Emma-Jane Barlow Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview.
Indie Book Butler: Let’s start things off with an introduction. Tell us a little about yourself for those not already aware of you and your work.
Emma-Jane Barlow: I’m Emma-Jane, I’m 27 years old and I am a bestselling poet, author and writer from Manchester, UK. I am a creative writing graduate and I love writing, reading, singing, stitching and playing my guitar and ukulele. I’m always creating, and you will most likely find me with a cup of tea in one hand and a pen in the other. I published my first poetry collection Darkness & Light last year and it is my proudest achievement. I love connecting with other poets and artists and helping them on their journey towards publication. In June 2020, during the pandemic, I started a project on Instagram called the First Line Poets Project, I am the proud project leader of this amazing community of 125 writers from across the world, we all come together for the love of poetry and collaborate, it is something special and I have big plans to make this project a success.
IBB: You’ve got twenty words to entice us to read your book(s). What would you say?
EJB: Darkness & Light is a raw and honest story of overcoming mental illness, finding beauty and embracing the light.
IBB: Where do you like to write?
EJB: I would like to say I have a specific writing spot, but I have learned to be adaptable as a writer and my muse is sporadic and inspiration can strike at any moment. If I want to write with intention and no distractions, then I sit down at my desk with a cup of tea, my laptop, my poetry journal and my favourite pen. But I have conditioned myself as a writer to acclimatise to my surroundings and write even when things are happening around me. I prefer writing my poetry by hand but I do write shorter pieces in the notes app on my phone. If I have a set of headphones and my instrumental writing playlist, I can write anywhere if I am in the zone.
IBB: Is there anything you must have in order to write?
EJB: When I am writing, I either have my physical thesaurus next to me or a thesaurus and rhyming website open on my phone or laptop, so I can find the perfect synonym or rhyme as I am writing. If I am writing by hand, I always have a black pen to write with and a red pen to edit. It isn’t essential but I do love a good cup of tea when I write, I am quintessentially British!
IBB: What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
EJB: Wow, what a question. I am heavily influenced by everything I read, see or listen to. I think I have been highly influenced by the famous poets I grew up reading: Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, William Wordsworth and Walt Whitman to name a few. But I am also deeply influenced by music. I love listening to music with deep, poetic and meaningful lyrics, which is why I must add Taylor Swift to that list because her honest storytelling has always inspired me to write. I have a growing collection of poetry books from the classics to modern poets, many of which I have met through the amazing writing community on Instagram. I think my favourite collection of poetry that I have on my shelf at this present time is Hope Is A Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson.
IBB: What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
EJB: Studying creative writing for three years at university helped me develop my craft as a writer. I enjoyed studying poetry, fiction writing and screenwriting during my studies. But my heart has always been in poetry and this is my preferred method of expression. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from my poetry professors and believe they played a vital role in my development as a poet. I want to resume my studies with my master’s degree in creative writing soon and I will be specialising in poetry.
IBB: What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
EJB: From the age of seven, all I ever wanted was to hold my own book in my hands. That is a dream that I achieved last year when I published my first poetry collection Darkness & Light. My bigger dreams include gaining the number one spot on a bestsellers list, seeing my book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore one day and winning a prestigious literary prize of competition. But I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved as an author so far and I look forward to what opportunities await me in the future.
IBB: Have you received a favourite review of your work?
EJB: Before I published my book Darkness & Light, some of my closest writing friends did advanced reviews and they were so thoughtful and encouraging that I was emotional when I first read them. Every single review of my book is special to me and when I read them, it gives me a confidence boost to become a better writer and keep writing and publishing poetry books.
IBB: Were there any parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
EJB: Self-publishing wasn’t an easy process; I found the formatting extremely technical and frustrating at times because I am a creative person, and I knew nothing of margin sizes or trim sizes. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and editing part of the journey. Marketing my own book was also a challenge but I am learning to utilise social media to the best of my abilities to spread the word about my book and increase my sales.
IBB: Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
EJB: As a poet, I am always learning and improving my craft. I am constantly reading poetry, trying new forms and styles and finding new stimuli to inspire me. I believe that the most important tools for any writer is to read as much as you can and write something every day, even if it is a list of ideas for poems that you want to write!
IBB: What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
EJB: Being a self-published author means I don’t have much experience working with an editor. But I believe that editors and authors need to establish a relationship of understanding and be on the same page (no pun intended). I think a good editor is both constructive and supportive. Writers can be sensitive when it comes to their work, so the editor needs to be aware of the goal the writer is trying to achieve with their book.
IBB: If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
EJB: I have had a recent experience with someone who hated my book. Although it hurt to hear that my writing didn’t connect with someone, I had to accept that poetry is subjective, and everyone has different tastes. There are some people that will purposefully go out of their way to hate you without reason, I have had this happen to me since I became part of the writing community on Instagram. Unfortunately, that is the downfall to having a social media presence and posting your writing online or even publishing it in a physical book, not everyone is going to like you. As a writer and a highly sensitive person, I do struggle with this part of the job as a writer and an author, but I have met some incredibly talented and kind-hearted writing friends through the same platform, that always support me and my work, so I am thankful for them.
IBB: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
EJB: Write. It really is as simple as that. I think my next bit of advice would be, don’t doubt yourself. If you believe in your writing and you think you have a story that you want to share with the world, do it. Always write for yourself first and the reader second. Don’t force yourself to write if you do not feel inspired and lastly, never compare yourself to another writer, you are unique and have your own style, embrace it!
IBB: What does your writing future hold for you?
EJB: I have a couple of exciting projects that I am working on, one of them is a secret project and will be released this year. But the other I can talk about a little. I am currently writing my second poetry collection, which will be different to my first collection Darkness & Light. I wanted to create a book of poetry that could sit on someone’s bedside table, something that the reader could dip into, I want to uplift and inspire them with my words. I have a title and I am in the first draft stages of writing; I don’t have a release date in mind just yet, but I am excited for this one!
IBB: How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
EJB: I am no graphic designer, but I created the front and back cover and divider pages in my first book. I had the idea for the front cover in a dream and I woke up the next morning and designed it on my computer. But I may be willing to work with a cover designer for my next book, because I am not highly skilled in this area. I do believe with covers though, that the simpler the better. I know people say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but that’s exactly what the reader does when they come across your book.
IBB: How often do you read? What genre?
EJB: I adore reading. From the moment I learned how to read, I have rarely stopped. I have an eclectic taste when it comes to books. I will read everything from women’s fiction to crime fiction, self-help books to young adult novels. I love books that grip me in the first few pages, I usually give a book three chapters and if I am not immersed in the world by then, I begin a different book. At the moment, I am enjoying re-reading the Harry Potter novels.
IBB: Before we let you escape, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
EJB: I know so many incredible writers, it is hard to pick just a few! But I believe some of the most talented poets in the Instagram writing community right now are in my project First Line Poets. So if you follow the project page @firstlinepoets, you are in for a treat, brilliant collaborations by some diverse and modern poetic voices.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
For more on Emma-Jane and her work, please visit: