Good morning Emma and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Hi, Jo, thanks for inviting me here. I’m 33 years old and live in Bolton, England, with my fiancé and our three children. I signed a three-book deal last year with Transworld, Penguin Random House, and now write full time.
How did your writing journey begin?
I’ve always had a passion for writing and began jotting poetry in my teens. After selling some of my poems and having short fiction pieces accepted for the internet, print and stage, I decided to try my hand at novel writing – I’m so glad I did. It’s been an incredible journey so far.
I’d been researching my family history for years and was fascinated by what I unearthed. Generation after generation lived, worked and clawed out a life in the poorest slums in Bolton and Manchester. I’d spend hours imagining what their lot must have been like, picturing these faceless people, wondering about their daily lives, their relationships, loves, fights, hopes and struggles. My mind was soon swamped with imaginary scenarios and I began penning down snippets, immersing myself in the research of the time. The result was a full-length novel – my debut, A Shilling for a Wife – and an overflowing trunk of ideas now sitting patiently in my mind, waiting to be turned into future books.
Are you planning to remain a saga writer for the foreseeable future, or would you ever be tempted to write something more contemporary?
I enjoy writing most genres. However, sagas are my passion. They are what I prefer to read and write. I’m contracted to produce books set in the Victorian era (my favourites) but I do have ideas for a WWII novel on the back burner. I’ve discovered some fascinating facts about my great-grandfather, who fell in the war, which I’d love to weave into a novel one day.
Who is your favourite author and why?
I can’t really pick a specific one; there are several I admire. Saga-wise, I would have to put Catherine Cookson at the top. She was a true master of her craft – her style is rather simplistic but does the job brilliantly. Gripping, un-put-downable stories told from the heart. Magic. I also adore Joan Jonker’s books. Her stories ooze warmth – she’s my feel-good author I turn to when I need cheering up. Her books are like a big hug from beginning to end.
I also love the classics; Austen, Hardy and Wilde’s works in particular. Though my favourite is Wilkie Collins. His voice and creative skill blow me away. He had a true gift.
Have you another book in the pipeline? If so, can you tell us something about it?
I’ve recently finished the final edits for my second novel Manchester Moll, which is out in May, and am currently working on book three. This tells the story of three orphans struggling for survival in the mean slums of Victorian Manchester. These may be some of my favourite characters yet – I’m enjoying it immensely. This book is out February next year.
And lastly, you are holding a dinner party and are planning to invite four celebrity guests. Who would you choose and why?
Sadly, most of my favourite people are dead! But as we’re speaking hypothetically… My first choice would have to be Winston Churchill. Because, well. It’s Winston Churchill. I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to meet one of the greatest Britons of all time. Moreover, he might have some useful tips for that war book I mentioned…
Next would be Brian Blessed. I LOVE that man. His positive outlook and zest for life is wonderful. He’s big, brash, and fabulously eccentric. What’s not to like?
On that note, my third choice would be David Attenborough – everyone’s wished-for granddad (admit it, we’ve all thought it!). Brian’s booming voice might get a bit much after a while, and David’s silken tones would counteract perfectly. Also, he must have some fascinating stories to tell!
Lastly, to add a comedic touch to the proceedings, I’d invite David Jason. A fantastic actor and all-round lovely jubbly bloke. But if he’s busy, you know, flogging knocked-off lawn mower engines and tea cosies as soppy hats, I’d have Sid James in reserve. And if Hattie Jacques and the rest of the gang fancied tagging along, they’d be more than welcome – we could always dig out the emergency chairs…
Thirty-three-year-old mother of three Emma Hornby lives on a tight-knit working-class estate in Bolton and has read sagas all her life. Before pursuing a career as a novelist, she had a variety of jobs, from care assistant for the elderly, to working in a Blackpool rock factory. She was inspired to write after researching her family history; like the characters in her books, many generations of her family eked out life amidst the squalor and poverty of Lancashire’s slums.
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A SHILLING FOR A WIFE
Sally Swann thought life couldn’t get much worse. Then a single coin changed hands.
A dismal cottage in the heart of Bolton, Lancashire, has been Sally’s prison since Joseph Goden ‘bought’ her from the workhouse as his wife. A drunkard and bully, Joseph rules her with a rod of iron, using fists and threats to keep her in check.
When Sally gives birth, however, she knows she must do anything to save her child from her husband’s clutches. She manages to escape, and taking her baby, flees for the belching chimneys of Manchester, in search of her only relative.
But with the threat of discovery by Joseph, who will stop at nothing to find her, Sally must fight with every ounce of strength she has to protect herself and her son, and finally be with the man who truly loves her. For a fresh start does not come without a price . . .
Moll thought she could keep her family safe…
Eighteen-year-old Moll Chambers works her fingers to the bone doing all she can to support her family. With an ailing father and a wayward mother, Moll is the only one who can look after her siblings, Bo and Sissy.
But Manchester is an increasingly dangerous place to live, overrun with a ferocious rivalry between gangs of so-called ‘scuttlers’: young men and women bent on a life of violence and crime. And they have her brother in their sights. Soon even Moll can’t protect Bo from the lure of the criminal underworld.
Then the scuttlers looked her way.
When she herself falls for the leader of a rival gang, Moll’s choices place her and Bo firmly on opposite sides of the city’s turf war.
With her loyalties now torn in two and tragedy lurking round every corner, will Moll be able to rise above the conflict and protect those she loves the most? Or will stepping out with a scuttler spell ruin for them all…?