Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Getting to know … Emma Mooney

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
A Beautiful Game is a contemporary, adult novel set in Edinburgh.  The book is centred around an adolescent boy growing up in a house filled with abuse and unhappiness, and it tells the story of his struggle to break free from the cycle of abuse. 

What made you choose that genre?
I write from the heart, and Robbie’s story felt important to tell.  He represents all of the children I’ve taught over the years who, despite difficult circumstances, have gone on to be successful and hopefully happy in life.

How long does it take you to write a book?
A Beautiful Game started as a short story, which I wrote in the week following the 2012 Scottish Cup Final.  I started writing it after listening to a radio discussion about the link between big football matches and domestic abuse.  But the main character Robbie had a bigger story to tell and it soon developed into an eighty thousand word novel.  Within two years of starting the book, it had been accepted by Crooked Cat and was on its way to the printers.  I realise this is an unusually fast time-frame, especially for a first novel, and I’m grateful to so many people who allowed me to be selfish during this time and focus on my writing.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Because I’m very busy juggling my writing with looking after my three children, as well as working part-time as a teacher, I often have to grab any spare minutes throughout the day that I can.  I find myself writing at my daughter’s piano lessons or when I’m waiting in the car outside the school gates, and I often write very early in the morning or late at night when everyone’s in bed.  On the days when I’m teaching I’m generally too tired after a day in the classroom to write something fresh so I use these days for any editing that needs done.  The bulk of my writing gets done on the days that I’m not working and on these days I rush home from the school run and write furiously until it’s time to pick up the kids again at three o’clock. 

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The ideas often start after overhearing a conversation, or from an issue in the news.  I then try to think of a character that I can put into a situation similar to the one overheard.  I choose a name for the character and start writing from their point of view and see what happens.  The blank page can often be a scary thing and so I sometimes need to force myself to start writing by giving myself permission to write complete and utter rubbish.  I usually find that within a short while something starts to take shape.  If the character has a story to tell I’ll soon know and they’ll take over.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
When my children were very young I went along to as many writing classes as I could and, although I didn’t have much time to write anything of length, I listened carefully to all of the advice.  I was like a giant sponge.  I only started writing novels when my youngest child started school seven years ago.  At that time I took the decision to continue working part-time to allow me to write.  I couldn’t have done this without the support of my husband who is constantly telling me to forget about the housework and other jobs needing done and to just write. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Like most writers I love to spend my time reading.  Other than that I enjoy getting outdoors and going on long walks with my family.  I’m very lucky to live close to the Trossachs National Park in Scotland which is home to some of the most beautiful lochs and hills.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The most surprising thing?  I guess that would be when the magic happens.  The magic is what I call it when I sit down to write a chapter, and I have a rough idea of what is going to happen in that chapter, but then the character takes over and I end up writing something completely different.  When this happens I genuinely get goosebumps.

How many books have you written?
I refer to my previous books as the ‘novels that live under the stairs’A Beautiful Game is my third complete novel, and I knew when it was finished that it was the one that I wanted to get out there.  I have no intention to revisit the other books but I do think of them fondly.  No writing is ever a waste of time, no matter how bad, because the only way we improve and learn is by making mistakes.  I think of my ‘novels under the stairs’ as stepping stones that helped me get to where I am now.

Which is your favourite and why?
A Beautiful Game is definitely the favourite story that I’ve written.  I’m very fond of the main character, Robbie, and feel very protective towards him.  I also have a collection of poems that I wrote when my children were very small, and they hold a very dear place in my heart because they take me right back to the moment.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was growing up I had two dream jobs.  I wanted to be an astronaut and a writer.  Unfortunately I get really bad motion sickness which ruled out being an astronaut, but even into my forties I never gave up on the second dream!  I’m extremely lucky in that I love my day job of being a primary teacher; it’s one of the best jobs in the world.  I’ve been teaching children for twenty years now and I’ve always told them to never give up on their dreams, and I hope that seeing me finally get published will inspire them.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently getting to know a new character called Lizzie.  Lizzie is growing up in central Scotland in the 80s, which was a time when sectarianism was prominent and it wasn’t unusual to be judged by the colour of your school tie.  Even though the subject matter is serious, I’m discovering that writing about the 80s is a lot of fun, and I think Lizzie has an interesting story to share.  

Author Bio:
Emma Mooney is not a football fan and, to her, it doesn’t matter which teams win or lose, but she does care about young people and it’s this passion that inspired her to write A Beautiful Game.

Emma has completed courses in creative writing at both Glasgow and Edinburgh University and for six years was an editor at Ironstone New Writing.

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Gill James said...

A really interesting interview.

Carol Anne Hunter said...

I'm a big fan of Emma's writing and know how much she puts into her work. I have my copy of A Beautiful Game but haven't started reading it yet because I want to have the time to savour it properly. I know what she means about the 'magic' that sometimes happens when you start to write a scene and the characters take over. It's always an adventure! An excellent and informative interview which I enjoyed reading.

Clair Humphries said...

Really enjoyed this interview, thank you - and I can definitely relate to the 'novels under the stairs!' It sounds like a really interesting novel, too.