Need a new book to read? Looking for a funny novel?
We interview Bookouture author Emma Robinson, author of ‘The Undercover Mother’ and ‘Happily Never After’.
Look no further than these light hearted reads. Below, Emma tells us all about them…
Claire: Fantastic, okay so Undercover is out now, and also, we have the new book, Happily Never After out, so tell us what Happily Never After is about then.
Emma: Okay, so Happily Never After is Rory, her real name is Aurora, she was named after the sunrise, but obviously there is a bit of a wink to that being the name of Sleeping Beauty. She’s a real femme, she’s a teacher and a feminist, and she doesn’t believe in fairy tales.
Claire: Based on anyone in particular?
Emma: No! I don’t know where I would have got that idea from. And her daughter is 16, Belle, and she was named Clarabelle after Clarabelle Pankhurst, the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette, and yet she calls herself Belle because she loves Disney Princesses and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. So there’s that kind of conflict there, I mean they’re very close, but yeah, the mother and the daughter conflict. And then on top of that we have Sheila, Rory’s mother and Belle’s grandmother, who has just moved into a retirement home, and is getting her own life, and her biggest thing is she wants Belle to settle down and meet somebody and have a happily ever after. Not Belle sorry, Rory. And Rory doesn’t think she needs a man. In the beginning of the novel she buys a house that needs a lot of work, determined to do it all herself, and she then… sort of the novel follows her, and this house, and the relationship of the two, and in about Chapter Five she meets a builder called John Prince, who drives a white van-
Claire: A white van, of course!
Emma: Yeah, and from that moment on all this fairy tale stuff kinda, just kinda happens, much to her chagrin or whatever. So it’s the development, the mother has her own storyline, Belle has her own storyline, but it mainly follows Rory, and her, and this romance.
Claire: Wow, yeah. So in terms of what your plans are for the next three to five years, are there any more books in there?
Emma: Yeah, there’s definitely one at least in the pipeline. So the new one, ah, title to be decided, but my working title was Find me in Paris but I’m sure that’ll be changed, and it follows three women, it’s the first time I’ve written a book from three different characters perspective, because normally, well in both of these, this was from Ellie’s, this one from Rory’s, but this one is three separate strands of three women who are all in Paris, and they all kind of know each other in different ways, all in Paris for one weekend, for different reasons, and they’re all at a point in their life where something, you know, they’ve got a problem, something that needs fixing. So we start with Kate, who’s a mother of young children, who just decides on a whim to get on the train, on the Eurostar, to go visit her friend Shannon, who lives in Paris, who’s the second character. On the train on the way to Paris she gets chatting to a young woman called Laura, and Laura is actually going to have a sales meeting as well, so other connections between them. But they’ve all got their own separate issue which needs resolving, but that’s in structural edits at the moment. So it’s finished, I’m just finishing, this weekend finishing the structural edits so go back and it’ll go through those so hopefully, well, that should be out in October.
Claire: Oh right, okay, fantastic.
Emma: So that’s really exciting, and then after that really will very much depend on what happens with Bookouture, whether I’m offered another contract, whether I need to go looking, you know selling myself again and around the circuit. I’d love to do another Undercover Mother, I’d love to do Undercover Mother-
Claire: Mmmm, so there’s more to do with this one?
Emma: Definitely, I see, yeah, definitely I think, I think at least two I’d like to do. The second one, when the babies are two, I’ve already got in my head, so that one I could, I could, you know, I’m desperate to get writing, and then I figure there could be one when they all go to school as well, at least-
Claire: Oh, wouldn’t that be fun
Emma: Yeah, because there’s obviously a lot there-
Claire: A lot of growing up
Emma: Yeah absolutely. So it will depend on what happens next, I’ll speak to my publisher and see, but an awful lot of the reviews for Undercover Mother were “we want to know what happens to the girls next”
Claire: Yeah, yeah, it’s almost like you know, you have to write another one!
