13 Questions With Emma Gannon

Author of our August Book Club Pick 'Olive' Emma Gannon shares her inspiration for the novel, and what she's up to at the moment.

First of all how are you and how have you been coping in 2020?

Like everyone I’m sure, I’ve generally been feeling very up and down. The ‘coronacoaster’ is a real thing! One day I am having an existential crisis about the world ending, and the next I am feeling incredibly calm and grateful for this ‘great pause’ on our lives. I have definitely felt a deep anxiety, but I’ve also felt the closest I’ve ever felt to my friends and family. I’ve also adjusted my work schedule, reflecting on my new goals and decided to be less busy. It’s been quite the year already, hasn’t it?

We’re super excited to start reading Olive for our August book club, what was the process for writing a fiction novel like?

I’m so excited to be included in your book club, thank you! Writing fiction was a totally different experience to writing my non-fiction books. For starters I wrote the whole book before pitching it to publishers, whereas with non-fiction you can normally sell the book on a proposal, get paid and then write it. It was definitely a labour of love, and a bit of a creative risk to spend so much of my time on something that might never have seen the light of day, but it was all worth it in the end!

What inspired you to write Olive?

When I turned 30, I started realising that I had never really given motherhood much thought — my friends were suddenly taking to try for babies or talking about wanting children one day, and I just felt like it wasn’t something I was drawn to. In December 2018, I posted a tweet asking for child-free by choice women to get in touch as I was researching the topic. I thought maybe it would be a short article, but then I heard back from hundreds of women. The more I explored the topic, the more I knew this was going to be my first novel. There were so many meaty conversations I wanted to have, and so my four characters Bea, Cecily, Isla and OLIVE were born.

Do you think you’ll be writing more fiction in the future?

Yes definitely! Once all the OLIVE craziness has calmed down a bit I’m going to start writing another.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to write for a living?

Write, write, write! Write for fun, write for yourself, write for your blog, just keep doing it and try not to be too self-conscious. I think someone once said ‘writing is like playing the piano’ you have to keep doing it to get better over time and exercise your writing muscle. I wrote every week on my blog in my twenties, and although most of it has now been deleted, it all added up along the way.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just read Girl A by Abigail Dean, a tense psychological tale of a group of siblings all overcoming a traumatising childhood. It’s a bit darker than my usual read, but I couldn’t put it down — I literally stayed up until 2am finishing it. It’s out in January and I think it’s going to be the book of 2021.

We’re keen listeners of your podcast Ctrl Alt Delete, what is the process like for picking guests and deciding what to discuss?

It’s a bit like editing a magazine in a way —watching which conversations are happening, including newsy hooks, new films/books or noticing what important topics could use a platform. I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve now interviewed a lot of people on my ‘dream list’. I think it’s important to use a podcast to spread useful messages. Recently I’ve been discussing diversity in podcasting; different perspectives on motherhood, domestic abuse charities and classism in journalism and always on the lookout for new ideas.

What are you currently working on?

I have a new non-fiction book called SABOTAGE coming out in September! All about overcoming self-sabotage and getting out of your own way.

9. Who are some of your current favourite follows online?

@DrSoph, an amazing clinical psychologist

hellofrom90s – because it’s fun to see a throwback in my feed sometimes

Sophie W, @officialMillennialBlack – Sophie’s book Anti-Racist Ally is out soon.

What do you always carry with you?

My AirPods because I’m constantly listening to podcasts. One I’m really enjoying at the moment is Might Delete Later.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

A long walk (maybe somewhere like Hampstead Heath), followed by a delicious roast with friends in a pub with red wine, then a bath, clean sheets and a good book in bed.

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

Dinner at the Tandoor Chop House in Covent Garden.

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be?

Follow your gut instinct — deep down you have your own internal compass, you don’t have to follow the crowd if you don’t want to.