I’m delighted to welcome Emma Hamilton to Bookaholic Confessions, today. Emma is releasing an 8 part series titled Greedily Yours. (You can get hold of Episode 1 here.) I am hooked on this series already after loving the first episode, of which you can catch my review for later on today. It was a delight to chat to Emma about her new work of fiction as she spills the beans on her characters, her love of food and a Christmas special (YAY!)…
Hi Emma, welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! I’m thrilled to have you on the site, thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
Hi Holly, lovely to ‘e-meet’ you and thank you for your questions. My pen name is Emma Hamilton, I have been working as a journalist and broadcaster for the last 17 years and Greedily Yours is my first series of fiction. I have reported from or spent periods of time in several countries around the world including the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Cameroon, USA, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Russia. I love cooking, reading about food, writing about it and eating it. To try and offset that, I also enjoy running, yoga and gardening and hanging out with my friends and family.
Can you tell us a bit about your new series of books, Greedily Yours? (Episode 1, Taste Test, released 15th June 2015 by Bastei Entertainment)
Greedily Yours is an 8 part series all about a woman called Mia Maxwell who loves food. In fact, she loves it so much that she’s made it her career. On the surface Mia seems to have it all sewn up. She lives in trendy east London with her best friend, Lizzie. By day she runs her own food PR consultancy, and by night she’s a food blogger enjoying a burgeoning audience. Mia has a banker boyfriend, Paul, who enjoys travelling the world, enabling her to taste the globe’s culinary delights. But despite all this, Mia is still searching for that proverbial ‘cherry on the cake.’ When she heads down to Cornwall to run a food festival, she doesn’t realize that her entire life is about to be cast adrift. So begins Taste Test and Mia’s tour of food, friendship and love around the globe.
What inspired you to come up with the idea for writing Greedily Yours?
Good question! Mia as a character came to me as I was cycling along the Rhein to work one day. It’s an hour long journey and it was a sunny summer morning. The water was glinting and the hills and fields alongside the Rhein were lush and green and everything was right with the world. I could smell summer and holidays even though I was on my way to work and as my legs were pumping away, my brain was whirring. I got so inspired by the idea of Mia that as soon as I could, I wrote down a synopsis of her as a person and her journey which turned into the eight episodes. I knew that Bastei Luebbe were looking for a writer to work on a series about two food bloggers as I was already editing for them and so I really wanted to be the writer to bring Mia to life and I wrote to them to try and convince them of my enthusiasm. Fast forward a few weeks and I guess I did. We had a development meeting at Bastei Luebbe to talk more about the characters and where we should go with the books and things started to evolve from there. I would find myself lost in their world as I was writing the books, particularly when out jogging or cycling, I’d suddenly realise I’d slowed down as I was busy thinking about what the characters would do next. Sometimes, what I’d planned for them didn’t happen because they took on a life of their own once they hit the page; and I’ve loved living with them for the last 9 or 10 months.
Is Mia Maxwell a completely fictional character or is she based on anyone in real life?
Mia is a bit of a composite character. She evolved too as the book went on and she is of course fictional, like all the characters. But as I inhabited her head and she inhabited mine, it’s fair to say she became partly based on my thoughts and feelings about 10 years ago. However she’s much prettier than me, more stylish and I gave her some things I would like to have in my personality, but don’t, and other things were exaggerated that I hope I don’t have quite so much of. Because this was my first book, despite my best intentions, I found it easier to have sympathy for the character by making her a little bit like me; perhaps in order to find her voice and mine through that.
Have you always had a passion for cooking yourself?
I have definitely always had a passion for cooking and food in general. It’s something that has always been important in my family, showing your love through food and cooking for friends and family. I think I was the only one at university who used to cook up elaborate (for that time – I’m talking pasta bake, stir fry, that kind of thing nothing particularly exotic or special) dishes and not just rely on baked beans and biscuits. I had a big wok and a saucepan and so most of my meals revolved around a two pan cooking approach of carb and protein or vegetables in a sauce of some kind. Nowadays, I love reading recipes in newspapers and magazines and I have an enormous collection of recipe books which I regularly browse whenever I can. My cooking skills really came on when I was reporting from Italy though. Before I enjoyed food and cooking, but there I really learnt how to pare down a dish and really prioritise quality ingredients. Before I reported from Italy, I would happily eat a pasta bake with as many vegetables, mozzarella cheese, maybe some tuna and tomatoes thrown in as possible and think it was a) delicious and b) Italian (until I realised Italians were wincing at those two adjectives attached to my creations). After my spaghetti Bolognese was laughed at by some Italian friends and pronounced “more like spaghetti with an ‘amburger” on top I realised I needed to think again and so I tried my best to learn how to cook more like them and started using a lot more olive oil and salt, to which I’m now addicted.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would you choose?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I often play this game with ‘if you could only eat one cuisine’ for the rest of your life what would it be and I normally say Mediterranean (to include both the east and west Med and North Africa, which I know is cheating a little bit, when forced to be more specific I’d go for Lebanese or Italian). Forced to boil it down to just one food, I think it would have to be aubergines because I love them in any cuisine but then I’d sorely miss carbs to soak up their lovely juices and all the things that make aubergines great, ie garlic, oil, salt and whatever spices you’re cooking them with. Basically I couldn’t eat just one thing for the rest of my life. What would you choose?