Emma: So I’m really hoping, but you with your, with Shona (Book we are currently writing – out this year) and now it’s made my mind chew over maybe a prequel as well might be quite fun. How Jenny got to meet Dan and get pregnant, so yeah, who knows. But yeah, that’s what I’d like to do next. And then after that, I’ve still got a few… I kind of feel like the Mum thing is something I’m still… there’s lots of facets I want to explore. Because I do feel, without getting too heavy about it, there’s a lot of pressure, on Mums now, I think to be everything to everybody.
Claire: To be literally the perfect Mum, the perfect Office Worker, the perfect Executive-
Emma: Yeah, exactly. And I think there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure. And women put a lot of pressure on themselves as well. I know for myself, I think, oh my kids don’t do enough clubs, or they don’t do this, or they’re not eating organic strawberries, or you know, whatever it is, and I just feel there’s lots of things that maybe I haven’t suffered personally but I know friends who have. Like I know a lot of people who found the first year or two of motherhood a very, very lonely time. And a time in which they had, you know, a new anxiety that they’d never had before, and I think there’s a lot of actually, a lot of shared experience there about things that people don’t talk about. And that’s how I felt with Undercover Mother, no one talks about childbirth. No one talks about things that could go wrong, because there’s this conspiracy of silence
Claire: Yeah, don’t want to make it look like it’s not, or they’re not happy in there
Emma: Yeah, and you’re literally told, if a woman’s pregnant, oh don’t tell her, don’t tell her what it’s like, and I think, actually I wanted to know!
Claire: No, deep down they want to know what’s gone on.
Emma: They want to be prepared.
Claire: Yeah, it’s a bit like depression, because nobody really talks about-
Emma: Absolutely. Exactly the same.
Claire: -because nobody talks about the day in, day out, of how it feels to not want to go out the house, but with motherhood it’s like no one really wants to tell the stories that could potentially make you look weak.
Claire: Yet everyone, in some way, probably feels really weak at some point, but has to pretend to be strong, and try and show this, like, outwardly strong persona.
Claire: If you were to write a book like that, people’d be laughing while they’re reading, going oh my God, finally, someone’s telling the truth.
Emma: Exactly. And that’s kind of what I wanted to do with this, and successive books, is just because, when I grew up my parents, it was very much if something was bad, you kind of tried to find a way to laugh at it. And I feel like that with this. Through comedy, I kinda want to explore actually we’re all, this is all of us, we are all feeling like this, or most of us are feeling like this, that we’re inadequate, or we’re not doing it right, or everyone else is doing it better and everyone else’s kid has better behaved or is walking quicker or is, you know, reciting the guardian [06:43]. You know, you kind of, there’s so much pressure, and I think, for me I’ve always been lucky to have a massive amount of really lovely girlfriends, that I can go to and be really honest, and say this is what’s happening to me right now-
Claire: There you go, there’s your story!
Claire: There it is, here’s your five characters.
Emma: Exactly. Exactly, and I think some women don’t have that. They don’t necessarily have that support network. Especially nowadays, I’m getting on my soap box a bit now, but a lot of people don’t even live near their families anymore.
Emma: So you know, you’re out there, having a baby, on your own. You know, your Mum’s a hundred miles away, you’ve not necessarily got a local support network, I think can be really lonely, and that’s something that I definitely want to explore in another book, about how, you know, about how that feels. And about how you can kind of, maybe resolve that, and trying to do that in a humorous way as well, I don’t know, but that’s kinda the sort of stuff that’s in my head at the moment.
Claire: Yeah. And sometimes maybe people read it, and go, d’you know what? There’s other people out there, who are feeling like they need that kind of, like that, bringing it to real life.
Emma: Yeah! And I think, I’ve heard people say, you know, I go to baby groups and everyone knows everybody and I feel like it’s not me, and I think we’re all just faking it.
