Emma Cooper, author of The Songs of Us and The First Time I Saw You, talks about how writing her second book compares to writing her first, and how she fell in love all over again with her new characters in her latest book.
When I was heavily pregnant with my daughter, I remember watching my three-year-old son playing with his toy cars on the kitchen floor. It was a normal day, nothing profound or extraordinary about it. I had turned back to my washing up as I recall, when a simple question was fired from one of the synapses in my brain and I found that I could think of nothing else: how was I ever going to be able to love this baby as much as I loved my first-born son?
I tried to dismiss this thought, but anxiety took over me, I began to lose sleep, I stopped eating: what if I couldn’t love this baby as much, what if I couldn’t love it at all? Surely it wasn’t possible to be able to contain the all-consuming love I had for my son and make room for another; my heart was already full.
Luckily, and from the moment my daughter was born, I found that I could love my second, third, fourth child just as much; my own capacity for love seems limitless.
I was reminded of this moment when I began to write my second novel. I never expected to fall in love so deeply with the characters from my debut, but fall I did.
Melody King from my first novel, The Songs of Us had been the centre of my life for so long that it almost felt like a betrayal to start writing about Sophie
, and as I opened the blank word document, I felt like I had Melody peering over my shoulder as I began. But as Sophie grew, inside my head and then out onto the page, I felt myself falling, and falling hard.
When my eldest son was born, I remember the midwife coming to my side in the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t understand why this baby kept crying. He was fed, he was changed, and I have to admit, that this scared me. I had done everything I was supposed to but, I had missed something.
‘Pop him in the bed with you,’ she’d said and so I did, and he slept like a … well like a baby.
When the first night in the hospital with my daughter came, I assumed that she would want the same, I tried to keep offering her milk, but she turned her head; she’d had enough. I tried to get her to sleep in the bed with me, but she wouldn’t settle. She wanted space, quiet, she was an entirely different baby from my first.
Like my daughter, Sophie is a fiercely independent woman – and I admire and am in awe of her. Unlike my daughter, Sophie has lost her mum and as a result, she has had to reinvent herself, has had to fight to make herself a success. But beneath all of that, she has a vulnerability that makes me deeply protective of her and when she meets Samuel, he can see her for who she really is.
In contrast to Sophie, Samuel, is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He comes from a loud, brash Irish family. His parents, who for a reason unknown to him, call each other Mr and Mrs McLaughlin respectively, and they are the people Samuel turns to when, after meeting Sophie for the first time, he is forced to see the world differently. He has never had to question whether he is loved, and when he meets Sophie, it doesn’t occur to him that she would ever have to question it either.
I often refer to my publication day as my book baby birthday and if you were to ask another writer, they will tell you that our books often do feel like our children. We watch them grow, we make hard decisions to make them better and we shower them with praise when they are doing well; we love them deeply.
Like my children, each of my characters are very different, they each have their faults and their strengths, they make me laugh and cry, shock and surprise me.
But most importantly, they have the ability to stretch my capacity for love, making me fall in love all over again.