Saturday, 22 July 2017

Publication week - events, a blog tour, and No. 1 in Foyles Briz!

The doors to THE THOUSAND LIGHTS HOTEL are now officially open! Welcome to Elba, one and all. It's an emotional feeling, knowing that the book I was writing here...

... is now here!

I marked publication day with a launch at Foyles in Bristol, where I wheeled out my best Melamine and much Prosecco was drunk. Editor of Italia! Magazine, Amanda Robinson, kindly hosted the evening (who I also had to thank for a fab review and interview in this month's issue) and I'm grateful to everyone who came and helped send the book on its way in such warm and merry style.

With my husband Bobby, pulling what I *think* is his proud face...

The following week I headed to London for an event at Notting Hill's Book + Kitchen, an absolute gem of a bookshop that feels like you're walking into somebody's very cool, eclectic home (with excellently stocked shelves, mind). Big thanks to dear friend Kate Haines, who organised and hosted, and to all who came down, it was truly a memorable night. 

The last two weeks have also seen me head off on a Blog Tour (desk-bound travel; no vast buses or barroom riders), organised by my fab publicist at Headline, Millie Seaward. I'm really grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the bloggers who took part, hosting guest pieces, Q&As and reviews. Thank you to the blogs Have Books Will Read, Short Book and Scribes, and Brew and Books Review for the wonderful reviews. And thank you to Linda's Book Bag for the beautifully thoughtful interview questions (read here) and The Book Trailer (read here) as part of their ace Authors on Location series. The blog tour also gave me the opportunity to write a number of guest posts, which proved to be a gratifying way of reflecting on aspects of my process, and the writing journey I'd been on with this novel. The Thousand Lights Hotel feels dearer to me than ever after writing these pieces...

For I wrote about finding, and holding onto, the spirit of your story - and you can read it here. It felt cathartic to look back over the months of writing and rewriting (and, misty-eyed, remember the Chemical Brothers' earworm...). 

For Kath Eastman's Nut Press I wrote about why 'place' is so important to me as a writer - and in doing so realised for the first time that maybe it's all about mortality (isn't everything?) - you can read it here

For My Reading Corner I wrote about the role of food in The Thousand Lights Hotel, and how cooking and eating played such a part in its writing - you can read it here

For the blog From First Page to Last I wrote about some of my favourite hotels in fiction, and why I think hotels make for such intriguing settings - you can read it here

And for Trip Fiction I wrote about the very first journey I made to Elba, back in 2003, and how it was the start of an enduring love affair with the island - you can read it here (guest post follows the review). 

What else? In further reviews, the Express' S Magazine said it was 'a powerful story of grief, family, and self-discovery with a magical sense of place and beautiful storytelling'. And Italia! Magazine called it 'wonderfully evocative', and a 'riveting story'.  In the same issue of Italia! there's an interview with me about the novel and Elba - thank you again to Amanda Robinson for that.

Meanwhile my short story, Light Years, appeared in S Magazine on sunday 15th. You can read it online here. It's set on Elba during the annual Lovers' Festival at Innamorata...

I ran a Twitter competition to win an *exclusive* Thousand Lights Hotel apron (featuring the beauteous aperitivo graphic designed by Esther Curtis), Aperol sweets, and a signed copy of the novel... and was pleased that the prize went to Mary Marshall in Ireland.

Amidst it all I slipped home to my parents' place in Devon, and we had a lovely celebratory lunch, Hotel Mille Luci style. I made my favourite salad of nectarines, mozzarella, and air-cured ham, homemade pesto & roast chicken pasta, and dear old Torta della nonna (a dish that plays a key part in the book, and is the subject of an upcoming story in the People's Friend).

Finally, it was a joy to pop into Foyles in Bristol's Cabot Circus and see that THE THOUSAND LIGHTS HOTEL was their top seller for the week! A moment in the sun, that I had to snap for posterity. I'm a big fan of the Local Author sticker the book's sporting too...

Such thanks to everyone who's made publication feel so special. I was very happy to have my agent Rowan, and editor Leah from Headline with me for the Book + Kitchen night, and Lucy and Liane from Furniss Lawton too; thank you so much. All my author friends who came out to celebrate or sent their well wishes (and who know better than anyone how simultaneously wonderful and weird this particular time feels). The bloggers and readers who've reviewed and shown great support. And my lovely friends, and family, who are always so immensely good at cheering. My little son gave me a 'Happy Book Day' card with this Miffy picture, chosen all by himself - what could be more perfect? Maybe I should write my first drafts in sunshine-yellow pencil from now on... it might just be good luck.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Final Countdown - and pre publication happenings

It's Publication Week at last*! THE THOUSAND LIGHTS HOTEL will be out on Thursday the 13th, and I'll be having at LEAST one of these to celebrate ...

*Slightly inaccurate - the eBook was in fact published on the 1st July, sneaking out early with a special price of just 99p (!) on Kindle ... At that price? DIVE IN!

It's such a delight to have a finished copy in my hand - the colours POP, ah that Aperol orange sunset! - and I'm very grateful to wonderful authors Lucy Diamond, Veronica Henry, Lucy Clarke, and Rosanna Ley, whose generous words appear on the book ...

The days and weeks leading up to publication are always nerve-wracking, so I've been *very* happy with the reviews the novel's so far been getting. It's one of Red Magazine's Best Beach Reads, described as 'an emotional, evocative novel about guilt, grief and belonging,' and makes Gransnet's Best Summer Reads list too. Prima magazine calls it 'a delightful summer read', Woman & Home say 'vivid, atmospheric, and heart-breaking', and it received a gorgeous five-star review in the Express - 'a glorious, sun-drenched story' and 'an intoxicating novel' (full review here).

I've been blown away by reviews from Book Bloggers too - Linda Hill at Linda's Book Bag called it 'gorgeously crafted' and 'exceptional' - review here. Mary Mayfield blogging at Our Book Reviews says it's 'a book to treasure' - review here. Lucy Pearson over at The Unlikely Bookworm writes of the 'melodic prose and evocative sense of place' - review here. Janine Jewell at Jewell Books says 'beautifully written with a serene backdrop' - review here.  Zarina at Page to Stage Reviews writes of 'the pure magic of Emylia's words' - review here. Meanwhile Joanne D'arcy, blogging at The Book Jotter, wrote 'if there was ever a book that seriously made me want to go and visit a place, this was it' - review here. Next week I'll be off on a blog tour with THE THOUSAND LIGHTS HOTEL, with guest posts on topics ranging from writing place, researching Elba, ripping it up and starting again, and the part Italian food played in my writing process - watch this space.

I was thrilled to write a piece for The Guardian about Elba, as part of their Why I Love ... series. You can read it here

And I was interviewed by the excellent magazine Bristol 24/7 - you can read that here.

This Thursday I'll be launching the novel at the fabulous Foyles here in Bristol, with aperitivo and much bookish chat (event details here). I'll be in conversation with the editor of Italia! Magazine - Amanda Robinson. And I've my talented sister-in-law, designer Esther Curtis, to thank for the mouthwatering invitation ...

I'm also excited to be heading to the very cool Notting Hill Book + Kitchen on 20th July, to talk all things Thousand Lights, hosted by dear friend, freelance editor and Italophile Kate Haines. Details of that event can be found here.  

Whew. Here endeth the update! I'm extremely grateful to many people who've made the run-up to publication feel happy and sun-filled - it's a strange time, one that's full of anticipation and pride but, also, anxiousness. I've been so grateful for the book love on Twitter, from fellow authors and enthusiastic readers. For the friends who've pre-ordered and are helping me celebrate the launch. For my family who've only ever cheered me on. And for my ever supportive agent and publisher. Grazie mille. Roll on Thursday, when the Hotel Mille Luci opens its doors to welcome all who care to spend a week on Isola d'Elba. Benvenuto! 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The countdown to summer

Now that Easter is behind us, it's all about the countdown to summer, right? Enjoying those lighter and brighter evenings, the simple pleasure of leaving the house without a coat, seeing if last year's flip-flops are still up to standard (and treating yourself to some spanking brand new ones anyway)... And, for me, feeling the mix of trepidation and anticipation that goes with the publication of a new book: three months to go!