Claire: And no one really lets their guard down. They all go to these baby groups, to Facebook them, oh went to baby group today, and you actually want to go to a baby group where everyone just closes the door and goes d’you know what, I’m really, really fed up today.
Claire: I’ve just fallen over at sports day, the bake sale that I’d prepared for has all fallen through, and you just want reality, warts and all for people to just say d’you know what-
Claire: And I always find as well, the person that looks like they’re perfect, everyone hates anyway. Everyone moans about. So do you really want to be that person that everyone’s like d’you know what, actually (shakes head)
Emma: I don’t trust her, she’s too perfect.
Claire: Josie down the road, she’s terrible, can’t be in the room with her. And yet everyone is trying to emulate this person?
Emma: Yeah, yeah it’s true.
Claire: Yeah, so that’d be a really good story though.
Emma: Yeah, I’d love to, I really would love to explore that. So I do think, and there’s other things as well, there’s so many facets of that, I think I’m not ready to leave, yeah I’d like… you know Happily Never After is a bit more traditional, but it’s still that whole Mother/Daughter relationship.
Claire: But it’s still got your tones, where it’s still got your… your take on things. Like Undercover Mother is absolutely hilarious, it’s just the dryness of everything that… you’re just like oh my God, that’s exactly… exactly! That’s exactly how it feels, and she’s nailed that, it’s like that feeling.
Emma: Thank you.
Claire: And then it’s the same with Happily Never After, it’s the tone that you bring to it that makes everyone go this is actually, do you know what this is actually really, really good because we’re, we’re feeling this, we can like hide in this book and go-
Emma: Thank you so much!
Claire: But yeah, so in terms of other writers then, there’re other writers, authors, people that’re bringing out similar styles but who do you kind of look up to, and respect as well when you’re reading?
Emma: Yeah, I would say, for humour, and characterization in humour, I love Marian Keyes. I think I’ve read her for years, and similar to me in a lot of ways. I think when I read her early books was when I was single, so things like Watermelon, and some of the early ones, are like single girls and so on, and some of the later ones, I’ve just read The Break recently, and she’s obviously the mother of grown up children, so I guess as she’s grown up, her characters have grown up to, and I feel like kind of, I can really empathise with that. But also, just her humour, I mean I read a bit at the beginning of The Break, and there was actually a moment where I did actually laugh out loud. You know, I was reading it and I kind of, you know you do that kind of cough laugh-
Claire: Yeah, because you’re not expecting it.
Emma: Yeah, absolutely, it was hilarious. So I love her, I think she’s just brilliant. I just love her characters, and she does this clever thing where she’ll write a story about a character, and then you get four successive books exploring other characters’ stories in the novel and I really like that. And so her, and Jojo Moyes I think is amazing-
Emma: I mean, I know she’s famous for Me Before You, which is an incredible book-
Claire: And all the ones that came after that.
Emma: Yeah, and all of those which are incredible, but she’s also written an awful lot of historical fiction as well which is really good, and again, characters that you really care about. And I think for me, it’s often character driven. That’s why I loved your book so much. You know, characters, even if they’re outside of your experience, you can empathise and engage with them and you’re on their side, and I think I love that in a book. And then the third one for plot, or characters as well but for plot, is Liane Moriarty, who’s an Australian or New Zealander, I think Australian writer, and I love her books. So like Big Little Lies, which is probably her most famous, but I first came across her when she wrote a book called What Alice Forgot, which was about a woman who had lost her memory, and suddenly had these children and everything that she, you know, had no memory of, and she kind of had to work out her life again. And I just love the plotting of hers, she has this really clever way of just building in these kind of gentle twists. Not as big as like a psychological thriller, but really good twists in the story and I love reading her books too. So I’d say, all female writers interestingly, but yeah, they’re the three modern writers. And then I’m a big literary fan of people like Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte –
Claire: Yeah, timeless aren’t they. Especially teaching.
