Writer's Block with Emma Hannigan - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Emma Hannigan

To honour author EMMA HANNIGAN and her family, following last week’s heartbreaking news, we re-issue her interview with SOPHIE GRENHAM from 2016 in support of her latest novel, LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTERS

Photograph by Emily Quinn

Last week, hearts broke all around the country when bestselling author Emma Hannigan announced that she was saying farewell. Emma (45), who has courageously stood up to cancer for the last eleven years, stated on social media and her official blog that she will no longer receive treatment.

“All good things must come to an end,” she said. “The time that I knew was borrowed must be given back soon, so it seems. The conversation I never wanted to have has been said. My medical team have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this fight but all avenues have now been exhausted.”

Emmas’s cancer odyssey started in 2005, with the shocking discovery that she carried the BRCA1 gene, which means an eighty-five percent chance of developing breast cancer and a fifty percent chance of ovarian cancer. Her news led to a double mastectomy and the removal of both ovaries and her fallopian tubes. This was only the beginning of Emma’s war, and she has fearlessly fought every inch of the way.

In that time, the superstar writer and extraordinary role model, has penned fourteen books, starting with Designer Genes in 2009. Emma has always used her talent for the greater good, focusing her energy on creating work that helps others. She has based a handful of titles on her experiences and is one of the Irish cancer community’s most cherished representatives. Talk to the Headscarf (2011) and All to Live For (2017) are two of Emma’s uplifting accounts of life with the Big C.

Her beautiful words have brought endless hope, joy and comfort to countless readers, who she communicates with regularly online and in person. Emma has received boundless words of love and friendship from her fans, which have carried her along in turn. Her final book, Letters to My Daughters, has reached number one in the Irish book charts, thanks to an army of fellow authors and readers. This is part of a wonderful campaign for Emma to stay on the top spot, as she is not in a position to promote her new work. All proceeds from Letters to My Daughters, thanks to Dubray Books, will be donated to the Irish Cancer Society. Please pick up a copy today and support our warrior princess and her battalion, who fight the odds every single day.

I want to wholeheartedly thank Emma Hannigan for being a part of the Writer’s Block series – her contribution has meant more than words. To honour Emma and her family, I wish to reissue her piece, which was originally published in 2016.

Emma lives in Bray, County Wicklow with her husband Cian, daughter Kim and son Sacha. Letters to My Daughters (€14.99, Hachette) is available online if shops are already out of stock.

On home

I’ve lived here in Bray since I was born. Bar a stint in Cork after I left school, I’ve always lived close by. I ended up living in my parent’s garden! I didn’t stray too far in the end. We live ten minutes walk from Bray town centre yet we’re surrounded by trees. Bray is a great base with the N11 and M50 on our doorstep. The Dart is within walking distance too. I’m an ambassador for the town and I’m proud to be part of a thriving community.

I’m a shopaholic so I love clothes shops but if I’m going to a pub I love the Martello on Bray seafront. I never tire of the sea view and find it incredibly comforting to sit in a cosy seat and look out at the ocean.

If I’m going for a bite to eat with my husband and teenagers we’d usually go to Box Burger or Platform Pizza. They’re also on the seafront and are buzzy, busy and fun!

On creating

I have an office in Bray. It’s in a beautiful Georgian house and from my window I can glimpse the sea! I have a big desk with plenty of room for paperwork and of course my computer. My Nespresso machine in the corner – I can’t live without my coffee! There’s also a seating area where I can have meetings or share a cuppa with a passing friend. When I’m not well I work from bed with my laptop. When I do that I end up with “the zoo” AKA our two cats Tom and Tigger and our Golden Doodle Herbie “helping.” They surround me and protect me with purrs and offered paws for petting!

On bookshops

My local bookstore is Dubray, Bray. I remember going there when the original store was on Quinsboro road when it was called The Bray Bookshop. Mrs Clear was always there to welcome us. My brother used to call her Enid, because he assumed she was Enid Blyton! She never corrected him. Mum brought us there every week to choose a book and we looked forward to it hugely. The smell of new books still cast me back to my childhood.

I love Bridge Street Books in Wicklow town too. Joanna and Hilary, a mother and daughter team run it. Their passion and love of books is clear from the moment you walk in the door. There are always little people in the dedicated children’s section sitting cross legged in awe as Joanna tells them about new titles.

On literature

I loved English in school and I know that’s where my love of writing came from. But I predominantly read commercial fiction now. I know I should be saying I only read literary works written in Manderan, but I love stories that I can relate to. The ones that reflect the type of world I inhabit. So I go for thought provoking books by people like me! I love Irish writers in particular. We have such a deep pool of talent in this country and I’ve made some great friends in that community.

On escapes

My parents have a holiday home in Connemara. It overlooks the sea and it’s where I go to exhale. I especially love walking at Gurteen bay. This is the most stunning powder sand beach with unspoiled views of The Twelve Ben’s on one side. In summer it’s like being on an exotic island and in winter it’s achingly beautiful. The colours that the sky and sea create as they amalgamate are breath taking. I think because there aren’t any interruptions from buildings or bustle nature is allowed to do the talking. I’m always humbled by being allowed to witness it.

The holiday home is very close to Cashel House so we go there regularly to be fed and watered and looked after by Kay McEvily and her staff. We’re always welcomed warmly and I love the comfort of familiarity.

On writing

I’ve said it many times before that writing is my therapy. I don’t know what kind of a state of mind I’d be in today if I didn’t have my books to pour my heart into!

Being a writer is a very special privilege. It affords wonderful escapism and allows the author to delve into a different world.

No matter what goes on health wise for me, I know I always have the opportunity to feel free from sickness or pain by being swept away by a character or storyline. I get so involved with my fictitious friends that I can block out any adversity.

Being an author is so rewarding too. There’s a physical book at the end of several months work. I find it incredibly satisfying to hold the finished product in my hand. Seeing my name on the front of a book is always heart swellingly lovely too. I have such loyal readers who reach out to me regularly. I’m so grateful to have a job I adore.

@SophieGrenham

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