It's already up on Amazon (HERE), where some early readers - members of the Vine programme - are leaving some very nice reviews. There's also a collection of quotes from fellow authors who've read a proof of the book (listed within the 'product description' section) - and I'm blown away by the loveliness, and generosity, of their words.

To mark this very sunny start, I've wheeled out my Elba souvenir mug and brought some blooms. I hope you'll come with me to the island of Elba this summer... 

Friday, 31 March 2017

The book (or close) is here

After months and months and months of planning, writing, and rewriting, of scribbles in notebooks, shifting words around on screen, and squinting over printed pages, my book is... here!* Well, proofs, anyway, which - after the aforementioned months and months - feel ever so close to the real thing. It's a joy to hold it in my hand for the first time. Big thanks to Headline for making it look so beautiful. 

And for a closer look at that sumptuous cover...

How to celebrate this new arrival? With an Aperol Spritz, of course, while staring into the sunset.  
*It'll actually be here on 13th July...  

Sunday, 9 October 2016

New novel out summer 2017

I'm very happy to be able to tell you both the title of my new novel, and its publication date here in the UK (out with Headline).

*drum roll*

13th July 2017

It's set on the Italian island of Elba, and is a story told through three people - Kit, Valentino, and Oliviero (guest, hotelier, and chef, respectively). It's a novel full of food, landscape, love, loss, and summer heat.

Since the earliest draft of The Thousand Lights Hotel two quotes have sat at the start of the manuscript, capturing the flavour of the story to come.

‘If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.’
Emily Dickinson

Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.’
Inscribed on the wall of Shakespeare and Company, Paris
- attributed to W.B. Yeats

I can't wait to introduce you to The Thousand Lights Hotel next summer. For now, here's a pictorial aperitivo, to whet your appetite, I hope...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wished I was here - and I was

June! How did it get to June?! Back in December I said I was hunkering down for the winter, taking a holiday from pretty much everything except my new novel (channelling snow season days)… Now the sun is out, and so is my book - well, a first draft delivered into the hands of my editor and agent - so I figure I should be too. HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?

Want to see where I've spent the last six months? Figuratively, at least. It's nearly a year since I was actually on the island of Elba. Maybe this time next year I'll be able to take you there too.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The mountains are calling (and I must go)

Ten years ago, almost to the day, we left to spend the winter in the mountains. One snow season turned into two, so happy were we in the great wide open. I’ve written about this time before - how it was thanks to snowboarding that I started writing, and how, actually, snowboarding isn’t so very different to writing – but this post? This post is about doing it all again.

But figuratively. And that’s the kicker (not an actual kicker, the like of which I once enjoyed*…)

*Gratuitous airborne shot 

This winter I'm going to work hard to imagine that I’m back once again in that bright, white world; a place of freedom and focus and soul-lifting energy. I need it, and I think my writing needs it. There’s nothing new about a writer tearing up their work-in-progress first draft, just as there’s nothing rare about a person struggling to juggle parental responsibilities with, well, just about everything else, but… this is the first time I’m experiencing the two in tandem. Stepping sideways, just like I did a decade ago, feels like the way to go. I want to look at the mountain that’s before me, and tingle with anticipation. I want to keep the kind of focus you need when you’re hurtling down a powder field, watching out for crevasses or tree wells or rogue rocks, but with looseness in your body and joy in your heart. Maintain that fine balance of control and abandon. Fall down and get back up again. 