Can you tell us a bit about your publication journey?
The publication journey was very smooth. I think I was very lucky. It was great working with Bastei Luebbe as I had very supportive and encouraging editors there both in terms of the development, production and the text. I signed up to write the book last August and I had to turn in my first book in mid-September. Never having written a book before, let alone eight, it was a bit of a leap in the dark for me, and them. However, I just did what I do as a journalist, I worked out when the deadlines were (one book per month) and I made sure that I set aside enough time each month to hit that deadline. Some days were slower than others, I would spend hours listening to BBC Radio 4, making myself frothy coffees or drinking my way through a selection of herbal teas, or surfing the web, googling and reading random blogs and articles. And then finally, when I’d nearly given up for the day, inspiration would strike and I would be able to write. Other days were really good; I’d get up early and have written a few thousand words before breakfast. I did spend a lot of weekends and evenings writing too and it was a bit of a luxury this May having no deadline to hit, so much so that I have been very slow with the Christmas special which is due in July.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Wow, another good question. I think I’d always have to communicate in some way, be that through writing, or broadcasting or painting or just talking to people. I love communicating basically and writing is another way to do that. But I’ve always wanted to be a yoga teacher and run a yoga holiday centre or run a café like Lizzie in the book. Definitely something where I’d get to cook, do exercise and meet people and provide a nice atmosphere for myself and others in which to relax. I guess I hope that’s what I did with the books too. I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to do a yoga course recently as a step towards that dream but I know that with both those alternative jobs, the dream is nice because you associate it with being in a café having a coffee and eating cake or going to a lovely relaxing or energising yoga class, but actually doing either of those things would be a lot of hard work, which is perhaps why I’ve always stuck to the writing, at least for now….
Who are your favourite authors and which type of books do you enjoy reading?
I love reading lots of different things and I could happily spend all day in a book shop just choosing new books to buy. I don’t have one particular author and I think I read across quite a lot of different genres depending on my mood and whether or not I’ve read a good review of a book in the Guardian review pages or Red magazine. However, in terms of the kind of genre in which I’m writing, I love Sophie Kinsella, Polly Williams and Trisha Ashley. Particularly Sophie Kinsella because her books are so effortless but they just fizz with infectious humour that makes me laugh out loud, even if I’m sat on a train or plane. She is a real mistress at what she does and I think I’ve read all her books. Through my husband I discovered Jonathan Franzen and Siri Hustvedt. I love the way they write characters so you are still thinking about them even after you’ve put down the book. I discovered Sarah Moss and Scarlett Thomas on a book-buying trip for my honeymoon and devoured all of their work in the last few years; I love the way their plotting, humour and writing about feelings and states of mind comes across perfectly and their characters speak to me in different ways. Kate Atkinson and John Le Carre for crime fiction and just brilliant writing; and Oswald Wynd’s The Ginger Tree is a stand out for me that I’ve read several times over since I first read it as a teenager. I’m currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke which is new for me as I don’t tend to read fantasy but I think the combination of magic and history fits in with things that interest me and I’m really enjoying it, even if I realise that I’ve probably ‘discovered’ it about 10 years after everyone else.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Weirdly, given it is coming up to summer, I’m busy working on the Christmas special of Greedily Yours. So my head has been spinning back into German Christmas markets and talking about sloe fizz and Lebkuchen and stuck in winter on and off for the last month. I love Christmas so it’s never a hardship to think about that time of year but it’s a bit strange sometimes, looking through my pictures of winter or Christmas, or googling what the weather might be like in a certain place in December when the sun is shining outside and everything is green and blossoming. It was a great opportunity though to return to Mia and see where she was at almost 9 months after we leave her at the end of episode eight.
Greedily Yours (eight episodes) is published twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays from 15th June, price £1.49 each.
A huge thank you to Emma and Hayley at ed pr. ♥