In conversation with... Emma Cooper

Hi Emma! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Songs of Us, which I loved! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. The Songs of Us is about the King family and how they deal with the difficulties life throws at them. It’s written from the perspectives of Melody and her two teenagers, Flynn and Rose, who have been given a rough deal in life.

For starters, Flynn was involved in a car accident when he was younger, which left him blind in one eye with facial scarring. His red-headed sister, Rose, who is teased relentlessly at school, is obsessed with finding their father, Dev, who disappeared years before without a trace. And if that is not enough, they have a mother who has a condition similar to Tourette’s who sings and dances uncontrollably when she’s anxious, much to their - and the reader’s - embarrassment!

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: Not at all! I would love to be able to say that I had the whole story mapped out from start to finish but if I’m absolutely honest, the King family pretty much told me their story … I just wrote it down. There is a big twist about half-way through though and I’m afraid that was all down to me – sorry!

This book comes with a playlist. What came first – the songs or the actions?

A: Great question! And it is a bit of both. It was a conscious effort to make sure that the majority of the songs included were well known so that I would only have to hint at the lyrics and the reader would be able to fill in the gaps. Sometimes, I would write the scene and then a song would just pop in my head – Sex Bomb for instance took me by surprise as much as Melody, and the same with Agadoo! That one had me laughing my head off when I wrote the bath scene. The one song that I was determined would play a pivotal part was This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush; it’s one of my favourite songs and it’s so emotive that I just knew it would be included.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Melody?

A: Hmmmm, there are a few but I think Kate Winslet would be perfect or maybe Zooey Deschanel. But I would love it if an unknown British actress had the part and made it their own.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I had great fun writing the lyrics to the ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ scene, ‘Supersonic gal made out of poo!’ being my favourite. There are some real gut-wrenching scenes that took my breath away when I was writing them, but I think the one that left me feeling utterly wrung out was the ‘Perfect Day’ chapter. I often wrote the scenes with the songs playing through headphones and I remember having to take a break because I was crying so much I couldn’t see the screen.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Yep! Originally, I gave Rose the same condition at the end of the story and had an extra twist whereby it was revealed that it was Rose re-telling the story. Although lots of my family and friends loved it, it became clear that I was taking things a little too far and that the story didn’t need the extra twist, it was enough without it.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I have written the next book and it is in the first stages of editing. I can’t tell you much more than that other than it is in the same Up-lit genre and promises more laughter and tears!! And I’m currently writing book three too.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: Social media is a massive part of being a writer and a great way to connect with you readers and other writers too. Being a writer can be quite a solitary occupation, so these groups are wonderful at making you feel part of a community even when you’re stuck at a desk on your own. But as you say, this can interrupt your actual writing time dramatically! I use a technique called the Pomodoro where you have a timer set for twenty-five minutes where you write, then a break of five minutes before another twenty-five-minute sprint. That can help limit social media time if you can manage to stick to this routine, but it is hard to remain disciplined as a lot of us writers are forever chatting online instead of working!

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Never give up. I had over thirty rejections and only one request for the full manuscript from an agent. As it happens, that agent was the only one I needed as I’m now her client and, with her support and guidence, The Songs of Us is now being translated into seven different languages and will be available all over the world. So no matter how many times you see a rejection in your inbox, remember that dreams can come true … it can happen to you.

Thank you for your time!

A: You’re more than welcome, I’ve really enjoyed taking part!


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