just to be nice, just to shut you up, because they don’t want to tell you that it sucks and tell you why. Because it’s less effort to say I like it than it is to say ‘I absolutely hate it and this is why’. So whenever I get an e-mail back from my editor I’m always thinking she’s going to tell me this sucks she’s going gonna say ‘why on earth to be offered you a contract you’ve written a load of absolute rubbish woman’. So I’m constantly feeling like that. I got an email from her about the second book. She got halfway through and actually she stopped with her edits and said I would like you to change a few things. And she was really complimentary, she said ‘your writing is lovely, but there’s just a couple of structural issues, don’t worry it it’s quite common with a new author’. But I interpreted that as ‘this book sucked so much, I got one hundred and sixty pages in and just gave up, what on earth are you doing, let’s check it back at you and hopefully you’ll go away we never have to publish this pile of absolute rubbish’. So that’s the biggest problem I have is a massive lack of self-confidence. I have imposter syndrome. I go into groups where there’s other authors and I think they’re probably looking at me thinking ‘what’s she doing here? She started writing later tonight, she’s only just started, she writes bodice rippers’. So, yeah, massive lack of confidence.
[00:35:00] It’s something I’m always having to struggle with. What I do is occasionally, I kept the initial e-mails that I got from my agent, even though we parted company I’ve still kept her initial email, from editors who’ve come back, the critiques from the New Writers Scheme. I kept those and I read those and say ‘yes, at that point somebody did say that they liked my writing enough to actually come out and tell me and go to the effort to tell me and offer me a contract or representation or something’, so I keep going back to that, and go ‘no, there was a point where people did actually think this was okay so just carry on’. So, yeah, it’s just dealing with that lack of self-confidence is a really difficult thing to do.
[00:35:47] I will often click open a good review and have a look at that, but it’ trying to focus on the good reviews not the bad ones. But even the bad ones I’ve had a really bad review which said this was one of the top five worst books, I absolutely hated it and I was crushed when I read it. And then part of me thought was a pity it wasn’t the top worst book I’d like to know what their worst book was because actually I would probably quite like it!
[00:36:13] But again the fact that it’s brought out such an emotional reaction in someone, that they feel compelled to log into their Amazon account and write about six paragraphs of why they hated it, that actually make me think it’s kind of done what I wanted, because it’s elicited an emotional reaction. And I did say to myself way back when I started I didn’t want to write books that were kinds of middle of the road I know because I like emotion and dark stuff is going to be Marmite, it is going to be love it or hate it. And I would rather have a mixture of five star and one star reviews from people where it’s really pulled out an emotional reaction than a whole mass of three stars of people saying ‘oh, it was all right’.
Sarah [00:36:52] And I remember that!
Emily [00:36:58] [Laughs] I know, when my first ever one star review came through, I said ‘this is what you said you wanted, you wanted ones and fives’.
Sarah [00:37:07] It’s so tough. And, again, thank you so much for sharing, because I do think most of us, if not all of us, feel the same way. So thank you again for sharing that. I think it’s a good strategy, definitely, trying to focus on the positive, on the positive reviews or positive feedback you’ve had. But, as you said it’s really difficult to force ourselves to believe it. Believe the positive. Listeners can’t see, but I was nodding away when you said that because that’s the crux of it, is that it’s very difficult to believe that positive feedback.
Emily [00:37:57] You do think are they just being nice to placate. Actually sometimes I’ll look at some of my favourite books and look at their reviews and think ‘yeah, it obviously wasn’t for them, but actually that’s an amazing book’. It does make me think at least I’m in good company. Yeah. We’re not gonna like the same thing. It’s just hard when you put your heart and soul into something and someone really hates it to the point where they have to tell the world just how much they hate it. It’s always gonna be tough. I’m hoping I will be more immune to it as the years go by.
Sarah [00:38:37] Well I can’t believe it, the time has raced by, so I will just finish up by asking what are you working on at the moment or what’s next for you?
Emily [00:38:48] Right. Well yes, book two in the London Libertines Hawthorne’s Wife should be out beginning of September. Book 3 which is called Roderick’s Widow, I think that’s scheduled to come out in December and that’s with my editor at the moment. I’ve plotted out book four in that series as well and I’ve got some embryonic ideas for books five and six, at least who the characters are going to be and what the main themes are. So I’m hoping to have book four written by the end of the year maybe and full drafts for five and six, and then hopefully I’ll have a chat with my publisher to see if I want to take this on. I’ve got two more medieval romances which I drafted ages ago which I had submitted a couple of times and got good feedback. So I might actually maybe self publish those because that’s something I’d like to branch into. I think once I’ve got just got a bit more experience of being an author, built up a few more newsletter subscribers, and just got a bit more of an idea about what the marketing thing is that I might actually give that a go myself.
Sarah [00:39:55] Fantastic. And where can people find out more about you and your books?
Emily [00:40:00] Oh right. I’ve got a Web site which is www.emroyal.com. I can be found on Twitter @eroyalauthor and on my website there is a link for my newsletter, as well.
Sarah [00:40:19] Fantastic. I’ll put all the links in the show notes but thank you so much for that, it was lovely to speak to you.
Emily [00:40:26] Thank you, Sarah, it has been so wonderful this chat to you.