Emma Chapman, talks about her debut novel ” How To Be A Good Wife,” in this candid chat

Q : Your debut novel, How To Be A Good Wife, was published recently. To begin with, could you tell those who don’t know a little about the book?

How To Be A Good Wife is an unconventional psychological thriller.  Marta has been married to Hector for so long that she struggles to remember her life before him.  She lives in a fog of domesticity, trying her best to be a good wife.  After her son leaves home, she begins to feel unsettled: to see things around the house that unnerve her.  Is her mind starting to unravel?  Or is there something more sinister going on?


Q :  Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress.  I acted in a school play and I was terrible.  However, the things I loved about acting – getting into the mind of a character – are the same things I love about writing.  Except writing involves a more quiet, solitary process of improvement, whereas acting involves working towards that goal in front of other people, a process I found excruciating.


Q : Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s a typical writing day for you?

I still feel like I’m learning my ideal writing process. I recently went to a talk by David Vann, author of Legend Of A Suicide, and was shocked to hear he only works for one hour each morning.  Having previously been a bit of a slave to my desk, I decided to try this.  So currently, I work focussed and uninterrupted until I’ve written about 1500-2000 words.  I try not to look back and get tempted into editing– I find this slows me down and makes me doubt.  I trust my subconscious.  I spend the rest of the day guilt-free, working on marketing How To Be A Good Wife, blogging, or reading other things. It’s quite ironic really, because when I was writing How To Be A Good Wife, I was working full time and would work for about an hour every morning before work.  I have returned to that routine now, as I found having unlimited time to write was actually hindering my process.


Q : Finally, do you have any advice for writers hoping to get their books published?

Firstly, focus on the work itself. Ignore the ‘rules’ of writing in a first draft, and ignore the doubting voice in your head.  Just write the book you want to read.  The editing comes later.  Make it the best it can be: get feedback from people who aren’t already your friends.  Only send it to agents when you’ve exhausted other feedback: when you can’t bear to look at it anymore and you have no perspective on what to do next.

Secondly, improve your chances of getting the book seen.  Do work-experience at a literary agency.  Don’t mention the novel.  Target agents personally: research them and what they’re interested in.  Twitter is a good place for this.  Try to email them directly rather than going through an assistant or onto a slush pile.  Learn about the industry.  Prepare yourself.  Remember that everyone is different, and if one person doesn’t like your manuscript, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  If you’re lucky enough to receive detailed feedback, listen to it.  Examine it from every angle, and improve.  Don’t get defensive: this person is trying to help you.

Working with an agent will help you prepare it for publication.  Keep working and keep the faith.  It might be a long process, but if you give up, you’ll never know the outcome.


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