COOL: Emma Chapman, a bestselling author at 27

Posted on February 14, 2013 by


In life, there are two types of people: achievers, and those that watch reruns of Roswell High at 2.30pm in bed on a Tuesday.

Emma Chapman is now in the first group, because she – rrrrrather annoyingly – has published a bestselling novel at the ripe young age of 27.

It’s called How To Be A Good Wife. And it’s bloody good.

Her feat is even more impressive because Emma used to be one of us – the Roswell Watchers. She and I spent many an afternoon falling in love with the characters, drinking tea, whiling away our Tuesdays.

But clamber out of bed she did, leaving me sitting in my own filth watching Liz get it on with Max, even though he’s a raging alien.

Now I can’t bear to be around her filthy stench of success.

How To Be A Good Wife has been something of a critical and commercial success, with reviews in the FT, Vogue, Marie Claire – all the goodies – oh and from that kinda famous author… Hilary Mantel. That’s right, Ms. Mantel loved it.

Some smarty pants has even been dubbed it “The New What Lies Beneath.” Hollywood’s calling, I swear.

Not bad, eh? Well EIC got in touch with the lady herself to find out more about the book.

So, the book’s called How To Be a Good Wife. Is it a self-help book for shit wives? 

Nope. I think it would be quite dangerous as a self-help book! In fact, I have wondered if the publisher shouldn’t put a warning sticker on the front cover…

Do you actually know how to be a good wife? Any tips?

Um, make lots of sandwiches? I have no idea, and I will be a wife later this year.  I better get learning.

Go on then, what’s it about?

It’s about Marta, who has been married to Hector for as long as she can remember. When he comes home with a secret, their ordered domestic life begins to unravel and Marta begins to question her sheltered life and her husband…

Uh-huh. And what’s it really about?

Drugs. No – it’s about marriage and memory.


You’re far too young (but not really) to have published a critically acclaimed book (27?!?!… grrr). When you tell people, do they kind of hate you?

Hope not! I used to feel a lot of pressure to get published while I was still young… each birthday was a terrible event.  It’s probably because writing a novel was all I ever wanted to do and anything else felt like a failure.  Not sure if people hate me but it is a nice feeling to have finally achieved it.

What’s it like reading reviews of your book? Do you get pissed off if people get it wrong?

I check Amazon as much as I check Facebook now! The thing I’ve always loved about reading is that there are no wrong answers, so other people’s interpretations of the book are really interesting.

Hilary Mantel got it tho. And loved it. Well done babe. 

Thanks!  I nearly fell off my chair when I read that email.

What’s the most bizarre interview you’ve read so far? 

There was one which had a massive picture of me and the headline read “Trapped in a Marriage”, which my fiancée and I had a good laugh about!

*BREAK*. Daddy or Chips?


Ant or Dec?


Would you rather be chased by 50 tiny rhinos, or one giant mouse?

Good question. Mouse. Rhino horns, even if tiny, look sharp.

Phew…  – now we’ve got those out of the way, let’s talk advice… What do you say to any fledgling authors out there?

You’ve got to be thick skinned, but not to the point where you can’t listen to constructive criticism.  Make sure you give your work the best chance to be seen by the right people.  And always ask the question, does this need to be in the book? Even down to sentence level.

But when people come up to you drunk at parties and say “I’ve definitely got a book inside of me” – what do you think? 

a) “No you don’t”

b) “It’s not like that, no one does”

c) “Then just sit down, shut up and write!”

d) I think that writing is a skill like any other, one you can improve on.  There’s this myth that writing is an innate talent, but I think the crucial things are an ability to be flexible, take criticism, and the self-discipline to actually do the writing.

If your book was on a GCSE syllabus, (fingers crossed!) what would the exam question be?

Emma Chapman is the world’s most amazing writer.  Discuss, using examples.

How many actual words are there in your book? 50,000?

55,000.  Which means it is actually classed as a novella.  60,000 is a novel.

WHY did you write this book?

I was interested in the repression of traumatic memory, and the stagnation of long-term marriages.  These two things brought me to Marta.

Ever thought you might be repressing something, then, eh eh?

Not something so traumatic, no.  I often repress things like where I’ve put things around the house, but I don’t think that’s quite the same.

How To Be A Good Wife is published by Picador and can be found on Kindle here.

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