Author Emily Hourican shares her expert tips for first time writers

Author and journalist Emily Hourican is a true wordsmith at heart. Her novels transcend time, her articles beguile readers and her stories are exceedingly captivating. There are few things she loves more than putting pen to paper, and it undeniably shows in every single word she scribbles.

In an effort to share her passion and the tricks she's picked up along the way, Emily sat down for a chat with us at SHEmazing, to discuss the inspiration behind her tantalising new book, The Glorious Guinness Girls, her love of historical fiction, and of course her top tips for first time writers

Eager to share her wealth of knowledge, Emily started, “Firstly, you have to really, really want to do this. You have to want to do it, facing the possibility that nobody will ever publish your book. Nobody will ever read your book. These are all possibilities. The days of just writing for commercial possibilities are long gone. It’s a really tough industry. So the first thing is, don’t do it unless you love it. It’s too much work.”

“We’re all a bit romantic about writing, but it is an industry. This is how people make money — it’s a business like any other. If your book doesn’t work for them, they won’t take it and nothing will ever happen with it, and the disappointment is huge. And the work you put into your book is so huge, that truly you need to love it. You need to absolutely love the hours that you spend and get something out of it on a personal level, completely irrespective of the business of publishing.”

“Then step two is… do it! If you want to write, write. There’s only one way to write a book, and that’s to write a book. And that means sitting down and putting words on a page, and then more words, and then more words, and then probably going back and rewriting most of those words.”

“Write everyday — even if you write hardly anything, you need to stay connected to the book. You need to write and keep writing. When you’re not writing about it, you’re thinking about it. There are so many people who say that they would love to write a book, but what they actually mean is that they would love to have a book written. The actual process of writing can be such a slog, and you need to love that, and you need to commit to it.”

“Thirdly, believe in it. Take yourself seriously. Commit to what you’re doing. Try and understand what it is you want to do and then throw yourself into it. Because it is an amazing feeling, when you’re finished and you’re happy with what you’ve done. It is absolutely brilliant, I highly recommend it, because I love it.”

Emily’s most recent novel, The Glorious Guinness Girls is based on three real-life sisters, Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness. This historical fiction novel is set amid the turmoil of the Irish Civil War and the brittle glamour of 1920s London, and is inspired by one of the most fascinating family dynasties in the world.

“I had written an awful lot about [the Guinnesses] in non-fiction. I’ve written lots of articles — I mean they crop up in so many different intersections of Irish life,” the author remarked when discussing what it was about this famous family that sparked her curiosity.

“They come up in politics and architecture to literature and fashion, and then obviously business and commerce. It’s one of those names that we all know little bits about. So for one reason or another, I ended up writing quite a lot of magazine and newspaper articles about those three sisters in particular.”

“I remember I had finished my fourth novel and I was having coffee with my editor to talk about what I might do next,” Emily prefaced before explaining how The Glorious Guinness Girls came to be.

“I love reading historical fiction and as a child I read historical fiction,” Emily added, noting that the books she had written up until that point had all been contemporaries. “I had been thinking more and more that I would love to write the kinds of historical fiction books that I enjoyed reading.”

“So my editor and I sat down for coffee, and she asked me, ‘Have you thought about what you want to do next?’, and I said, ‘Well I’ve been thinking about historical fiction.’”

“She said, ‘Oh, right. That’s interesting, because I’ve been thinking about the Guinness girls’. Literally immediately, in that second I just thought, ‘Oh yeah, oh my god, I can absolutely see that book’,” Emily gushed.

Getting quite a taste for the historical fiction genre, Emily decided that one simply was not enough to satisfy her craving, as she admitted that there’s another Glorious Guinness Girls book on the way. “The first one ends in 1930, and then there’s a second one that I’ll be doing next, which takes the story from 1930 forwards, into the next phase of their lives.”

While the rich and colourful tale of The Glorious Guinness Girls takes us along on their glamorous adventures, as young single women in the roaring twenties, Emily reveals that the next book will follow the sisters as they get married, have children and all go their separate ways. 

“I loved writing it and researching it,” Hourican exclaimed. “I loved the way you can blend truth and facts, things that actually happened with a story that didn’t happen, but might have. I enjoyed it enormously, I really did.”

The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican, published by Hachette Ireland is available now, and you can pick up a copy here.

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