Emily Hainsworth is the debut novelist of Through to You, a contemporary novel with a little sci-fi twist. She loves Dr. Who, cupcakes, and writing (who doesn’t). Until recently owned her own dog-grooming business. Emily stopped by Figment to chat about her novel, parallel realities, and her favorite books. And of course, she’s got some advice for aspiring writers!
Describe your novel in five words.
Love, Grief, Choices, Second Chances
Through to You involves a parallel reality, where Camden Pike is reunited with his beloved girlfriend whom he thought he’d never see again. But things are not exactly as they seem. Was it difficult to keep the two realities straight?
Yes! Because the two worlds and the people in each of them are so similar, it was a little tricky. I had some confusing conversations with my critique partners and my editor about “this” version of a character versus “that” one. Of course, the line between the two worlds does blur for all the characters at some point, but I still had to keep everything that happened in each world straight!
You’ve described Through to You as being Sci-Fi lite. Do you imagine you’ll bring more sci-fi elements to your future novels?
I’ve always loved the idea of something “strange” interrupting an otherwise-normal person’s life. It catches them off guard because they’re not looking for it, but the best part for me is exploring their reaction. The thoughts and emotions a person might have when confronted with something out of the ordinary. I like being able to twist an otherwise-contemporary story with just a touch of the unreal to expand on the possibilities while keeping the story and characters accessible. Certain sci-fi concepts lend themselves beautifully to this approach, so the answer is yes, I will most certainly bring more sci-fi elements to my future novels.
While you were writing Through to You, you were also juggling a full-time job. How did you find time to write? How did you keep yourself motivated?
I found a second version of myself in another dimension and hired her—just kidding! I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, though. I would write into the early hours of the morning and most of every weekend. At work during the day, I thought about what I would write when I got home. I skipped a lot of fun things in order to stay home with my laptop, but I’m a very driven person. When I make up my mind to do something, I never look back. Writing a book and getting it published is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but to me, the challenge itself was hugely motivating.
Through to You is all about how one single decision can change your life. Is there one thing in your life you would go back and change if you could?
Not to sound cliché, but I don’t think I would change a thing. Yes, there have been times in my life when I was frustrated or hurt and wanted desperately to escape, but if things had gone differently, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I might have become a psychologist or a teacher instead of a writer and we wouldn’t be discussing this at all.
Did you find it difficult to write the point-of-view of a 17-year-old former jock? What similarities are there between you and Camden?
I was so intimidated to write from the point-of-view of a teen guy at all, let alone a former jock, but these days I actually miss Cam sometimes. I played sports in school, but I was never a star. I did isolate myself much like Cam, however. The kid sitting in the alcove alone at lunch was totally me. The difference is that I was comfortable with that isolation, whereas I think it made Cam very uneasy.
What do you hope readers take away from Through to You?
I’m not sure I can ask readers to do any more than enjoy reading the story. Yes, there are concepts and themes in the book that I hope are thought provoking. I’d love nothing more than to hear people say it made them think. But first and foremost I simply hope readers will feel satisfied once they’ve reached the last page.
You’re part of The Apocalypsies. What has it been like being connected to other debut YA novelists? How did you get hooked up with them?
The day I announced that Through to You would be published with Balzer+Bray, I received an invite from the Apocalypsies who had seen the news on Twitter. Honestly, one of the best moves I made as a debut author was joining this group. It’s a comfort to be surrounded by people going through all the same “firsts.” We’ve supported one another, exchanged advice along the way, and I feel fortunate to be connected to such a talented group of people.
We read somewhere that you always wanted to be a writer, but it was during high school you decided you wanted to YA. What drew you to that genre? What continues to excite you about writing for young adults.
I spent a great deal of time reading in high school (see above where I sat by myself a lot—it’s because I was reading). I read everything from Christopher Pike thrillers to The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I would also pick up contemporary adult fiction and I made a point of slowly making my way through the classics of literature, but I never identified strongly with characters in any genre the way I did with YA characters. There’s just something so intense about falling in love, learning who you are, or having your heart broken—for the FIRST time. As adults, we experience these things over and over and it’s difficult to feel the same kind of intensity. Whenever I finished a particularly swoony, heart-wrenching, or emotional YA book in high school, I would think to myself this is the kind of thing I want to write someday. And I hope I have!
What advice would you give to young writers working on their first novels?
First, finish a draft. The first time I sat down to write a novel, I was fifteen, but I never completed a draft until I was in my mid-twenties. Second, read a lot. If you want to improve your own writing, you need to read the work of others. Third, have fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, there’s no point to any of this!