To celebrate the release of her new book The Room by The Lake, Emma Dibdin tells us a little bit about herself.
I moved to New York from London two years ago.
There are a lot of cities in the world I love, but London and New York are the only two where I felt immediately at home the first time I ever visited. New York is more frenetic than London, if you can believe that, and more extreme: the lows can be very, very low, but the highs are so high. I love both cities deeply – their energy, their culture and their unique neuroses – and I feel insanely lucky to call both of them home.
I'm an entertainment journalist by day.
While I lived in London I worked as a film journalist, reviewing movies in print and on the radio, interviewing actors and creators, and visiting film sets around the world. Since moving across the pond I mostly cover television, because there’s so much of it being made here, and so much of it is incredibly good. Top picks of this year so far: Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale and Glow, three very different deeply feminist stories.
I treat writing like running.
They’re two of the most important things in my life – totally beloved activities that I can’t imagine living without – and yet the hardest part of both is finding motivation. Running often feels like a drag before it starts to feel good, so you just have to not overthink it and get out there, because you’re going to regret it afterwards. It’s the same with writing. There are days when I’m wildly inspired to write, but that’s the exception and not the rule, especially when I’m working on a very long-term project.
Much like setting yourself mileage goal before a run, I like to use word count goals to motivate myself to write. I’ll say “just get 1000 words done”, and then will often end up writing more because by the time I hit 1000, I’m in the zone. Word count goals are also good because they stop you being too precious about your prose - I can be a real perfectionist and endlessly self-edit as I’m writing, which is a really laborious way to work, so a word count goal forces you to just get it down and edit later.
Coriander is my nemesis.
It is the devil’s herb, and the slow, sinister proliferation of it in British sandwich shops is deeply upsetting to me. Pret is a minefield.
My father was an author, and I learned a lot from him.
Specifically the fact that writing is a career that you work at, not a prize that you win. I grew up watching my dad working away at his old-school word processor, producing reams and reams of double-spaced text that he would print up at the end of each day, and so from an early age I made the connection between the everyday grind and the glossy final result. If you put the hours in, you can write a book. It sounds simple, but the fact that I never had any lofty illusions about the writing process has helped me a lot.
My favourite place in the world is Hampstead Heath
Specifically the woods around Kenwood House, where you’re so surrounded by dense greenery and space and silence that it’s impossible to believe you’re in zone 2 of London. There’s nothing that comes close in New York City, and it’s one of the things I miss most.
I am both a dog and a cat person.
And I flatly reject this crazy binary that requires me to choose between them! But I do have a cat, Amber, who follows me around and begs for attention like a dog, so make of that what you will.
I’m a big believer in travelling for research.
I can write anywhere – park bench, subway train, a conference room during my lunch break – and generally do. But I also think it’s important to spend some time in the place where your novel is set, if at all possible. My debut novel The Room By The Lake takes place largely in the Catskill Mountains, a very remote part of upstate New York, and so in 2014 I took myself there on a solo writing retreat. I stayed at an inn where I had my own little cabin in the woods, wrote solidly for two days, and spent the rest of my time hiking around and getting a feel for the area. That four days was all I needed, and without it I don’t think I could have achieved the specific, immersive sense of place I wanted for the book.
I love deadlines.
And not just because, like Douglas Adams, I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. There aren’t many motivational tools more effective than a deadline, and it’s still a miracle to me that I got my first book written without one. I did create mini self-imposed deadlines while I was writing The Room By The Lake, and I now have the luxury of a real-life deadline from my publisher Head of Zeus. On the subject of which…
I’m working on my second novel.
It’s a thriller that takes place in modern Hollywood, following a young journalist who becomes drawn into the life of a famous, reclusive actor she’s assigned to interview. I’m excited to draw on my own experience as a journalist in the entertainment industry – although my protagonist’s experience will be significantly more dramatic and twist-filled than mine!