Emily Edwards is an up-and-coming British author you should definitely have your eye on, with her latest book, The Herd, having been named as one of Cosmopolitan’s must reads of 2022 and a film adaptation on the way.
A former support worker for sex workers in London, Edwards took a writing course in 2012 and from there managed to make her way into the world of writing books. Her first novel, If You Knew Her, was published in 2017 and translated into eight languages.
We interviewed Edwards from her home in East Sussex to find out more about how she got into writing and why she has a “strange” relationship with her first two books.
When Edwards’ grandfather passed away and left her the exact amount of money she needed to attend a writing course at the Faber Academy in London, he writing journey began.
Becoming a full-time writer seemed very far off when she first got started, but she said it’s not as unachievable a goal as you may think: “I’ve always loved reading, but felt it was pretty audacious to say I wanted to be a writer, it was the sort of thing I would take the piss out of and joke about with friends.
“I think writing is one of those professions that is all myth, often perpetrated by the writers themselves.
“Those myths that its unattainable in some way, I don’t think that’s true.
“My advice would be don’t not try something because it’s a hard thing to do, just because its hard doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a go.”
Edwards latest book, The Herd, is about Elizabeth and Bryony – two mum best friends who have polar opposite ideas about how to raise their children.
These differences come to a boiling point when it comes to the topic of vaccines. So what inspired Edwards to write about such a polarising topic?
She said: “I write about stuff I want to learn more about, because if I’m committing to spending years on a subject matter, then I better be bloody interested in it.
“I’ve got two young kids, four and two, it was a big chat when they were born, and still is.
“We’re lucky our kids are healthy, and we have chosen to vaccinate them.
“But talking to parents whose kids have a life limiting condition, for them the choice whether to vaccinate or not, in terms of protecting their children, is incredibly serious and important.”
When it comes to reading habits, Edwards is an avid consumer of more modern literature, but admits she struggles with the classics, especially after having to read them for A Level.
“An author who has been with me my whole life is Barbara Kingsolver, she wrote the Poisonwood Bible, and her new book, Demon Copperhead, is bloody brilliant.
“I like big meaty American writers like Jonathan Franzen and Curtis Sittenfeld.
“To be honest I’m not very good with the classics, I wouldn’t read Shakespeare for pleasure.
“I did English A Level, after that I was a bit like urgh, I’m done being told what to read.”
In terms of reading recommendations, Edwards thinks more people should read Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s The Home Maker.
“It absolutely blew me away, its set in the 1920s and is only a slim thing.
“It’s extraordinary when you find a voice or a character that even though a book came out 100 years ago it still resonates with your experience today.
“There’s something very hopeful about that almost.
“It’s going to sound a bit wanky, but experiences like that transcend time.”
Looking back on her first two books, Edwards admits she has a strange relationship when them, as she felt she had to write about crime.
“It was the post Gone Girl era, everyone wanted female crime fiction, I had this idea for my first book (If You Knew Her) and basically worked on it with the publisher to make it more of a crime book.
“And then my second book (Grace is Gone) was like prove you can do it again, write another.
“Now when I look back at those first two books I really cringe.
“I don’t even open them, I don’t ever look at them, because I just feel like I was writing a bit to numbers, I knew what they wanted from me and I was pregnant as well, it was all a bit overwhelming.
“It feels quite cathartic talking about it.
“And now, The Herd and my fourth book are much more the sort of books I want to write.”
Emily lives in Lewes, East Sussex with her endlessly patient husband and her two endlessly energetic young sons.
The inspiration for The Herd came when she was eight months pregnant with her first son, and her husband and their vaccine-hesitant doula had an impassioned ‘debate’ about vaccination in their garden. As she sat there with her hands over her huge stomach listening to them both, Emily realized this was an issue which impacts us all and that it would make a brilliant topic for a novel.
Arthur is a journalism student at The University of Sheffield. As well as being a founding member of BLOT, he has also written for Forge Press, Sheff Central and One2Football. His hobbies include climbing, going to gigs and of course, reading.
Favourite genres: Magical Realism and Historical Fiction.