Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and sixty-seventh, is of feminist historical novelist Emma Rose Millar.
Emma Rose Millar is a single mother who lives with her young son in the Midlands and works part-time as a sign language interpreter. She enjoys reading nineteenth-century literature and historical fiction, particularly Sarah Waters and Philippa Gregory. Her debut novel, ‘Strains from an Aeolian Harp’ was published on November 2nd 2012 and she has also had two short stories published in an anthology called SunKissed by Freya Publications.
And now from the author herself:
I didn’t set out to write a novel in the beginning. Strains from an Aeolian Harp was only ever meant to be a piece of creative writing to help me come to terms with some of the problems I had been dealing with over the preceding years; I was pregnant, had just come out of a violent relationship and had suffered several miscarriages. One day I just opened up my lap-top and started to write, it was as simple as that. I only wanted to be able to express my feelings and had come up with a rough story about a woman who was trapped, not only by her husband, but by the system, so I set my novel in 1920s Britain where the law did little to protect women and cruelty was no grounds for divorce.
It took me a year to finish a draft and when I read it back, I was shocked by what I had written, but I was also quite pleased with it too and I started looking into getting it published. I found that most publishers didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and that agents’ fees could be very costly. I entered it into a few competitions but it wasn’t short-listed. Then one day I was sent a newsletter which had a small article about an independent women’s publisher and I thought that my work might meet their criteria and sent it off. The publisher contacted me and they seemed really genuine; their other books were doing well so that’s why I chose that route. The editor worked with me for almost a year to improve the manuscript ready for publication and I learnt a lot from that process. I can see now that it was nowhere near ready for publication when I first sent it and was very fortunate to have worked with such a good editor who made lots of helpful suggestions without trying to change the essence of my book. She also asked me to write a short story for an anthology they were publishing, but I ended up writing two and both were accepted! I was writing all the time, when my son was asleep at nights, while I was breastfeeding, any spare minute I got. Often I couldn’t switch off from it and would sit up half the night typing away on my computer.
The day that Strains from an Aeolian Harp was published I was incredibly proud; being a published author is something I dreamed of as a little girl. I used to love writing but as I got older I started to doubt my ability and in the end stopped writing altogether. It took a terrible experience for me to start writing again but I am glad now that something positive has come out of it. I also had mixed feelings about the book, because it started off as something very personal which I didn’t want anyone else to read. Although the story is very different to my own, and the character, Rose is opposite in many ways to me, all my emotions were poured into the novel, feelings which I never spoke to anyone about, and now it seems strange that people will be reading something which started out as a private piece of work.
To anyone else who dreams of writing a novel I would say please don’t give up. Pour your heart and soul into your work and then one day someone will read it and feel as passionate about it as you do. Keep going even when you feel you don’t have time or that other commitments are taking over. On average I only wrote a page a day, but after a year I had a completed draft. When you finally get that break it will all be worth it.
You can find more about Emma and her writing via…
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