Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
A shocking turn of events causes havoc in a small Cornish community.
What inspired you to write Tremarnock?
My first three novels are based in and around London and when I started thinking about the next one, and particularly the character of Liz, who was very clear in my mind, I knew that it had to be set somewhere completely different.
Liz isn’t close to her relatives and feels very isolated when her relationship breaks up, leaving her to raise her young daughter, Rosie, alone. She wants to escape her old life and start afresh and where better to go than to a small, tight-knit village community where friends and neighbours soon become the family she lacks?
I’ve always loved Cornwall, so this seemed like the ideal bolt-hole for her. I spent many happy summers there as a child and rediscovered the area in my twenties when I landed my first job as a cub reporter on a Westcountry newspaper, based in Plymouth. From there, it’s only a short ferry ride into South East Cornwall and I enjoyed going on long walks and exploring the colourful fishing villages on which my fictional village is modeled.
Of course, the fact that Tremarnock is so small, warm and welcoming makes it all the more shocking when trouble strikes at the very heart of the community and Liz has to find a way through the secrets, ambitions and lies.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I’m a bit of a nomad, to be honest. At the moment, I’ve taken up residence in our dining room in South West London. I’m afraid I’ve spread my things across the whole table, so that we can’t possibly have friends round to eat because tidying up would be too daunting!
At other times, however, I’ll use my small study upstairs, or even pop to my Mum’s round the corner and work in her lovely, airy room at the back of the house. I get bored of being in the same place and find a change of scenery inspires me.
What is your favourite book?
I love all sorts of fiction but I guess my favourite book of all time has to be Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I’m a huge Dickens fan because of his humour, his unique perception of the human psyche, his unforgettable characters, great plots and unflinching message about poverty and charity. He wrote many amazing novels but for me, Bleak House stands out the most, probably because of Esther, Lady Dedlock and the ghastly Mrs Jellyby and Harold Skimpole.
Which part of Tremarnock did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing about the village itself, because there was something thrilling about bringing to life an imaginary place with its beach and harbour, cobbled streets, painted cottages and quirky characters. I could see everything so clearly in my mind’s eye.
An even more enjoyable part, however, was probably writing the ending. In real life you can’t always make things happen the way you want, but in fiction, you get to play God. I liked resolving things for Liz and the others in the way that I thought most fulfilling. I wrote more two versions of the very last pages, though, because I couldn’t decide which was best. I hope readers approve of the one I eventually chose!
Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Jane Austen’s Emma, and not just because we share a name! She’s stubborn, spoiled, willful and a little vain, but her heart’s in the right place and we can’t help but forgive her when she recognises the error of her ways and tries to put right her wrongs. And I do love Mr Knightley!
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Develop a thick skin, because you’re going to need it. You’ll almost certainly receive rejection letters, perhaps lots of them, it’s par for the course. If you’re lucky enough to find a publisher, you’ll probably think you’ve made it. That’s until the reviews start coming in when people you’ve never met will say that you’re a terrible writer, even if they can hardly string a sentence together themselves.
Accept that you can’t please everyone. Believe in yourself, write something every day and relish every compliment, whether it’s a passing comment from an acquaintance in the street who enjoyed your book, or a fab, five star review in a national newspaper.
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
Yes. Tremarnock is the first in a trilogy and I’m in the thick of writing the second book in the series right now. I’m loving re-visiting the characters of Liz, Rosie, Robert et al, and also introducing new people and a whole new plot.
Tremarnock by Emma Burstall
Liz works all the hours God sends. First thing in the morning she's out, cleaning offices. At night she is waitressing in the village restaurant, while friends and neighbours rally round and mind Rosie. But trouble is waiting just round the corner.
As with all villages, there are tensions, secrets - and ambitions. Emma Burstall's wonderfully engaging first novel about Tremarnock is the story of what happens when one shocking turn of events sweeps a small community.