Interview with Historical Romance author, Emma Hornby



Hi Emma,

Welcome to my blog! You write historical fiction. Could you please tell readers a little about your new release, ‘A Shilling for a Wife’?

Hi, Lynette, and thanks for inviting me here! A Shilling for a Wife, published by Transworld, Penguin Random House, is my debut novel and is out now. It’s a gritty northern saga and follows the story of Sally Swann, a former workhouse inmate, and her quest to escape her abusive husband.

Where did you get the idea for that particular story from?

It was during research into my family history that I first began to get ideas for a book. Lancashire has such a rich and fascinating history and I quickly became immersed imagining the daily struggles these strong, northern folk once endured. The story itself just sort of happened – I’m unsure, even now, where the plot came from! I began with the germ of an idea and the characters carried me along.

Do you have a favourite character in the book?

I do like Sally. She’s humble and unassuming, yet has a feisty streak to her, and she’s fiercely loyal to those she loves. Ivy, her friend and neighbour, is also lovely. She pulls no punches and tells it exactly like it is!

Is there a villain?

Yes. Miner, Joseph Goden, Sally’s husband. He’s a drunkard and bully and evil through and through. He makes Sally’s life an utter misery and does so with a smile on his face. His sister, Alice, is almost as bad. They’re a horrid duo!

Is there any sort of theme throughout?

It’s a story of loss and heartache, suffering and pain. But it’s also one of hope and strength and survival, and shines a light on the northern kindness and spirit. Everyone is striving for something and ultimately, whether they be nice or bad, each get what they deserve. Goodness triumphs over evil, as it will in the end.

Did you learn anything from writing the story?

I discovered first and foremost that you can achieve anything if you want it that badly. There were days when I didn’t think the story would ever see completion but it did, and I’m so glad I persevered. Writing is a tough job but the good points far out-weigh the bad.

Where do you usually write?

I write on the settee with my feet up. I’ve tried the desk thing, which most writers prefer, but it’s not for me. I’m much more comfortable and relaxed in the lounge, and this helps me write better and for longer periods.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever written?

Probably on the toilet! I tend to keep a pen in my pocket and if a piece of dialogue or idea strikes, I’ll jot it down before I forget. Although usually, I don’t carry paper around with me, so my hands and arms are often covered in scribbled notes and snippets of scenes!

What’s the writing process like for you?

I’m very much a morning writer. I begin when the children have gone to school and finish just before they arrive home. I don’t plan at all, simply put fingers to keys and see what comes out. Some days are better than others and if the writing just isn’t flowing, I stop. There’s no point in trying to force it – for me, it just doesn’t work. I don’t give myself a hard time; some days are like that. You just have to get back to it again the next day.

How did you become a writer in the first place?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I began with poetry in my teens and moved to short stories a few years later. I used to read books and think, I could do that, so decided to put myself to the test. I’m so glad I did!

What comes first for you, the characters or the plot?

Characters, definitely. I do have a basic idea in mind before I begin writing but the characters do what they want to do and decide what route the story will take. They rarely listen to a thing I say! They pull the story along and make it their own.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Yes, my third novel. It follows three orphans struggling to survive on the mean streets of northern England. Book 2, which is about Scuttlers – gangs of young street fighters who once terrorised Manchester’s slums – is finished and will be out 4th May next year.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Self-discipline is key. We all have days when we don’t feel like writing but you must push yourself. Even if sometimes, you only manage a few lines – they all add up. You need to see the book through, right to the bitter end. Unfinished novels don’t get published. Keep going and don’t give up.

Who are your favourite authors?

Catherine Cookson has to be top of my list. I also read a lot of classics, depending on my mood. Wilkie Collins, Austen, Dickens and Hardy are some of my favourites.

Do you have any other particular talents?

I do enjoy singing.

Is there anything readers might be surprised to find out about you?

I left school at 15. No college, no uni, nothing. This makes me even prouder of where I am today. No matter what your background, you really can achieve anything if you work hard enough.

Where can people buy your books?

A Shilling for a Wife (eBook and hardback) is available online now at Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith, etc. Paperback is out 23rd February and should be in shops and supermarkets soon. It will be available in audio shortly as well. Book 2 is also available for pre-order now.


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