Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Emily Barr. Emily is an author of adult and young adult fiction, publishing thrillers such as ‘The Truth and Lies of Ella Black’ and ‘The Perfect Lie.’
About a year ago I read her YA book ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks,’ and since then I’ve read her book ‘The First Wife,‘ which was also fantastic, delivering lots of mystery, intrigue and thrilling action.
So, when Emily agreed to answer some questions for my blog, I was so excited to have this opportunity! I really looked forward to reading her answers 🙂
What first got you interested in writing as a career?
I always wanted to write books, but I also thought of it as an unrealistic career to pursue. It’s not something you can say to a careers advisor at school- they’ll say ‘how about journalism instead?’ So I duly went into journalism, while always wanting to write novels.
My heart was never in it though, and I was always pursuing writing projects on the side until, one magical day, I asked the travel editor of the Guardian (where I was working at the time) whether she would let me travel around the world for a year and write a column for her as I went, and she said yes. This gave me the time to start writing fiction, and visit a lot of inspiring locations.
What is your favourite thing about writing?
The feeling of getting completely immersed in a world and characters that you’ve invented. I love that. When it’s all going well, and you’re just getting the story from your head onto the page, there’s nothing better in the world.
Are there any authors you take inspiration from when writing your own novels?
Lots and lots! I read everything Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters write, for example, as their writing is absolutely joyous. I also find good thrillers very inspiring as they have to be brilliantly planned in order to work, and I love that.
I read all kinds of things- I’m currently reading the original book of ‘The Lady Vanishes’ by Ethel Lina White- and I listen to audiobooks whenever I’m walking anywhere, doing housework, or driving.
Recently, you crossed over into the realm of young adult, with your novel ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks.’ What gave you an interest in writing from the point of view of a young adult?
It was the book, really. The idea for ‘Flora Banks’ came to me and I couldn’t get it out of my head. When I started writing it as an adult book it didn’t quite work, and it was only when I made Flora a little younger, and realised it was YA, that it all fell into place.
What differences have you found when writing adult fiction, and when using a younger protagonist?
I love writing YA! That was my big discovery with ‘Flora Banks.’ I can remember so vividly the feeling of being 17, on the verge of adulthood. I love writing about that time, when you’re independent, but not as experienced in the world as adults. Anything can happen! So I really enjoy writing younger protagonists.
Beyond that I feel that writing is writing and that there isn’t a different formula or anything for different genres of novels. I just write the story.
Do you think you will write more young adult novels in the future?
Definitely! I’m just doing the last edits to my next YA book, ‘The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods,’ which will be published May 2019. I’ve loved writing that one- I don’t think anything I’ve written has gripped me as much as this one has. It’s the story of a 16 year- old girl who has grown up in a tiny community in rural India, that was set up by an international group of backpackers in the nineties. Disaster strikes, and she has to walk out into the modern world, when she’s never even seen electricity before.
‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ has such a unique storyline. How did you come up with the idea for it? Did you have to do much research when writing the novel?
When I started thinking about the novel I had a really clear vision of Flora wandering around in a snowy landscape, under the midnight sun, not knowing why she was there. The novel grew out of that imagining. I’d wanted to write about amnesia for a long time but had shied away from it because it can seem like such a Hollywood cliché, but when I started researching it I got a sense of what amnesia is really like, and how life is for people affected by it, and those around them.
I did a lot of reading and researching because I felt a big responsibility to portray anterograde amnesia as accurately as I could.
You often like to move your characters around the world in your books. Where does your interest in travelling come from?
Partly from the fact that I started writing fiction while travelling, and also because I love going to new places and seeing them through an outsider’s eye. I really enjoy writing the locations for my books: I find it so energising and exciting.
Your characters visit some interesting places, such as Svalbard, Norway. Do you ever visit these exotic destinations yourself?
Always! I don’t think you can write about a place without going there, or if you tried I think it would show. Every time I go to a place for research it surprises me, and I find details I would never have thought of.
However, it’s not all as jet-setting as it sounds: I have three children, and research trips away are meticulously planned and budgeted into a very limited amount of time. But yes, I’d never try to write about a place without visiting it.
I recently read your book ‘The First Wife.’ Would you say that you were inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ when writing this book, as there are several similarities between the two novels?
Good spot! I’m a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier- ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ is my favourite- and I love ‘Rebecca.’ So yes, I was inspired by it – the Cornish setting and the situation have a lot of similarities.
Can we look forward to any new novels in the near future?
Yes – my new YA novel (as above) is out next year, and I’m working on another for the year after that. At some point I’ll write more adult books too!
And finally, what is your favourite summer read?
This summer I’ve really enjoyed ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer, ‘I am I am I am’ by Maggie O’Farrell, and ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne. Books I go back to again and again are ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ by Daphne Du Maurier and ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen. But essentially, if I have a book in my hand, or in my ears, then I’m happy.
Thank you so much to Emily Barr for answering my questions, it’s been such an honour to interview such a well-known and much-loved author. I look forward to reading many more of Emily’s books in the future, and it’s always nice to find a fellow Du Maurier fan!
Have you read any books by Emily Barr? Did you take as much inspiration from her story as a writer as I did? Which authors would you love to interview?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!
Picture credits here