Emma: Yeah. You get to have a book on a different level really when you’re teaching.
Claire: Yeah, because you’re looking at a different era, you’re looking at hundreds of years ago, but the characters, it all comes back to the characters, they’re still human people that you are identifying with-
Claire: No matter how many years and years and years have gone, and like the rich and poor. My Mum’s a massive fan of like Catherine Cookson-
Emma: Yes, yeah.
Claire: And all those types of like working class.
Emma: Yeah, and it takes you to an era that…
Claire: It does, yeah, but it reminds you that everyone is fallible as well, everyone is human, everyone goes through similar experiences, even if time doesn’t sort of stay the same.
Emma: Absolutely. And I think that’s the thing, human experience is human experience, and I’ve found that with this, Undercover Mother, I’ve had two or three mothers of friends, who read it because they know me, but didn’t expect, you know they thought it’s kind of the younger mothers type book, and actually they said it’s so, it’s exactly the same, you know.
Claire: Yeah, well Vic’s Mum has read it, and she’s obviously in her sixties now, and I mean one of the best compliments that Vic’s Mum gave us, when she read our book, was she went “it’s a book, innit! It’s a real book!” And we’re like, yeah, it’s a real book. It was like, I’m glad you see that.
Emma: I know, I love it when that happens. I had a friend, a really good friend said to me “Do you know what, I was reading your book, and I kept forgetting it was you and thinking it was a real writer!” (laughs)
Claire: Yeah! A real writer!
Emma: And then she realised what she had said and kind of, but it was a massive compliment.
Claire: I would’ve been just like, I know what you mean.
Emma: Because we don’t feel like real writers. I’m assuming you’re the same as me, like I always feel like I’m faking it.
Claire: Sometimes, yeah. Because when you go to your daily job, and you love your day job and you love everyone there, but then you go home and you write, and you’re in, you’re on your computer thinking, I’ve got a book out on Amazon.
Emma: I know! It’s crazy. Crazy.
Claire: Yeah. Okay, so, thank you so much for doing this interview.
Emma: You’re very welcome.
Claire: So tell us a little bit of info on about how we can find you on social media, on your Twitter, what your book blog is, so we can sort of find you.
Emma: That’d be great. So my blog is called Motherhood for Slackers. And it’s, because that’s me, I’m a slacker Mum. But yeah, so it’s, it’s all the kind of funny side of being a parent [14:04], and multiple poems on there as well in the kind of Pam Ayers style of poetry. Again, hopefully humorous, and about being a Mum. So I’ve got that, but even easier than that is to find the Facebook page of the same name, so I’ve got a Facebook Page Motherhood for Slackers too. I’m also on Instagram as, Instagram’s new for me, it’s @EmmaRobinsonUK. That is how you do it isn’t it, the @-
Claire: Yeah, you put the @ sign and then-
Emma: So @EmmaRobinsonUK, and my Twitter’s the same.
Claire: Okay. Well we’ll make sure we put all of the links in the description, so yeah, that’ll be there for us as well. Thank you so much, and I really wish you the best with not only Happily Never After and The Undercover Mother, but also with the next book that’s coming out as well. Just remind us of the title?
Emma: It’s something Paris, I haven’t the title confirmed, yeah, something Paris.
Claire: Something Paris. We’re not quite… okay.
Emma: At the moment it’s Find Me In Paris, but there is talk of some other titles, so, but yeah, it will be about the extreme [14:59], I’m assuming there’s going to be a Parisian theme to the cover as well because I love Paris, so that’ll be lovely.
Claire: Well, we’ll make sure to look out for it.
Emma: Thank you very much. And thanks for coming. It’s been lovely.
Watch the interview here: https://youtu.be/z2-Z0DXDxCo
Buy ‘The Undercover Mother’ here: https://amzn.to/2KyVQKY
Buy ‘Happily Never After’ here: https://amzn.to/2vDMKqK
Thank you for reading,