Emma Chapman was born in 1985 and grew up in Manchester. She studied English Literature at Edinburgh University, followed by a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. She currently lives in Perth, Western Australia. How to Be a Good Wife is her first novel. http://emmajchapman.com/
When did you first start writing? When did you decide that you wanted to ‘be a writer’?
I don’t remember when I started writing or when I decided it was what I wanted to do. I visited my old school yesterday, and a teacher there told me that I said I wanted to be a writer when I was eleven – so I suppose it’s been as long as that at least. I had a brief stint when I was a teenager when I wanted to act, but I think what I really wanted was the glitz and glamour of being famous.
Who would you say are your writing influences/inspirations?
I love Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for its clean writing style and the unreliable heroine who is mentally disintegrating but who we root for. I also love Margaret Atwood’s books, and Ian McEwan’s writing.
Your novel deals with issues of mental health and women’s identity. What was the fascination with those themes for you?
I have always been interested in woman’s role, and the idea that marriage (especially in the past) has limited the potential of many women. I think the book came out of a fear of that happening to me. Coupled with a fear of something terrible happening and whether I would be able to be the same person afterwards. That led me to research the psychology of people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Prior to publishing your novel, you worked at a literary agency. What impact, if any, do you think that experience had on writing your novel and having it published?
To begin with, I think it showed me the realities of how difficult it is to get noticed as a new writer. But it also gave me the determination and the tools to increase my chances of being one of the people who does get noticed. I also learnt a lot about the industry and the practicalities of being a writer: as well as a good editing eye.
What are your writing habits?
When I was writing How To Be A Good Wife, I was working full time to pay the bills, so my routine was before work and at the weekends. I couldn’t wait for inspiration to strike: I just had to write when I had a few hours.Now I am writing full time, I try to treat it like a full-time job, nine til five.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? And if so, how do you overcome it?
I think everyone suffers from moments of block. Hilary Mantel has likened the writing of a novel to an advent calendar: you can open some doors and see parts of the whole, and the more doors you open, the more the story starts to come together. If I get blocked, I don’t sit and stare at the screen.I go and do some research, or read some totally unrelated fiction, and let my subconscious do the work. Eventually, I will find a way back into the novel: or I will open another advent calendar door.
Have you had any interesting or surprising reader responses to your work?
Good question. I had one review that was so complex and philosophical, I almost didn’t understand it myself! I think the most enjoyable thing about reading is exploring different interpretations, so I am always interested to read how people are receiving my book.
Marta and Hector have been married for a long time – so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife.
But when Hector comes home with a secret, their ordered domestic life begins to unravel. In the shadows there is a blonde girl that only Marta can see. And she is trying to tell her something …
How To Be a Good Wife received a great review from The Guardian and you can read my review at Goodreads. Australian readers can win a copy by simply leaving a comment below. (Apologies but the giveaway is not open to international readers). Entries close at midnight Sunday February 17th; the winner will be announced Monday 18th.