So for the next few months my fourth book and I are heading to the mountains. In mind, if not in body. My hut at the bottom of the garden can, in the right light, sort of pass for an alpine refuge. It’ll be the opposite of hibernating in many respects - writing and flying, wind in my hair - except perhaps the digital one (Twitter & Co won’t be coming with me on my winter trip). I hope to see you on the other side, with plenty of words (and rather less chance of broken bones).

Stay warm. Stay cool. May your festive season, and beyond, be merry and bright.

Love Emylia X    

Friday, 4 December 2015

Top Ten, Woo Hoo

BIG THANKS to the estimable review site The Bookbag, who've listed The Sea Between Us as one of their Top Ten Women's Fiction Books of 2015. I'm chuffed to be in such grand company (Judy Blume!) - you can see the list HERE, and read the review in full HERE. 'The prose is an art-form in itself' is a line that will keep me smiling for quite some time.

I recently did a Q&A over at the lovely Jera's Jamboree - talking writing surf scenes, stealing work time, and teaching writing - you can read that HERE.

I also chatted to Susan over at The Book Trail - a blog that places the settings and locations of novels front and centre - and you can read that interview HERE

Meanwhile, thank you to any readers who've posted a review of The Sea Between Us somewhere online. I love THIS ONE from a Waterstones Bookseller in Truro, and there are some absolute belters on Amazon. Happy days.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Beach shoot

Earlier in the autumn I met Sarah Pitt from the Western Morning News. It was a bright and blustery morning in St Ives, and we had coffee and cake at the beach cafe on Porthmeor as I told her all about The Sea Between Us and the inspiration behind it. The article came out in October, and is online HERE. It's a great piece from Sarah, so many thanks to her - and I was chuffed we made the cover…

The photographer on the day was Victoria Walker, and I loved her style - suggesting I kick through waves and clamber over weed-covered rocks. It was a lot of fun, and the pictures turned out great, the beach itself the undoubted star of the show. When the wind whipped the clouds away we were treated to brief moments of blue skies and Victoria was quick off the mark to catch them. Just look at the luminosity of the water in that first picture! The fabled St Ives light in all its glory. That morning, with so few people about, Porthmeor had a wild edge to it (despite the water being flat as a mirror) and I'm so glad we were there to capture it. Big thanks, Victoria and Sarah Xx

Picture credit: 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Novelicious Book Club pick - and thank you to bloggers

I'm thrilled that Novelicious - the fabulous women's fiction website and community - have chosen The Sea Between Us as this month's Book Club read. If you'd like to read along and get involved in the discussion, then head HERE to find out what to do. On the 27th October at 8pm there'll be a live Book Club chat on Twitter, with the hashtag #NoveliciousBookClub 
Happy Reading, y'all…

I thought it'd be an appropriate moment to gather together some of the wonderful blogger reviews of late. I'm truly grateful for the support the book's enjoyed, particularly from people who have such teetering TBRs, and who do all their reviewing in their precious spare time. So in no particular order…

Louise Jones, blogging at TheBookBag - review here 
Lucy Pearson, blogging at TheUnlikelyBookworm - review here
Mary Mayfield, blogging at OurBookReviews - review here 
Linda Hill, blogging at LindasBookBag - review here 
Joanne D'Arcy, blogging at JosBookJourney - review here 
Janine Jewell, blogging at JewellBooks - review here 
Zarina de Ruiter, blogging at PagetoStageReviews - review here 


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dear Tim Winton

The good folks over at Novelicious have a lovely segment on their site - Literary Love Letters - where writers can pen a missive to their bookish heart's desire. Mine? Tim Winton. You can read it HERE.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015


I’ve just returned from a week teaching for Arvon at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire. I took an Arvon course myself in 2008, and one of my tutors back then was Patrick Neate. I was working alongside Patrick this time, and for a nostalgic sap like me, well… let’s just say that set the tone for a pretty special week.

