Emily Thiede loves writing about characters who flirt with their enemies and find humor in the darkest situations.
EMILY THIEDE is an alumna of both the PitchWars and the Author Mentor Match programs. With a M.A. Ed in Elementary Education, she taught in Title 1 public schools and now teaches aspiring writers by hosting monthly social events through a local writing nonprofit. When she isn’t writing, she fosters kittens with an animal rescue organization and spends way too much time on Twitter. Her debut YA fantasy, The Last Finestra, is the first of a planned duology from Wednesday Books/Macmillan. Emily lives in the Richmond area of Virginia.
Visit ekthiede.com to find out more and follow her on Twitter at @ethiedee and on Instagram at @ektwrites.
When and how did you start writing?
Other than one attempt in middle school which will never see the light of day, I didn’t attempt to write fiction until 2015, when my mother challenged me to try NaNoWriMo. Until then, I thought all authors had an entire story in their head when they began writing, and I only had ideas and scattered scenes, so I just . . . waited. NaNoWriMo was the push I needed. I sat down every day, with only one goal—to put words on the page, any words—and at the end of the month, I was amazed to discover I had a complete first draft of a novel. I’ve been writing ever since.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
I was a “late reader” but once it clicked, I took off and read everything I could get my hands on. I remember carrying Little Women around in second or third grade, so proud of myself for reading such a big book, and I spent my youth hiding books under my desk, reading in trees, and figuring out how to do just about everything with a book in front of my face. By middle school, I’d discovered my dad’s SciFi collection and got hooked by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider and Talent series. I must have re-read every book she wrote at least three times and they left such a lasting impression that subtle nods to her work seem to show up in everything I write.
Can you talk us through your career so far? What were the key moments?
I worked as a teacher for a few years after graduate school, but decided to take some time off while I was juggling babies and a spouse who worked long hours and traveled frequently. I’m not good at sitting still, though, so by the time my youngest child was sleeping through the night, I was desperate for a challenge. Writing hit the spot. I began taking classes at a local writing non-profit, and within a year or so, I had a few novels drafted already.
One of my manuscripts was chosen for a mentorship program called PitchWars in 2017, which was an incredible experience that introduced me to amazing writers who became friends and critique partners, but didn’t lead to an offer of representation. My next manuscript was chosen for the Author Mentor Match program in 2018, but that book also fizzled in the query trenches. Frustrated and beginning to wonder if I’d ever write the “right” book at the right time, I dove into a new project that was just for me. My favorite story elements, tropes, my sense of humor, and characters I wanted to spend all day with. I had no idea whether it would fit with the market or whether anyone else would want to read it, but I loved it and had so much fun writing it. Lucky for me, it did resonate with others, too, and a brief, successful querying experience led me to Greenhouse. A few months later, after a whirlwind submission experience, I signed a two-book deal with Wednesday Books, and my debut comes out in 2022!
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a morning writer, but my brain can be slow to wake up, so I usually start with breakfast and espresso, then try to get some sort of exercise before settling into my “writing chair” in the sunniest room of my house. When I get in a groove, time ceases to exist—those are the best writing days—but other times, I have to bribe myself with social media breaks. When I notice writing is becoming a slog, I step back and refill my creative well by reading a ton of books and watching movies. It never fails that something completely random and unexpected will ignite an idea and then I’m excited to get back to work.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Find your writing community. Publishing is a tough industry and rejection is inevitable, but it’s a lot easier to handle when you have a support system and when you remember that the writers who seem to be pulling “ahead” of you aren’t your competition, but your peers. Also, being a part of the community means you have opportunities to get and give critique. No one writes a perfect book on the first try, and a successful writer is one who never stops learning and striving to improve.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
The first that comes to mind is learning to pare down. It’s easy to think that more description or more explanation will help our readers understand, but it’s often the opposite. By choosing your words carefully and trimming away the excess, you can create a much more vivid and immersive experience.
Trust your audience. If you give the right clues and use evocative language, readers can infer character emotions and picture the setting without you needing to lay out every detail. An author’s job is to tell the story, not explain it, and the beauty of books is that every reader gets to have a slightly different experience.
Write what you love. Learn (and respect) the basic expectations for your genre and age category, but don't be afraid to mix things up a little within them. The more you genuinely enjoy your book, the higher the odds are that someone else will, too.
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
I get weak-kneed over meticulously crafted prose, so I’d love to spend an hour with prose masters like Victoria Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, and my fellow Greenhouse author Andrea Contos, just to try and absorb a bit of their genius via osmosis.
As for characters, it may sound trite, but Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games was an incredible concept and a biting critique of modern society, but it was Katniss who made those books impossible to put down. Here was this young female character who didn’t care if anyone, including readers, liked her, and she refused to play by the rules of what YA main characters were expected to be like. Because The Hunger Games made such a lasting impact on YA, I think people forget how novel that character felt at the time.