Emmie and I met over ten years ago when I worked with a program called Young Adult Volunteers. During orientation at beautiful Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Emmie and I had several interesting conversations. Years later, she is a wife and mother and now is the author of her debut novel, The Broken & Beautiful Life of Camry Hughes.
How did you decide to become an author?
I wrote my first story when I was seven or eight; a few years later, I re-wrote all the lyrics of Christmas songs and put together a show for my father for his Christmas present. There’s always been storytelling in me, and I’ve always enjoyed creating characters. When I attended university, I got a scholarship for acting. I was good at it. But I took classes in directing and screenwriting and fell in love, so I decided to switch from acting to those other mediums. Screenwriting was amazing, and I loved it. In 2018 I learned of something called “NaNoWriMo” – National Novel Writing Month. You were one of the few people who said you were doing it too! I’d never done it before and it was a challenge – write 50k NEW words of a novel in the 30 days of November. While I was no stranger to writing prose for fun, I’d never done anything with writing prose meant to be professional; more than just something for me. So I decided to try it. What if I could do it? I did – I wrote the first 56k words of a book that November – finished it at 126k by the end of April in 2019. I fell in love with the process. Writing a novel was a totally new experience for me, and people have told me that my writing reminds them of watching a film – which I guess may be a remnant of my start in screenwriting. But I was hooked on writing – I loved it. It felt like I’d finally found what I was meant to do. And now there’s no looking back.
How does your background help with your writing?
Ha! I guess I kind of answered this question above, but it’s true. When I write, it’s very visual – but I’m also not very descriptive. In my debut novel, there’s only 2 details mentioned about how the protagonist looks. She’s curvy, and she has brown hair. The rest is … kind of up for grabs. And that’s less some intentional ploy to give reader autonomy and more just a by-product of my writing style. I prefer to write in first-person/present-tense. I like FPPT because it feels alive! It’s someone’s life, unfolding before you. But in that type of storytelling, the character doesn’t focus on themselves so much as the world around them. I know when I’m getting ready for work in the morning, I don’t think, “My tawny colored hair sits just above my shoulders, pulling green flecks from my hazel eyes.” I think, “Sheesh. My hair looks like shit today,” or whatever. My stories focus on the way people move and feel. How impactful is it to be able to read the way a person is in their space? That’s what we see in real life, and it’s what I write in my stories. The motion and emotion of a scene are both important to me, less so than the ‘look’ of something.
Can you tell us more about why you wrote your latest book?
This might sound super snobbish, but I don’t mean it to be. I love ‘love stories’ but I’d never read a romance novel. Ever. And that’s my own fault for being so narrow minded. I had conjured the worst stereotypes and placed them in my head about what I thought a romance novel was. Mostly, I thought they were just stories where the only thing that mattered for people was the romance – like, they had no other parts of their lives. I know now that a) that’s not true, and b) even stories like that can be worth reading. It’s less about me judging other people for what they read and enjoy. Now I just love that they’re reading! I’ve grown a lot as a person in the past few years and a big part of that is being more open about what I like and what I’m passionate about – even if other people scoff at it. So like, who cares how narrow the scope of a romance novel is? If someone likes it, and if someone enjoys writing it, great!
I’ve gone a little off track, but I think it was good for me to say that anyway. The point of it is this: when I sat down to write this book, I thought – I want to write a wonderful, honest love story. I want to write about two people who fall in love – but doing that in the middle of life being complicated the way it often is. And so I sat down to write this book. I had no idea what I was doing, in terms of the industry standards for romance. I had nothing to go off of, other than what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to write this story. And I’m so, so glad I did. Now, I like to read a lot more women’s fiction and romance than I ever had. It’s far more fun than I realized, and it can be deeper than I had imagined. But I went in blind, with no outside influence, and this book shows a sort of raw approach to love and how hard it can be at times.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep going. And I mean that literally. It’s so easy to keep looking back and thinking, “Oh, that scene I did last night – it should be THIS way instead.” There’s so much to writing that depends on just MOVING FORWARD. Keep writing. Keep moving forward in the story. Don’t go back and edit. Finish the first draft. When I write, things change. I am a pantster and I just create as I go and the book I’m writing write now had a character with dementia, then parkinson’s, then MS, and now it’s a series of strokes. Things change. Just make notes in the margins and keep going. I even have made dead parents into family friends into alive parents, but I don’t go back and edit – I just tag it and keep moving. “Bob is now her dad!” I can always go back and rewrite it later, but if I keep returning to the beginning, there will always be things I can fuss over, and the story won’t get written.
What are some upcoming publishing projects you are working on?
The book I’m writing at the moment has a working title of “The Scoop” but I can already tell you that will change. In my last book I wrote about a woman who was a general nobody but had a decent steady job, and she was thrust into a big position with little time to prepare. In this book, my main character (MC) is the big boss – the CEO of a major company with a lot of clout. She’s in charge and it’s been fun exploring a woman who is always searching for something new and the next challenge. She runs a media empire, and it’s been a few years so she’s yearning for something new. That thirst might benefit her in the long run, or it might be her downfall. But it’s a fun story to write, especially with the man she meets along the way who keeps her on her toes. Maybe what she’s looking for isn’t quite what she thought.
Anything else you’d like to share about your books?
I don’t know that it’s something I’d like to share, but maybe more something that I have found interesting. I can’t say for sure whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but a lot of people have liked the books that don’t often read love stories. I’ve gotten amazing reviews on my character depth and development, and in my storytelling ability. I’ve had people say that my sex scenes were impressive – they’re all consensual, they’re all practicing safety, and that the actions of characters in those scenes said as much about the characters as any other scene does. I really liked that. I wanted to make everything in the book intentional – and I wanted to create a world that was a lot like the one I live in. There’s a gay couple, a character with prosthetics, a single parent, an adoptive family, and uplifting friendships. I wrote about candlelit dinners and awkward encounters, dreams you have to work for and challenges that are sometimes crippling. Life is so complex, so nuanced, and I tried to touch on that. Falling in love can be a beautiful thing, but it can certainly be messy as well.