Monday, April 29, 2019

Emily Elgar Interview - If You Knew Her

Photo Content from Emily Elgar 

I’m an 80’s child and grew up mostly in the West Country, but I’ve had spells in New York, London, and Southern Africa. I now live in East Sussex with my husband and our cat, A-Dog.

I started taking writing seriously when I was accepted onto the Faber Academy six month novel writing course in 2012. At the time, I was a support worker for male, female and transgender sex workers in London. I took the course because I love writing, not because I was necessarily seeking a change in career. It felt too audacious to transform myself into a novelist! After some knocks, I wrote – in a frenzy at 4am one morning – what is now the preface to If You Knew Her. From the off, it felt different to everything I’d written before. The words galloped out of me.

I met my agent, the brilliant Nelle Andrew, soon after the course finished. Nelle sent an early draft of If You Knew Her to publishers and in October 2014 I signed a contract with the fantastic Lucy Malagoni at Little, Brown.

What followed was an intense, but enjoyable, two years of completely reworking the book. The result is If You Knew Her. I really hope you enjoy it.


Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
There wasn’t a defining moment but it was something I always dreamt about. It always felt a bit audacious and lofty to say ‘I want to be a writer’ out loud – so I mostly kept it to myself. Then slowly as I started to take more courses, met my agent and finished my manuscript I realized it was happening. So it was a slow dawning rather than a lightening bolt! 

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think most of us are a bundle of stories – stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell the world and other people. We have a story – an understanding or an interpretation – for everything. Stories are the way we make sense of the world around us. It’s just that some are more interesting than others! 

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
I would love it if my novel encouraged people to question the assumptions they might hold about others.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?
If I’m enjoying the book I’m currently reading then it always seems to take top spot! So ‘The Only Story’ by Julian Barnes. He’s such a master at character and situation – I feel I can taste the warm gin and feel the boredom of suburban life he describes so exquisitely. 

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Don’t give up! 

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My second novel ‘Grace is Gone’ is being published in the UK by Little, Brown in January 2020 and in the US by Harper Collins also in January 2020. I’m kicking about ideas for book 3…

What part of Cassie did you enjoy writing the most?
Cassie is someone who appears a certain way but is completely different internally to others’ assumptions. She is not the confidant, happy woman – the story she projects to the world – this was the bit of her story I enjoyed writing the most. 

In your latest book; IF YOU KNEW HER, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
If You Knew Her is about characters who are reliant on others to suddenly tell their story and solve their mysteries for them. 

Spoiler alert!

It’s about a pregnant woman in a coma, a man with locked in syndrome and a woman who has again and again faced incredible loss and disappointment. It’s a story about how they all help each other. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Frank? 
I loved writing from Frank’s point of view, even though he was perhaps in the most extreme situation – Frank has locked in syndrome – I found his voice came to me clearly from the start. I was surprised by the affinity I felt to a character who is so different to me. 

  • I quit a good job to go on a friends’ boat in the Caribbean for a week
  • I went on a date with a guy I met on a plane
  • Said ‘I do’ 
  • Applied for the Faber novel writing course – and got on! 
  • Jumped out of a plane
  • Took my now husband on a surprise trip to New York!
  • Went scuba diving in a place known as ‘Shark alley’ 
  • Walked out on a four year relationship at 4am and never went back
  • Went travelling on my own to Central America to heal a broken heart (it didn’t work)
  • Bought an ice-cream van 
What was the most frightening moment of your life?
When I had my son and knew that my heart was now his – how incredibly vulnerable I felt. 

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Apparently PolPot – before he was a genocidal maniac - used to be a pastry chef on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe (a friend who is NOT to be trusted told me this – so it might be complete rubbish).

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
To stop worrying about things that never happened!

What are the 5 most beautiful things in the world, and why?
A baby sleeping next to you (A moment of wonder and shared peace)
The smell of an old, well loved book (because it’s like visting an old friend)
Home (because there’s just no place like it, right?)
Pre-dawn (the hope for a new day)
The feeling of getting on a plane and starting an adventure because I love reminding myself that there are all these different people, cultures and lives going on around the world RIGHT NOW


Cassie had it all - the fairytale wedding, the stunning home, the perfect husband. But when she arrives on the intensive care ward at St Catherine's hospital in a coma, it soon becomes clear that she has a secret; a secret that changes everything.

Alice, the chief nurse on the ward begins to feel a connection with Cassie and can't help but wonder if things are not quite as they seem.

Frank, another patient, can hear and see everything around him but cannot communicate. He understands that Cassie's life is in danger and only he holds the truth, which no one can know and he cannot tell . . .

Praise for IF YOU KNEW HER

“A welcome addition to the ranks of coma lit. . . . a wonderfully insidious build-up of tension.” The Guardian, “The Best Recent Crime Novels”

“Such a brilliant and cleverly crafted idea. A novel which will make you wonder what others are really thinking.” 
Jane Corry, author of My Husband's Wife

“Emotionally charged and tautly plotted, Emily Elgar’s debut is a stunning example of psychological suspense” 
Clare Mackintosh, international bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You

“Elgar’s gratifying, well-written tale of family predicaments will be a good match for women’s-fiction readers looking for something a bit darker.” 

“Brilliant and twisted. . . . Emily Elgar brings these three characters together in an unlikely manner, creating a psychological thriller that is every bit as good as many of her peers in the thriller writing genre. Examining the lines where the perfect life and the perfect lie begins to blur, the final twist will leave you reeling— and anxiously awaiting Elgar’s next book.” 

You can purchase If You Knew Her at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you EMILY ELGAR for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of If You Knew Her by Emily Elgar. 


  1. She's an amazing teacher of special education students.

  2. My best friend is also my cousin and she is always there for me with kindness and generosity.

  3. He loves me and puts up with all my weirdness.

  4. "Tell me about your best friend." Hmm. Maybe that's my cat, Kitty.

  5. I don't really have a best friend anymore except for my hubby. I tell him everything, the good, the bad and the ugly! We laugh a lot and try not to take things too serious. We have 4 kids and been married for 24 years now so we better be best friends lol. My dog is my other bestie though, she's amazing!

  6. I met her on the 1st day of school when I was 11 years old. I sat by her on the bus and we found out we shared the same birthday. 46 years later we are still best friends.