Emylia Hall grew up in the Devon countryside, the daughter of an English artist and a Hungarian quilt-maker. After studying at York University and in Lausanne, Switzerland, Hall spent five years working in a London ad agency before moving to the French Alps. It was there that she began to write. Hall now lives in Bristol with her husband, also an author. The Book of Summers (Harlequin MIRA) is her first novel, and is inspired by memories of childhood holidays spent in rural Hungary.
On your nightstand now:
The Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson. It's set between 1920s Kashgar and contemporary London. I'm only a little way in and I've no idea where the story's going, but I'm loving the ride. The writing is beautiful; controlled, but vivid. It's great reading the novels of fellow 2012 debut authors because in a way they feel like your classmates.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Set in the English lake District , it follows the exploits of a group of children who spend their summers there, clashing with--and then befriending--the locals. It's full of plucky, grubby-kneed female characters who have grand adventures in sailing boats and build campfires. Above all, it's a book about the celebration of the imagination, and for me that's the best kind.
Your top five authors:
Very difficult, but today I'm going to say Anne Tyler, Ernest Hemingway, J.G. Ballard, Jane Austen and Susan Fletcher (the Brit who wrote Eve Green, not the U.S. writer of the same name).
Book you've faked reading:
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. I was 19 and studying English literature at college. It was the summer semester of my first year, and let's just say my head was full of other things. I read some summary notes and managed to get through the seminar, feeling only slightly like a charlatan. We studied George Eliot's Daniel Deronda around the same time. I can't swear that I finished that either. Oops.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Diamond Star Halo by Tiffany Murray. I chanced upon this book back in May, drawn by a quote on the cover--"a cross between Wuthering Heights and your favourite mix tape." It's now one of my most beloved books of all time. It's beautifully poetic, captures the awkwardness of adolescence and a yearning that goes into adulthood, and has a rural setting that I can really identify with. And it's a little bit rock and roll, too.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Philip Roth's American Pastoral in a U.K. edition published by Vintage as part of a series of rainbow coloured books to celebrate their 21st birthday. It's an eye-popping canary yellow, with just American Pastoral in simple serif type. It looks good enough to eat.
Book that changed your life:
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Memoir, fictionalized memoir, whatever. It's an incredibly powerful book and reminded me that you can never look at a person and presume to know their story.
Favorite line from a book:
Oh my goodness, that's a question I'd happily ruminate on for at least a week, but seeing as I'm up against a deadline on my second novel, that's probably not the best use of time. So I'd say it's the first line of Hemingway's epilogue to Death in the Afternoon: "If I could have made this enough of a book, it would have had everything in it." Often my taste is for the lyrical, the poetic, but there's something about the sentiment behind this line that is really moving. When you write, you want to say all of the things that matter to you. Your head is so full of life--big things, small things, everything in between--that distilling it, choosing what to say and what not, and understanding that you'll never say it all, is every author's ambition and a good author's achievement. The epilogue that follows that line is one of my favourite pieces of work by any writer, anywhere.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I always strongly associate books with where I was and what I was doing when I read them. I read Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible while on a snowboarding holiday in the French Alps, a trip during which my boyfriend (now husband) proposed to me. The incredible heat and startling atmosphere of the Congo was a far cry from the cool serenity of the snow-clad mountains, and I took great pleasure in leaping from delicious reality into compelling fantasy and back again. It'll always be my "proposal book." That's an experience I wouldn't mind re-living as well. I'd try to weep less and actually manage to get out the word "yes."
Emylia Hall photo: fayetography.com