Emily Deady grew up as an avid reader who hated writing. But one day she realised that most authors loved cats and tea, her two favourite things. So, she stopped fighting the inevitable and began to write. She loves a good romance, her real-life hero who patiently listens to all her plotlines, and hitting the trails for a light hike in sunny San Diego.
Author interview – Emily Deady
Hi Emily, thank you for carving out time for this interview! Could you tell us when you started writing, and why?
The simple answer? Twenty-four years old. The fun story answer? See below:
I went to university for film directing and producing, and I absolutely loved it. Filmmaking is a very social medium, and I loved collaborating with a team to create something beautiful. I also met this cute artist and animator who was really nerdy but incredibly skilled, dedicated, and kind-hearted. We started dating. I knew he loved books and art, so for that first Christmas I found a gift for him by googling ‘books for artists’. The top result was The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I remember looking at the book and thinking, ‘This looks really good, but I’m not an artist. I hope he likes it.’ He did.
By the time I finished with my degree, I was burnt out and sick, and did not have the stamina to get my friends together to keep creating short films. I found a job and watched jealously as my boyfriend spent his evenings creating and improving his skillsets on his own. I had no creative outlet and needed something I could do by myself, after work. I started outlining stories, as we had learned to do in screenwriting class. I scoured the internet and found inspiration images, creating presentations in Google slides that combined my story arcs with appropriate imagery. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.
I was so desperate to create. I had never considered myself an artist before, but I needed to become one. So, on a whim, I dashed out to the nearest bookstore and bought myself The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
That book changed my life.
I started following her ‘Morning Pages’ exercise and I spent one hundred days journaling for over thirty minutes every morning. The thing that kept popping up in my stream-of-consciousness handwriting was ‘I want to write stories. Books. Novels.’ I was still fairly sick, and for the first time, I craved creativity in solitude. I wanted to heal and create at the same time. So, I bought myself Scrivener, recalled all my screenwriting story tools, and began to write.
It’s been six years now, and no matter where my publishing journey ends up, writing will always stay with me.
That’s one hell of a journey! So, at what age did you take yourself seriously as a writer?
I still struggle to take myself seriously as a writer. Somewhere, deep down inside, I’m really proud of myself. But I absolutely struggle to say the actual words, ‘I’m an author.’
How long did it take you to write your first book?
Six weeks? I started it during NaNoWriMo 2017, and that external accountability really helped me to push myself. I finished the first draft two weeks after NaNo ended. I spent three months editing and rewriting it. It was fairly short, though. Just over the 50k word mark.
What was your last book about?
My last book was a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I changed the story so that it was Belle’s mansion that they stay at, and the Beast stumbles upon it and gets stuck there for a few weeks. It was fun to try and retain the beloved emotions of the fairy tale while still giving it my own twist.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently editing a Little Mermaid retelling. In this one, I took far more liberties with the original tale. This story was very close to my heart, in that I tried to explore the othering and demonisation in the safe context of my fantasy world. I had two characters who were from entirely different worlds and both had preconceived ideas and assumptions about the other. I’m sure my handling of these sensitive topics is not perfect, but it was good for me to wrestle those themes as I wrote the story.
What is your writing process like? Do you plot or do you just dive in? How many drafts do you go through before the work is final?
I LOVE this question. I am such a perfectionist. I started out writing with the most intense spreadsheet system that was forty columns down and five across and I wouldn’t let myself start writing until I’d filled in every box.
It was not fun. I stressed over every detail, trying to see the entire story perfectly in my head. The manuscripts I wrote from this method turned out convoluted and plot driven. The characters were flat and boring.
Knowing something had to change, I read Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark. This book also changed my life. The last few books I’ve written with no outline. I let myself germinate on an idea for a little while, feeling the excitement of the characters or location or a certain moment I’m imagining. Then, I jump right in, feeling out the world as I go. Most importantly, I have stopped relying on my head, and instead I have to trust my gut. I have to acknowledge that I have some skills as a storyteller and trust myself.
Now, writing is a magical process. I’m constantly stumbling across new things in my world or in my characters. If they change how the story is playing out, I immediately comb through everything I’ve written to that point and update it. My manuscript is constantly evolving because of that, but by the time I get to the end, I have a fairly clean draft that’s been through about fifteen iterations.
The other thing I love about this process is that I’m never bored. Instead of looking at my massive spreadsheet and trying to recall the magic I had weeks prior as I filled it out, I just start writing the most exciting moment I can think of for the story. If I start writing and I’m bored, I know my readers will be too. So, I delete the boring part and start over again.
