PORT AUX BASQUES – It’s early September, and at first glance, Emily Hepditch looks more like a typical college student than a promising author of thriller novels. Her first book, The Woman in the Attic, has been published by Flanker Press and there’s already a second novel on the horizon.
In this new age of social distancing, Emily steps out of the blinding sunshine into a charming, if somewhat rough, fishing stage and smooths her skirt under her thin legs before taking a seat on a vintage armchair and leaning forward to chat.
“I write thrillers, mostly. That’s what I’ve written for most of my life but I hope to branch out eventually and write more contemporary, some historical fiction, but all with a mystery kind of edge to them,” she says. “I’ve been writing forever really. I know that’s kind of a cheesy answer but I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in Grade 2 or 3.”
Her first book was a 100-page effort she wrote in Grade 7 with the help of a friend who transcribed everything she whispered. She kept writing through to university, originally intending to build a career in speech language pathology.
“I did linguistics and psychology and had a broad interest in that,” she recalls. “I did a diploma of criminology.”
Those areas of study also helped her writing. Upon graduation, she figured it was now or never to develop her passion for the pen into a career.
The result of that dedication was her debut novel, The Woman in the Attic, which centers around a young woman who returns home to her ailing mother’s saltbox house and uncovers a hidden attic with a gruesome secret.
Eventually Emily intends to go to grad school, but for now she wants to keep focusing full time on writing more books. Her next thriller, due in Spring 2021, focuses on some ill-prepared amateur hikers on a dangerous trek in Gros Morne.
“I’m interested in law. I’m also interested in criminal psychology, that kind of avenue, so I’m not really sure what I want to do yet,” she admits.
Among Emily’s idols are Gillian Flynn and Jodi Picoult, but she is an avid reader with plenty of solid authors she enjoys, especially when she’s writing. Along with movie trailers and music, she finds it helps her own process.
For those thinking of writing a novel, Emily says that it helps to write about anything each day, whether or not it’s relevant to the book. She considers writing to be a muscle that needs daily exercise.
“For my undergrad, I was only writing papers for the most part. So sitting down to write fiction at the end of the day, I felt useless,” she says. “But after I graduated and I started focusing, that muscle has kind of come back now. And read a lot,” she encourages.
Emily likes to get up early, grab a cup of coffee and park at her desk where she writes until noon. She tries to hit a daily word count goal in order to track her progress, normally aiming for two or three thousand but she’s happy to reach half that. Hitting the halfway mark of her book is her favourite part. Like a lot of writers, she tends to develop multiple book projects simultaneously.
“I’m working on more than one (book) at the moment,” she shrugs. “The second one is going to be a labour of love, so I’m trying not to talk about it because it’s still so subject to change, but I always have two or three ideas going at once.”
Emily tries to keep her protagonists and characters far removed from herself and people she knows. She’s says they’re a lot braver, or alternatively, much more distasteful.
“A lot of my characters aren’t the best people, so I would hope I’m not like them,” she laughs.
Signed copies of The Woman in the Attic are currently available for purchase at Butterfly Book Boutique in Port aux Basques.