Emily Koch is the author of If I Die Before I Wake. Her latest novel Keep Him Close, was published by Harvill Secker on 19 March 2020.
Emily kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Keep Him Close.
It’s a dark domestic drama about the friendship between a woman whose son has died and the mother of the boy accused of his murder. The novel centres around the mystery of Lou’s death but it is also a novel about motherhood – and indeed, parenthood – about the joys it can bring as well as the potential for shattering loss it exposes you to.
2. What inspired the book?
Where I live, in Bristol, there’s an old Victorian prison (that’s still operational), totally ensconced in a very residential area. It got me thinking about what it would be like to live in one of the houses that are so close by, if you knew that one of the inmates had done something to your family. How would you feel? How would you deal with that proximity? That’s how the character of Alice, one of the mothers was born… and the rest came after that.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I love a good spreadsheet! I’m definitely a planner, but I find a lot of creative enjoyment out of that planning process. For me, working out the plan of the chapters and scenes is a very fun process of – what might happen next? So, it’s not a case so much of where the words take me, but it IS a case of, where will this next post-it I stick on my wall take me?!
4. Having been through the publishing process twice, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
Good question! I guess my favourite bit of the process is something that surprised me, yes. With every re-write, with each new draft, new layers form. The story gets deeper and better. It always feels to me like there are loads of loose strings that pull tighter and tighter together until a beautiful shapes forms. You know geometric string art? Where you have lines of pins and string wound around them to make incredible shapes and patterns? That’s the image I cannot get out of my head when I am editing.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I play with my kids, I read, I swim or ride my bike, listen to music and walk. Fresh air, exercise, time with friends and family – those things will solve most problems!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Oh wow. Janet! How could you ask me this? If I have to choose, let’s go with Beloved by Toni Morrison. A beautiful, dark, harrowing mystery novel I’ve been reading and re-reading since I was a teenager. Each time I read it I notice new things, new incredible ways in which Morrison writes, so I know I’d enjoy each time I revisited it.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I love this question! I like to ask this one too, at literary events! This is tricky for me though, because they question I’d like to be asked is about the ending of my debut novel If I Die Before I Wake. I absolutely loved writing this section and I would so love to talk about it, the inspirations behind it, and what it means to me. But if I do that, I’ll give the ending away, and there’s nothing worse than a spoiler!
About the book
Alice’s son is dead. Indigo’s son is accused of murder.
Indigo is determined to prove her beloved Kane is innocent. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda.
Alice can’t tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed – and she needs to make sure that Indigo’s efforts to free Kane don’t put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper?
No one knows a son like his mother. But neither Alice nor Indigo know the whole truth about their boys, and what happened between them on that fateful night.
About the author
Emily Koch is an award-winning journalist and graduate of the Bath Spa Creative Writing programme. Her debut novel, If I Die Before I Wake, was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, longlisted for Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. She lives in Bristol.