One of my favorite parts of my job is when I get to share epic wins from my word nerds. Today, I’d like you to meet Constance Emmett. She’s a DIY MFA course graduate whose debut novel, Heroine of Her Own Life, begins shipping to readers this August.
While I could go on and on about how DIY MFA supports writers in their journey to publication, I figured you’d want to hear it directly from someone who has benefited in some big ways.
I sat down with Constance and asked her to share some insights she gained on the road to her debut book launch
[Gabriela] When you started out writing, what were you hoping for? What was your goal?
[Constance] I watched BBC’s TV series Tipping the Velvet, based on the debut novel written by Sarah Waters. Listening to an interview with Waters, she described her goal as to write what she wanted to read. It struck me to the core. I wanted to write what I wanted to read!
While my goal was partly to write something I wanted to read, I also wanted to inject a dose of youthful hope back into my middle-aged life. I defined it as hope for something really engrossing, revealing, redefining. Something fun! An escape hatch, possibly.
Immediately I started writing, working on the weekends and holidays, and tried to get it published starting in 2008. I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed. This first novel is still in my queue, and I have loads of ideas about how to rewrite it and get it published now.
[Gabriela] What was your biggest challenge on the road to publication?
[Constance] Sticking with trying to publish long enough to figure out how to succeed, while writing through it. These were both big challenges, and both key to my success.
In 2012, I decided to start attending conferences, reading about the subject, hiring editors, mentors, etc. The years rolled by without success. The more rejections I piled up—thirty-three— the easier the actual rejection process became, but the harder it became to imagine success. That was a dangerous point. I got depressed and felt hopeless a lot, silly even. I’d come to regret telling my friends that I was trying to publish a novel.
But during that time, I kept writing and I kept submitting the novel. I believed in the book and I thought that with one more submission, I might succeed. With number thirty-four, I did.
[Gabriela] What was your biggest a-ha moment on the way to publication?
[Constance] My a-ha moment came after years spent working with three different professional editors, published authors, and mentors—of course, one of those being you, Gabriela. I was sure that I wanted to write what I wanted to read, but I didn’t even think about others. Not exactly “To hell with the reader!” More like, “What reader?” I was clueless.
Looking at Sarah Waters, I’m sure she writes what she wants to read, but I know she writes what others want to read, because her novels are award-winning, best sellers. The light bulb finally went on. Yes, a writer has to write what she feels, knows, and wants to read and write, but she also has to write so that the reader cares long enough to feel it and wants to read it. So, it can be done. A writer can write for a reader and herself. That was my a-ha!
[Gabriela] How did DIY MFA help you reach your goal?
[Constance] First of all, Gabriela, you gave me permission to call myself a writer. There I was, sitting in the audience at one of your DIY MFA talks, attending a writers’ conference, but I still wasn’t telling anyone I knew that I was a writer. I needed permission to acknowledge that I was a writer and you not only gave me that permission, but you insisted. I left that room a writer.
Then I started DIY MFA’s Pixels to Platform. Your mentoring moved me down the path from writing alone to publication. While I was taking the class and involved in the mentoring activities, more bricks were added to my writer’s house. I never could have created my blog without that class. Never. It added to my growing sense of professionalism. I now have an author’s platform.
And DIY MFA supports me still. I can turn back to the class materials and rejuvenate my efforts to make the platform stronger. DIY MFA continues to provide me with much needed and appreciated support as I face the next challenge—marketing the novel.
I am so excited for Constance and everything that she has accomplished. If you’d like to give her book a little preorder love, you can find it via this Amazon affiliate link.
Heroine Of Her Own Life
In early 20th century Belfast, working class Meg Preston struggles to accept her own sexuality and yearns for forbidden love.
Battling the customs and hardships of their time, Meg pursues a relationship with her childhood friend, Lillian Watson. But soon, tribulations of war, violence, and emigration threaten to tear everything apart.
Seeking refuge for herself, her love, and her family, can Meg find the courage to become the heroine of her own life?
Donna Russo Morin, bestselling author of GILDED SUMMERS
In her debut novel, Emmett has created intriguing and wholly relatable characters who enter our hearts as soon as we meet them. Her distinctive craft makes itself known from the start and keeps the reader quickly turning the pages of this unique and endearing tale.
Constance was born in Brooklyn, New York, where her mother’s family landed after leaving Belfast, Northern Ireland. Raised in the New York area, she grew up in the home of great readers, and became one herself. Writing detective fiction as a nine-year-old, she peppered the pages with snappy dialogue.
She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and worked as a biologist in research and development for nearly thirty years. She came back to writing after she saw a televised interview of novelist Sarah Waters in 2004 and she has spent the last fifteen years writing steadily. Her debut novel, Heroine of Her Own Life, is in the queue for publication by Creativia/Next Chapters.
Constance’s fiction incorporates her love of origins as well as journeys taken at a walking pace. The Irish family stories found a lifelong home in Constance, and formed her as a writer. She creates characters who feel dislocation and regret but have the resilience common to all survivors.
A dual citizen of the U.S. and Republic of Ireland, Constance lives with her wife and their dog in the foothills of the Berkshires. Both women were raised in the city, but they love almost everything about country life.
To learn more about Constance and her writing, go to constancegemmett.com.