Jaffa and I are delighted to welcome back to my blog
|Photo by kind permission|
As she publishes her second novel
Emylia thank you so much for taking the time in this busy publication week to answer a few of our questions.
What can you tell us about A Heart Bent Out of Shape that won’t give too much away?
The story takes place in the Swiss city of Lausanne, and follows a nineteen-year-old student called Hadley as she spends a year there as part of her studies. When she arrives she's something of a clean sheet, and yet to experience any of life's more intense sensations, but throughout the course of her year abroad that all changes. First love, first loss, true & testing friendship... I basically throw everything at her. I wanted to capture that feeling of being young and abroad and excited and free, while injecting a slightly darker note; the contrast of a perfect place, and an imperfect sequence of events, appealed to me.
Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for the story?
Lausanne is an important city to me as I spent a year there when I was Hadley's age, and loved every minute. It was my first taste of living in the depths of a city, let alone a foreign one (I grew up in the countryside, and my UK university - York - was something of a campus bubble). While I'd travelled fairly extensively in Europe with my family I'd never lived abroad, and it was something I was desperate to do. One of the reasons I chose to study English at York was for its study abroad programme - I was looking at guidebooks for Switzerland at the same time as the university prospectus, and set my heart on going to Lausanne before I'd even stepped foot in Yorkshire! When I look back it was a truly golden year, and the remarkable thing is that I appreciated all of its special qualities at the time too - the whole time I lived there, I never took a day for granted. It felt like a really natural thing for me to set a story in Lausanne - I can't even remember the moment I thought of it - I guess I've always known that such a beloved city would find its way onto the page somehow, somewhere. I just hope I've done it justice in A Heart Bent Out of Shape.
You have set this book in Switzerland - how important is location to your story?
I wanted the city to almost feel like another character in the story. I hope that my novel truly transports readers, so they begin to see the city through Hadley's eyes and love it just as she does. As a setting, Lausanne is wonderfully dramatic, it's on the shores of Lac Léman, ringed by mountains, with twisting cobbled streets, and a luxurious feeling waterfront. It dazzles in the summer but my favourite Swiss season has to be winter... in Lausanne snow blankets the streets and the lake churns with ice-cold water. Vendors sell hot cider and roasted chestnuts, and everyone's dressed very smartly in long coats and tightly knotted scarves. There are also so may of those perfectly crisp and cold, blue-sky days in Lausanne, the kind which are so much rarer in England. It seemed that no matter how cold, how snowy, how grey the sky, at some point the sun would always come out... or maybe that's the rose-tinted spectacles of memory! I took a huge amount of pleasure in writing my version of the city, and feeling like I was sharing it with readers.
A Heart Bent out of Shape is your second novel – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?
I definitely felt the pressure with my second novel, but that was all entirely self-imposed. The deadline seemed to be a privilege in the beginning, it was exciting to think that I had an agent and editors waiting to read my work, and it made the whole 'being published thing' feel really real... But about halfway through the process I began to sweat a bit. I was worried about not doing justice to the story I wanted to tell, some days wondering if I could do it at all, or finish it on time. But I got myself through that sticky patch with hard work, seriously focused time on the novel, and the support of my 'early readers' - my husband Bobby, my friend Kate, and my family. About five months before my final deadline, something clicked and I began to love the process again, I felt consumed by the story and felt confident in it. That was a great feeling, and I'd far rather it was that way around rather than starting out thinking it's a breeze then stumbling in the final stages.
Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
I'm currently working on my third novel, and am about a third of the way through a first draft. I have a really strong sense of the story and what its 'heart' is, but there's a long way to go yet. I think that as a writer you either find this part of the process a joy or a struggle, and right now, I'm leaning towards the latter, but I know I'll get there in the end. When I have a first draft, no matter how rough, that's when I'll start to breathe easier... I enjoy the rewriting, the moving things around, the cutting and tinkering part of the process... The story's mainly set in Cornwall, and I'm loving having a reason to go there as often as possible. You can't beat first hand inspiration, and that's what I'm always looking for when I'm writing.
Emylia ~ thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for giving such insightful answers to our questions.
Jaffa and I love having you visit us.
Come back to see us again soon.
Come back to see us again soon.
The pretty town of Lausanne in Switzerland is the setting for this compelling story of first love, lost love, hidden desire and tragedy.
When Hadley Dunn takes up the opportunity of studying for a year at a university in Lausanne in Switzerland her excitement is palpable, and as she arrives in the picturesque town with its lake and mountains, she is aware of a sense of freedom, the like of which she has never before experienced. Her friendship with the beautiful and enigmatic Kristina opens her eyes, not just to a world of pleasure but also to the possibility of excitement on a grand scale. However, as the first real snows of winter arrive, there is an overwhelming tragedy and Hadley turns to her tutor, Joel Wilson, a professor of American Literature, for support. However, as Hadley and Joel attempt to discover the uncertainty surrounding the tragedy, the fine line between friendship and desire, threatens to complicate things even further.
At the centre of the story is a well controlled mystery with nail biting suspense, but there is also a sensitive exploration of love and illicit desire. The almost mesmeric quality to the narrative brings the town of Lausanne so wonderfully to life that it very quickly becomes one of the major characters in the novel. The sizzle of the town in its summer heat rests beautifully against the majesty of the spiky French Alps, and the streets and cafes with their picture postcard perfection are realistically exposed to scrutiny.
Sometimes there is a danger that a second novel won’t live up to the brilliance of the first, but rest assured there is no such danger with A Heart Bent Out of Shape. There is no doubt that Emylia Hall, in just two excellent novels, has captured this genre and I am confident that her writing will simply go from strength to strength. I really can’t wait to see what she does next.
Here's your chance to win a copy of this lovely story for yourself