If it’s possible, I loved returning to Arvon to teach even more than I loved being there the first time around. Preparing for my workshops forced me to stop and think about process and craft in a way that’s easy to blast past when you’re entrenched in your own work. I realised I was re-inspiring myself - even before I got to Lumb Bank I was grateful, once again, for Arvon. It’s a privilege to be taken into the confidence of someone – the sharing, the listening, the discussion, what we write and why we write and who we write for – because even if we haven’t fully realised it ourselves yet, writing is about as personal as it gets. Last week it felt as though everyone at Lumb Bank gave it their all, and isn’t that as much as you could ever ask? I had a moment in a workshop when I looked around at those fifteen writers, their heads bent, pens touching paper – each of us wholly separate, but bound in the moment – and, I thought, you know what, right now, there’s no place on earth I’d rather be.

For over forty years Arvon has been giving people ‘the time and space to write’. For me, as a tutor, it offered the time and space (even amidst the busy workshop & tutorial schedule) to remember why I write. Something that can be all too easily forgotten when you’re chasing deadlines, and fretting book promo. When the thing that once felt to you extraordinary and precious is in danger of becoming, just sometimes, a little too much everyday. In fact, that was the very last written exercise that I set the group. Why Do You Write?  The looks on some people’s faces as they put down their pens showed that some kind of understanding, one that might previously have proved elusive, had been reached. Me? I know why I write. I write because life’s too amazing to live just once. Because somehow we’ve been gifted hearts and minds that permit us to transcend the order of things, so why wouldn’t we want to see where that takes us (even if, sometimes, it turns out to be just three streets over, drinking coffee instead of tea)? I write because it’s time travel, it’s hurtling through place and space, it’s kissing the one who got away, or the one you never knew existed. It’s the button that came off your skirt one day when you were five years old, and knowing that that button mattered – maybe because your mother sewed it on and she’s not around any more, or maybe because she is here but you don’t see enough of her, or maybe, actually, everything’s pretty fine between you and your mother, but for some reason you still find yourself caring about that button… In a world where even the things we think we have a good grip on tend to have a habit of, sooner or later, slipping away, writing them down feels like the one practical, magical thing that we can do to hold on tight. That’s why I write. It just took this week – with one other tutor, one guest, fifteen writers, centre staff and their dogs, together in a grand old house on the side of a hill – to remind me. And for that, dear Arvon, I’m eternally grateful.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A trip out west

I'm writing this from my hut. The wind blows hard down this line of back gardens, so on a blustery day like today I'm working to the tune of whistling and rustling  - the silver birch I can see from my window is caught in a swaying dance, while some other form of robust shrub is tapping against the wooden wall. Close my eyes, and I can fancy I'm on a cliff-top. I can hear the push and pull of the tide, its gusting roar. Open my eyes and the coast is still there - my desk has a new scattering of shells, gathered from Porthmeor and Sennen Cove, and my flip-flops (worn persistently) probably still carry the faintest traces of sand in their tread. New postcards are taped to my wall, souvenirs from seaside galleries. I'm just returned from a week's holiday in Cornwall. It was a trip that was the perfect mix of business and pleasure, thanks to it falling so close to the launch of The Sea Between Us. Here are my (Busman's) Holiday snaps, and a few words to go with them.

The excellent Waterstones Truro was our first stop in Cornwall - where I was thrilled to spot this poster. I signed a heap of books, while my little son oohed and aahed at their particularly colourful and inviting children's section. It was great to meet Libby too, and I'm grateful for their brilliant support for the book.

The Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance, a town that features in my novel, was next. I signed another grand stack (thank you, guys!), while around me the shop buzzed with book buyers. James and Rachael have created a wonderful place, and it was inspiring to hear their story of settling in the west and setting up shop. 

Next to The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, a hotel I stayed at on a writing retreat while working on The Sea Between Us. Their support has been amazing, buying copies of the book to go in guest rooms, selling it in reception, and choosing it as their first title for the brand new Old Coastguard Book Club (thank you Alice!). We ate good food, drank great wine, CJ charged about the palm-tree filled garden, and later we sank into bed feeling full and happy.

The next morning, after a stop-off at Sennen Cove for a windy beach walk (another location in my novel), we took the stunning road that runs around the north coast and across the moorland. The west at its wildest. 

