Want My Job? Emily Winslow, novelist

Emily Winslow studied drama at Mellon University, Pennsylvania. Now she's the author of the memoirs Jane Doe January and a series of physiological novels. She lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband and two sons who are home-educated.

Want My Job? Emily Winslow, novelist

How did you become a published novelist? How did you get into the arts?

I had been writing for many years, writing poetry and plays. But I really always wanted to write a novel and had trouble finding the right subject. I moved to Cambridge in 2006 and I started writing a novel set in Cambridge and it was then that writing a novel started to come easily.

Before I had set stories in places I had lived and was very familiar with, particularly places I had grown up in. I found it hard to describe them: there was either too much or not enough. Coming to Cambridge, which was very, very different, there was so much I wanted to describe. There was so much I wanted to communicate to my friends back home about the place I was living now, and so having that handle on describing the setting was what helped me get started.

What are the best and worst parts about your job? And what do you find challenging?

Well, I'm an introvert. I love having time to myself. I would highly recommend writing as a career! Instead of saying I'm just going to sit alone in a room for a while, where people would get very concerned, you can say I'm going to go and work for a while and they respect that. That's always been really, really nice. And actually now that I've been a novelist for a decade, I've actually hit saturation point with my introversion which is weird now I have all the time to myself built in.

The most challenging part is the true self-discipline that you have to have to get through the whole of a novel. All writing has to be self-generated to a point, but when it's a shorter piece, you're giving it in and getting feedback, but when a deadline is a year away and you're trying to pace yourself to that from a distance, that's pretty difficult.

Now I feel as though I have too much alone time, so I'm trying to get some teaching positions.

How have you juggled your successful career with being a home-schooling mum?

I have the best husband in the world! Because the company he works for is American, his working day doesn't begin until America is awake and so ever since we moved here, he always has the children in the morning. The morning is my free time to do whatever I want, and then I take the children in the afternoon.

It's great for me and it's great for the kids, as they get time with dad and they get two different teaching styles. Without him it would be very different and very difficult.

Does the environment of Cambridge inspire your novels?

What I like about Cambridge, is that there's always something to learn and always something going on; the people have such interesting jobs. Sometimes they're "the world's foremost international expert" in whatever interesting thing that they do! And sometimes they're just doing something really quirky that you've never heard of before.

I like having all of that coming into me. And when I first started writing the book that's set in Cambridge, I would get so excited whenever I met someone with an interesting job, or have access to an interesting setting, and now I've just got overflow! There's just too much interesting stuff. That's the best way to be.

What advice would you give young people pursuing a similar career?

When you're choosing what to study at university, if you truly feel like you're destined to study creative writing then follow your heart. But I think for me, if I had studied creative wishing at university, I don't think I'd be a writer now. I think it's different for things like journalism and other kinds of writing where you're getting a lot of inspiration from outside of yourself.

But when you're getting graded on poetry and short stories, and so much of that counts on you finding your point of view. And although some people stumble on their point of view when they're 20, I think I would have found it extremely discouraging to be constantly judged on something I already knew wasn't right because I hadn't found my voice yet.

My advice would be to study something that gets you really excited. Do you love astronomy, do you love history? Get fed, get full of ideas and examples. That excitement and information will come out when you're ready to express it.

  • For more information about Emily, visit emilywinslow.com
  • (Photo credit: Jonathan Player)

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Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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