Author Emma Heatherington has written 40 short plays and films, three musicals and has a four-book deal with Harper Collins. We talk mornings, being a mum-of-five and living with another artist…
Emma Heatherington, 40, lives in a little village in County Tyrone called Donaghmore, “which is a very creative hub of talent – lots of actors, writers, artists, musicians and TV presenters live here. They say there is something in the water.” She lives with her partner Jim McKee, an artist/singer/songwriter, and children Jordyn, 20, Jade, 15, stepson Dualta, 15, Adam, 14, and 22-month-old Sonny James.
Meet Emma Heatherington
What’s your home/home life like?
It’s very varied and quite unconventional being headed up by two artistic types. We write songs and play music, Jim paints and there are toddler toys everywhere. The older kids, the ‘threenagers’, tend to spend a lot of time in their own caves (aka bedrooms) and my eldest is at uni so it’s a bit like a train station – sometimes it’s packed and sometimes it’s eerily quiet.
Our dog, a whippet called Seamus, can be found sneaking upstairs every now and then when the coast is clear and we always have family dropping by – I’m the eldest of six and we’re very close knit so there’s always comings and goings of some sort.
What time are you up in the morning?
Sonny is our alarm clock and he normally wakes around 7.30 but on school days we are all up and out by 8.10. Jim and I both work from home and are night owls so sometimes one of us will have a sneaky lie in if we can.
What wakes you up?
My toddler climbing over my head.
How do you feel?
I am not a morning person but I know with a wee one I have no choice, so it’s a case of get up and get on with it. He is very easy going though, just like his mum and dad, so we take it pretty easy on the weekends.
What do you do first thing?
Change the baby, get him some milk, get dressed, do the school run, then back for breakfast. Oh and nosey on Facebook and the likes in between all that.
In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Slow, quiet, easy.
What’s for breakfast?
The teens have cereal and the rest of us have eggs. Sonny isn’t really a breakfast person but I’m still trying to find something that he likes. I really enjoy my morning coffee.
How might the rest of your day pan out?
I seem to do a lot of housework and still get nowhere, so I’ll make a start and then when Sonny goes down for his nap, normally just after lunch, I’ll get some writing done. I do tend to work to deadline so it will depend what I have on, and how much I get done in that space of time.
We might go to the park in the afternoon then soon it’s school run time, followed by dinner and bedtime for Sonny, plus some evening runs to sports training or whatever other errands come with the teenagers. Once the baby is in bed and the others are settled, I will grab a few hours writing before bed.
What’s your workspace like?
It’s a corner on the sofa. I don’t work from a desk. My ideas are all in my head or else on my laptop so I’m pretty low maintenance.
Where are the kids when you’re working?
All at school apart from Sonny who I work around during the day, and in the evenings they will be doing homework, at youth club, football, hurling, or in their rooms stuck to some wi-fi connected device.
Emma Heatherington on writing…
Tell us about your various roles: novelist, song writer and travel writer…
I have just completed my eighth novel, having left a full time post in PR about nine years ago to be a writer. This book, The Legacy of Lucy Harte, has taken the longest to write and I’ve put my heart and soul into it so I hope it is well received – it deals with the subject of organ donation and it’s an emotional read but an inspiring one – I hope!
I got my first publishing deal just after I turned 30 so this is a new decade with a new publisher (Harper Collins) and I’m very excited about it. I have always been a writer, even in my youth, and I penned my first musical when I was 12 but it wasn’t very good. Since then, I have written about 40 short plays and films plus three musicals, which have been produced and performed across the north of Ireland, and I’m really proud of them.
My partner Jim and I teamed up for the latest one – a children’s musical called Scarecrow Fred – and it went down a treat locally so we are planning to tour it in early 2017. I am a lyricist more than a songwriter – Jim brings my lyrics to life by creating the melodies and I’ve also worked with some other fantastic musicians along the way.
I write travel reviews on occasion on family and couple breaks across Ireland and the UK for Sunday Life newspaper which is great fun, and we have been to some lovely places over the past few years from the West End of London to the west coast of Ireland.
What’s your greatest career challenge?
Finding the time and developing a routine. With the kids and working from home that can be very difficult.
What makes it all worthwhile?
Coming up with new ideas, collaborating with other extremely talented artists and performers, and seeing the finished product either on the stage or screen or on the shelves. It’s quite a feeling. As a scriptwriter, I also tackle some fairly heavy subjects such as bullying, crime and suicide awareness, so I feel it’s worthwhile when the short films I write make it to the relevant audience and hopefully educate and make a difference.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I love getting a few hours to myself where I can really get stuck into a story, be it a novel or a script for theatre or for screen and I really appreciate when I get that opportunity. However, I also enjoy working with others to bring it to life and I have worked with some amazing actors and singers who have done just that to my scripts. I also love working with Jim – it’s a nice way to spend time together as a couple when you are creating something exciting that you both believe in.
What’s the secret to career success?
Hard work! Simple as that!
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I’m often asked what my secret is but I honestly don’t have one. I think I’m pretty cool headed and calm which probably helps me get done what needs to be done. I’m also a positive person and try to keep going even when the going gets tough. I really love my work but I love time out too when it comes along. It is difficult finding time for everything because Sonny is my main priority during the day at the moment, but we’ll get there and I love every minute of watching him reach all his little milestones, which is the best thing ever.
Describe an ideal weekend?
Friday night is TV night – I love a bit of Graham Norton and channel surfing the chat shows, then an ideal Saturday would be a relaxing day with the kids doing something nice like a day at the beach (Irish weather permitting) followed by a romantic meal for two with a nice bottle of red then some live music in a bar and a catch up with friends. Sundays are always when I meet up with my Dad, my sisters and brother and all the brood that comes with it and we enjoy a big Sunday roast, which is simply the best.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
We recently visited Paris and I fell in love with it more than anywhere I’ve been before, so that would be very nice. A few days walking along the Seine, some French cuisine, art, culture – and of course wine – would be just lovely.
What are you working on now?
I have another two novels to write for Harper Collins, so it’s time to get the thinking cap on again. Plus, I’m working on a really interesting play called ‘The Chronicles of Motherhood’ where I will be exploring true elements of what it takes to be a modern day mother through the eyes of single mums, first time mums, step mums, bereaved mums, those who can’t be a mum, those who don’t want to be a mum, foster mums, grandmums and anyone else I can think of. Then it’s tour time for Scarecrow Fred in the New Year. And that’s as far as I can plan for at the minute. I think that’s plenty, mind you.
What’s your dream?
I’m often asked what my big ambition as a writer is and it has to be seeing my work on the big screen as a feature film. I hope some big Hollywood producer likes The Legacy of Lucy Harte and decides to make it into a movie. Now, that would be a dream come true.
You can pre-order The Legacy of Lucy Harte, published by Harper Collins in December 2016, here.