Writers Talk — Emma Hart

Posted on May 8, 2013 | Comments Off on Writers Talk — Emma Hart


I came across Emma Hart’s UpFront blog when I went to Public Address, a community of blogs organised by Russell Brown.  Then I read her book of essays, Not Safe for Work and loved it.  Here she is…

Story — which comes first — characters or story or place?

I really wanted to say ‘character’, because I like to think my fiction is more character-focused than plot-driven: why care what happens if you don’t care about the people it happens to? But often, actually, the first thing I have is an object or a visual image. My first published short story was really about an old pewter bowl. The novel I’m working on now started with an image of a big old house. It had an eerie feeling to it, and I needed to discover what had happened there.


I always have an outline before I start, otherwise I forget things. Often, though, plotting rather gets away on me. For long-form fiction, I’ll have an detailed outline, and it’ll get changed dozens of times as I realise that, of course, that’s not what happened, or that’s not the right order of things. I was halfway through my current novel before I worked out what the last scene was.


I am such a delicate little flower with grounding routines for writing. I write best at night, when it’s quiet, at my desk with just the right amount of light. I also use music to create mood for a work, or a particular character. I’ve written 70,000 words to the sound of The Sisters of Mercy’s A Slight Case of Over-Bombing. The select products of Whisky Galore have also been enormously helpful.

Rejection — how do you handle rejection?

I work writing freelance web content, so I cut my teeth getting rejected over work I wasn’t really emotionally attached to, and I think that’s helped me cope. I tend to get short periods of deep dejection, and then I’m over it.
I did get the nicest rejection letter once, from Rachael King. She told me I wrote great dialogue, and I think I’ve treasured that more than some of my acceptances.

Success — where were you when you learned your first piece of work had been accepted by editor or pubisher?

I would have been, in this day and age, at my desk, reading my email. It was, I think, a short story published in the now-defunct Realms of Fantasy magazine. I spent my first writing pay-cheque on a scarlet winter coat which is still one of my Favourite Things.