I’m really excited tonight because I am having virtual drinks with a fabulous author and all-round lovely lady, who I am lucky enough to have met IRL and who has become a personal friend…Emma Cooper. Her debut novel, The Songs of Us, was published earlier this year.
Welcome to my blog, Emma and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
I’ll start with a pink gin and tonic I think … I’ll move onto red wine in a bit.
Gin and tonic is my tipple of choice so I will join you in that. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I’d take you to the Woodbridge Inn in Coalport, it’s a gorgeous pub on the bank of the River Severn by Ironbridge. You can often find me working there in the day with a pot of coffee and my laptop … plus it serves the best steak sandwich in the whole of Shropshire.
That looks like a fab place to write! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
I love David Bowie’s music; Life on Mars is one of my favourite songs so if I asked him nicely, maybe he would play it for me and then I could quiz him about his early years in show business … I bet he would have some tales to tell!!
I’m going to break the rules here a bit. There are lots of famous women I would love to talk to but, as you have a little bit of magic up your sleeve, I would love to see my teenage friend Eve again. She was beautiful, clever and died far too young: Me, Eve and David Bowie, now that would be a night to remember!
So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I have got a lot going on! I’m just waiting for my first round of structural edits for book number two and I’m just heading towards the halfway mark with book number three. I’m also desperately trying to get my Christmas shopping done; every year I long to become this organised woman who has everything bought and wrapped up by the end of November but always seem to be still rushing out grabbing last minute things and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve!
I’d take it as a good sign that you don’t have time to be that organised! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
There have been some amazing moments in my life since becoming published … I think my Bookseller announcement was one of my proudest moments (https://www.thebookseller.com/tags-bookseller/emma-cooper); seeing my success there for all to see was quite an emotional experience! But also, one of my proudest moments was signing my UK publishing contract. It was my first trip to London to meet my agent and we were sitting inside a restaurant which has a huge tree in the centre of it. Any of you have read The Songs of Us will know that an oak tree plays an integral part of the story. I could see that other diners were looking over at me signing the contact … I’ve lived most if my life on the sidelines watching the success of others so that moment was very, very special to me.
My biggest challenge has been embarking on book three. It started off as a short story which I was writing for a magazine article. At the time, I was 10k into another book (which I will be writing next!) but my agent and I loved the voice in the short story so much that I had to make the tough decision to stop writing and working on my current project, and instead invest my time expanding the short story. I’m so glad I did but making the decision to postpone writing a novel that I had planned and started is quite a tough thing to do.
I remember well talking to you about this just after your agent has suggested you expand the short story, so I’m really interested to hear that you went with it and excited to see what it turned in to. What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!
Ok, but I’ve finished my drink … I’ll just pop to the bar, what are you having? I’m getting a bottle of Merlot.
Right where were we? The one big thing I’d like to happen … I would love to see The Songs of Us on the big screen. Melody’s story deserves to be shared with as many people as possible and I think it would make an incredible film. Gosh that makes me sound a bit cocky; I’m blaming the wine.
I think you can be as cocky as you like amongst friends. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
I can’t wait to start the serious editing of book two! I love it when the book really begins to take shape. I’m so excited about this one, I’m hoping to be able to share more about it very soon, but for now I’m under strict orders to keep it secret. Although, my glass of red is already half-way down so…
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I’m not very well travelled myself, I’m a bit of a home bird and tend to flit between home and my caravan in Ynyslas in Wales … it’s an old cranky caravan but it is my favourite place. The beach is only a five-minute walk away and it’s breath-takingly beautiful. I would love to go to Venice though.
Your glass is empty, do you want a refill?
The top of my bucket list used to be to be a published writer, I can’t tell you how many birthday-candle wishes that one took! I would love to walk in Melody’s shoes and fly in a hot-air balloon or walk the red carpet at the Oscars, or arrive at the Oscars in a hot-air balloon!!!
I love Wales too, I think there is something very peaceful and relaxing about the north Wales coast, where we also have a holiday lodge. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
I have Omphalophobia which is – wait for it – the fear of belly buttons. Honestly, I can’t stand them … my family will try to catch me off guard and stick their finger inside theirs and wiggle it about. Ugh. It honestly makes me want to heave and makes my whole-body tense up; it’s a great source of amusement to them.
That’s made me slightly queasy, to be honest! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
Considering how much of an avid reader I am, I have only got a few books that I can remember being completely blown away by, I’m quite a tough critic so it takes a lot to really knock my socks off! One of those is The Time Traveller’s Wife but I guess you’ve heard a lot about that one so I’m going to go with a slightly lesser known one: Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory. I read it years ago and some of the scenes are still so vivid in my mind that it’s like I’ve watched a film of it several times. Beatrice Lacey is one of my favourite characters of all time.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
The best preventative I’ve found for a hangover is a glass of Barocca and two ibuprofen before bed. Apparently, the vitamins help your kidneys process the alcohol more effectively. But obviously I’m not a doctor so the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink.
Stop laughing at me, Julie! I do, on occasion, drive to Friday night drinks and abstain. OK, you’re right, I’ve only done that once. *refills both glasses and opens packet of dry roasted peanuts*
Tomorrow, if I forget the vitamins I will have hot and spicy Huevos Rancheros … that normally sorts me out.
That’s a new one on me, I’ll have to try it. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
If I’m not too rough *empties rest of the bottle into glasses* I would love to stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea, followed by a walk on the beach with my family, a pub lunch, a board game with said family (if we haven’t had an argument during the beach walk and pub lunch) and then an afternoon snooze before X Factor and Strictly.
Thank you for a great Friday night Julie … do you fancy a shot?
Go on then, I’ll have tequila please. Emma, thank you so much for coming along tonight and chatting with me, I’ve had a great time and really enjoyed finding out more about you and your current projects. One day soon I’ll get you to an RNA event and you, Kate Baker and I will have these drinks for real!
Anyone who reads the blog regularly will know that Emma’s debut novel, The Songs of Us, is one of my favourite books of the year and I have been pretty much insisting that everyone I meet read it. If you would like to see why, you can read my review of the book here. If you would like to get your own copy of The Songs of Us, you can buy a copy here.
If you would like to connect further with Emma, please follow her social media links:
Facebook: Emma Cooper
Next week I am beyond thrilled to have the one and only Veronica Henry joining me for drinks, so you won’t want to miss that.