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Words of inspiration: Author Emma Cooper celebrates release of her new book

Many of us have considered what advice we might give to our younger self if we had the chance.

Author Emma Cooper from Telford, with her new book It Was Always You
Author Emma Cooper from Telford, with her new book It Was Always You

For best-selling author Emma Cooper, this thought-provoking question provided the inspiration for her new novel, It Was Always You.

"I was doing the washing up and I looked out of the window and saw a magpie in the garden. I thought it was such a lovely colour, almost a midnight blue rather than black. I could just imagine my teenage self rolling her eyes at me and saying, 'you're so boring,' and I thought - what if I could go back and tell her what I know now?," she tells Weekend.

The opening of the book is set on the night the clocks go back in 1999, explains Emma, who lives in Telford. And the setting was inspired by Donington Bonfire, Lilleshall Abbey and Apley Woods.

The story starts with a a teenage Ella sat around a bonfire drinking with her future husband, Will, and her oldest friend Cole.

As Ella wanders away from the group, she finds herself leaning against a derelict archway before passing out.

The next day, Ella remembers fractured images of a conversation with a woman in a green coat and red scarf but dismisses it as a drunken dream.

Twenty-three years later, with her marriage to Will in trouble, and Cole spiralling out of control, Ella opens a gift which turns her life upside down: a green coat and red scarf.

When she looks in the mirror, the woman from the archway is reflected back at her.

Mother of four Emma began writing the book, which features lots of noughties nostalgia, during the third lockdown.

Setting it in a world without Covid, meant it became her much-needed escape from the uncertainty of the pandemic.

"I start the book on January 1, 2021 during the worst part of lockdown because we had Christmas away from family and friends and no one knew how it was all going to unfold.

"Setting it in a world with Covid meant my characters could visit each other and go to the pub without a mask. It was my escape," she explains.

"It was a lovely experience writing the book. I think out of all of my characters, this group of characters are my favourite.

"My first book will always be very special because it was my debut and the one that changed my life, but I don't think I've ever felt as big of a connection as I have for Ella, Will and Cole."

Prior to becoming an author, Emma worked as a teaching assistant in a local junior school for 11 years.

In her spare time she began writing her debut book, The Songs of Us, described as a funny and heartbreaking novel of love, loss and what it means to be a family.

After submitting the finished book to literary agents and publishers, she received over 30 rejection letters, she was contacted by agent Amanda Preston who was full of praise for her writing.

Within two months, she went on to earn a UK publishing deal with Headline and the book went to be shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Contemporary Novel Award. Her second novel The First Time I Saw You was published first as an ebook in 2019 and paperback in January 2020.

And this was followed by If I Could Say Goodbye in September 2020. It Was Always You, which is available to buy in ebook and audio book format now and will be published paperback on September 1, is her fourth novel and Emma has already started work on the fifth.

When she's not working on her own novels, Emma works as an editor and creative writing tutor for Jericho Writers, a company offering writers expert editorial assistance.

"I split my day. I do my own writing in the morning, on the sofa with my laptop, and do 2,000 words when I'm in my flow. Then I will switch to doing editorial work on the computer at my desk," she explains.

"I think I would go back and tell my teenage self to believe in myself a little bit more. I think when I started to get the rejections, it was easy to believe it was because I wasn't good enough to be a writer," says Emma.

She's been delighted with the response to It Was Always You so far and is eagerly awaiting the publication of the paperback edition.

Emma doesn't shy away from reading her reviews because she says it helps her to learn what people like or dislike about her books.

"I always read my reviews, a lot of authors don't. I think people are really busy so if they've taken the time to write a review, it should be read."

"I've made lots of people cry. It's always nice when I've made people cry and laugh, I've drawn out their emotions. I hope people fall in love with it as much as I did.

Emma enjoys interacting with readers and will be attending Chase Bookfest, Cannock Chase's book festival devoted to women's popular fiction and thrillers, later this year.

"I love hearing from my readers and I hope to go to some book clubs so if you're interested, please get in touch."

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