Thanks to the fortuitous spotting of a postcard at The Old Coastguard I'd discovered Kurt Jackson had a newly opened gallery in St Just. Jackson is one of my favourite artists, and I talk about him in the essay I wrote for the back pages of The Sea Between Us. I've several of his books at home, and when desk-bound in Bristol I'd stare into his seascapes to feel again the energy of the water, and try to put into words what he does so magnificently with a paintbrush.

The Foundation was a beautiful space, and full of yet more beautiful work. I was thrilled to meet Kurt's daughter Zinzi at the gallery, and - somewhat bashfully - left her with a copy of my novel. After that happy encounter we had *amazing* cake and coffee in a cafe around the corner. CJ was more than content with his portion. I think I want to move to St Just.

Our destination was St Ives, and we'd never approached it from this angle before. While still amidst rocks and ferns and rugged moorland we saw a sign that said St Ives 2 miles, then we were upon it, the glitter of water, the slate and granite glinting silver in the sun. We oohed and ahhed at the sight of the town, in the way of children catching their first glimpse of the sea. Our home for the week was on a hillside behind the Tate, our 3rd stay in the same cottage, and just seconds from one of my favourite beaches in the world - Porthmeor. 

I wrote a piece for the WHSmith blog about writing as an extreme sport, and in it I mention bodyboarding, and messing about in the shallows with the pre-schoolers. We got some pretty big waves this week in St Ives, and while I'm a novice there was much whooping at waves caught, and some proper face-riding too. We went out every day, and it was altogether more thrilling than my one attempt at paddleboarding (something I've always fancied) - though admittedly 25mph gusts and choppy seas didn't make for the best (i.e. pretty treacherous) learning conditions - I stayed the course of the lesson but BOY were there moments when I wanted to chuck in the towel (or, rather, go running for one).

St Ives is home to a fabulous indie, St Ives Bookseller, and it was a real pleasure to meet Alice and her colleagues, and sign copies of the book (one of the benefits of staying locally was that when they sold out, I dropped in again and signed a new batch - woo hoo). I also picked up a couple of Cornish-set gems - I own a couple of different editions of Rebecca but couldn't resist this new one, and as to The Shell Seekers… I'm reading it now and it's utterly, utterly charming.

What else? CJ established himself as a total Beach Bum, never happier than when the water was in sight, his toes dug in the sand. We ate superlative paella at the Porthgwidden Beach Cafe (only my third evening out with my husband in 18 months… we were giddy). I scrambled through rock pools and braved slippery heights for a photo shoot one morning on the beach (for the Western Morning News - more on that soon). I had one of the best cakes ever at the West Beach Bakery - pumpkin and chocolate - gobbled down while still in my wetsuit early one brisk morning. I went to all my favourite galleries, and thought of Robyn in The Sea Between Us doing the same, her creative calling enlivened by everything about her, but most of all the ever-present sea. We saw the ocean early in the morning, where even in this town of dawn surfers and eager holidaymakers there was nobody else around save us and the gulls. We saw it in the dark, as it thundered on the beach, stones dragging and clattering. In full sunshine, the wind sending clouds speeding along the horizon line, white horses galloping towards the sand. Every time we had to leave the beach my little son turned and waved at the sea. For him it was a living thing, marvellous, ceaselessly entrancing, and deserving of his farewell. Plus, he really likes waving.

As holidays went, it was wonderful. As a trip to the spiritual home of a book I've written, one that's just published, the ink barely dry on the pages, it was… perfect - thanks to the brilliant support of booksellers, and the enthusiasm of people I met. Everywhere I looked the unending beauty of the coastline, and the beguiling mix of landscape, surf, and art, reminded me why I wanted to set a story there in the first place. The Emerson quote that The Sea Between Us begins with - live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air's salubrity - well, we channelled that all week. Even on this windy (now raining - torrentially) day in Bristol, I'm channeling it still.