As I continue to grow as a writer, I’ll probably find my own happy medium between plotting and pantsing, but I’m so happy I was able to let go of control enough to discover the magic in writing again.
I couldn’t agree more! I’m a converted pantser, but I never plot so rigorously that my story and characters can’t surprise me anymore. I love those moments when they suddenly say or do something and it all comes together in a way I hadn’t foreseen.
What do you struggle with most as a writer?
No joke. It’s debilitating. Why? I have no idea. I have beautiful printed books that I’m proud of with my name on the spine. I’ve received pay checks that made me cry because I never dreamed I could actually pay a bill with my words. I’ve received emails and reviews from readers who resonated with the story (these make me so happy! Turns out, writing isn’t solitary at all. Building a meaningful connection with my readers has been the most fulfilling part of all of this!).
But despite the laundry list of wins, I still sit down at my desk and freeze in complete self-doubt. It can go on for days, where I’m too terrified to write a single word. That single word might expose me as a fraud. What if I’ve peaked and everything I ever write again is so bad that everyone hates it?
What advice would you give to writers dealing with the same or similar struggle?
Well, I haven’t solved this one yet, but here’s a few things I’ve done that helped:
- Talk to someone about it. Shame is the feeling that you are so different from everyone else that they would despise you if they knew the real you. Usually, just telling my husband (the cute kid from college who I ended up marrying) breaks the cycle of shame and allows me to see my fears in perspective. Only do this with someone you trust, of course! Don’t go to someone for tough love. Only go to someone who will build you up.
- Reread something you’ve written. This one is tough because most of us are such harsh self-critics. But I have scenes I’ve written in previous books that still melt my heart. Rereading them always re-inspires me.
- Do a two-minute brainstorm of the scenes/moments you are most excited for in your current WIP. By the time I’ve listed four or five moments, my brain has already latched on to one of them and is imagining how it could play out. Then, I’ll just jump right into that scene, even if it’s out of order, and write it. This really helps to break the self-doubt as I’ll often end up with something I like and I’m proud of.
Thank you for sharing these, Emily. I love these suggestions and I’m sure my readers will too! Have you always had that struggle or has it changed over time?
I’ve always had it. I don’t think it’s changed, sadly. It’s still pretty prevalent with everything I write, and if anything, the feelings of self-doubt have amplified. The good news is, I now know the three things above really help me to get out of it so I am getting better at utilising them sooner.
Do you prefer the term ‘writer’ or ‘author’, and why?
I use the term writer because it feels less pretentious, but I absolutely want to call myself an author. I write books (that people read!) and that’s what an author does. But that crippling self-doubt really holds me back here. Again, I don’t know why.
Who’s your favourite author?
My lawyer said I don’t have to answer this question since I have too many favourites. 😉
Currently, I am really loving Kate Stradling. She has the perfect mix of fantasy and light romance that I love and her books are so incredibly solid. Every little set-up gets paid off. One of my readers recommended her to me a few months ago, and I’ve been slowly working my way through her backlist. I only have five books left, and I’m trying to read them as slowly as possible.
Hahaha, I know that feeling. I. Don’t. Want. This. To. End! Don’t sue me for this question: What’s your favourite book?
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Hands down. I read it the first time when I was fourteen, and it is the perfect romance. It’s so over the top and dramatic, but Sir Percy is such a perfect, adventurous hero. I love the secret identity trope, and I LOVE books about falling in love with your spouse.
What’s your favourite book on the craft?
I’ve already mentioned The Artist’s Way. It’s more about mindset for anyone who creates, no matter the medium. I think everyone should read it.
The book I tell everyone to read is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Technically, it’s for screenwriters, but it is the most simple, straightforward book on story structure that exists. Yes, you can read Mckee and Truby and Field. They’re amazing and deep and intricate. Or, you can read the tiny little manual, Save the Cat, and ninety minutes later you’ll have unlocked the secrets of how a story works and you’ll never be able to forget it. (I’m writing this a little facetiously, but I actually seriously mean it.)
What’s the best writing advice you were ever given?
Just keep going. I wasn’t told this by anyone in particular, I just see seasoned authors encouraging us newbies with this in lots of author groups.
This can be an overwhelming career or hobby. It’s impossible to hold an entire story in your head at once. It’s exhausting to write a manuscript through to completion. Just keep going. It all happens one sentence at a time.
I know it sounds so obvious, but I’ve had to remind myself of that a million times over the last few years.