Before we start- in short, Emma Gannon is amazing. She’s the kind of person that makes the internet a really, really happy place, and I knew from the moment I clicked ‘Follow’ ON Twitter, we would get along pretty well. She’s the girl who puts together words in a way that constantly makes me say, ‘That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking’, supports everyone as if we’re all part of a cool online girl gang (which, I guess, we are) and completely exudes a knowledge of the written word that makes me want to shut off Gossip Girl and curl up with a good book, highlighting interesting quotes and words to give myself that little bit of ‘Gannon cool’ (which, may I add, I’m penning as a thing). Not only that, but she’s just written a book and, on top of that, after meeting her, chatting for a good hour and then losing the whole interview (thanks, iPhone), she kindly offered to relay everything back to me over email- because, y’know- she’s just the bloody bees knees…
So Emma, can you tell us a little about yourself- what were you like growing up?
Ooooh, that’s the first question they ask on Desert Island Discs, my fave. As a child I guess I was quite introverted, spent a lot of time in my bedroom on my own, happy as larry, keeping myself to myself. Obsessed with stationary and always had a few different diaries on the go. I’d Pritstick things into my scrap books, blue tac things up all over my walls, re-arranging my furniture, colouring things in. I guess without knowing it I was starting the thing I would always love to do: write and journal and document the things I enjoy. I was also a massive attention-seeker and made up plays and songs and dance-routines at any possible moment. I still think a part of me likes to be “on the stage”. I was also very sensitive. If anyone accidentally said the wrong thing I’d run upstairs and cry on my bed for days. Too sensitive, definitely.
Did you always want to be a writer, who or what inspired you to get writing?
Always! I was constantly writing. But I never ever ever thought I could make money from it, let alone for it to be an actual job. That always seemed absurd to me. It was always something I would do in my spare time, as a fun hobby, and I never expected to be able to do it as a job. I don’t know who inspired me. Probably the enjoyment I got from Jacqueline Wilson and Roald Dahl books made me want to tell stories from a young age. I just wanted to be a storyteller and entertain.
When did you decide to start your blog?
In 2010, but it has changed a lot since then. The good thing about writing a bit of “secret” blog is that you can figure out how you want it to look and sound it private until you’re ready to really share your work with the world. The idea to start it came when I was interning at a PR agency and noticed people had started fashion blogs and were getting attention from brands, readers, PRs. I didn’t necessarily want to do the fashion thing or want to work with brands, but I saw how quickly their blogs were growing and I liked the idea of having your own little space on the Internet that people could discover, and that was all yours. Starting the blog was the best thing I ever did. I’ve had so many fun opportunities over the past few years, and I just think of it as: “I’ve had five years of practising my writing!” and I can see it improve year on year. How could it not?
Every time you post I often get the ‘YES! I GET IT’ feeling, and I know so many others totally resonate with everything you put together- what inspires you to post, is it observational?
Inspiration for a blog post catches me at very unexpected moments. Sometimes a blog post will be my own spin on an article I’ve read, or something in the news that everyone has been discussing on Twitter, or just something that’s bugging me, or just a big rhetorical question that I want to explore for myself. As Joan Didion once said: “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” I try and keep my blog a really positive space for people to visit, but I also feel a responsibility to be as honest on the blog. Honesty is the most important thing to me. I just want to point my finger at a few things that irritate me. For centuries women have been taught to “ssshh” and sit down and be silent. So I think it’s important to say what you think and tell your story and have a voice, as long as you’re not hurting anyone in the process.
I have three notebooks, one of the blog, one for work, and one for my book. So whenever I get a little idea that is perfect for 700 words or so, it goes in the blog notebook. Sometimes though, I’ll want it to be a bit of a more thought-out idea so I may work on a pitch email instead and send it to a magazine or newspaper commissioning editor, or to GLAMOUR magazine where I work. But sometimes I prefer that I can just blog a little thought that I don’t have to make perfect, it’s just a brain-dump. It’s important for me to not care too much about perfection on my blog otherwise I wouldn’t post half the stuff. It’s my space, there’s no “editor’, obviously I try and avoid typos but I won’t spend days sweating about how a blog post sounds or looks, I’ll write it in a hour and publish it the same night.
THE BOOK! How did it all come about?
The BOOOOOOOK. I feel like I’m pregnant with BOOK. I’ve been growing this idea inside my belly for so long and soon, it’ll be out in the world ready to meet people! The idea came to me on a long plane journey to Australia. I had no Internet and I was too tired to read my books so I started daydreaming and just dreamt up this big idea for a non-fiction book. I wrote down 14 chapter titles and then the next day I still liked them. I let the idea breathe, enjoyed my holiday and discussed it with my sister and best friend and family (we were all on the holiday together) and then when I got back to London I sat in the bath and thought: “Omg, if I don’t do something with this, someone else will! QUICK DO SOMETHING!” It’s quite a timely idea about the Internet so I felt like it need to be happen NOW. So I sent it out to literary agents, went on a few speed-dates, and then met Robyn who is now my literary agent, and she secured the book deal for me a few months later. She is my fairy godmother.
What’s the most nerve-wracking thing about putting a book together, how do you avoid comparison?
Comparison can sometimes be a good thing! Like on Amazon when they say “like this? you might like THIS!” I would happily be compared to other authors if people think our stuff is similar. I don’t see it as a negative. But when it all comes down to it, I don’t tend to compare myself to other writers or bloggers, we’re all different aren’t we? I can’t do what anyone else is doing, and they can’t do what I’m doing.
Obviously your book is all about growing up with the internet and around social media, which can be bloody scary at times. Is there anything that would make you quit social media? Are there any words of wisdom you’d offer to 16 year old Emma growing up online?
I don’t think I could ever properly “quit” because the Internet is SUCH a lovely place if you let it be. I have so many friends and people who inspire me that I can around all day inside my little laptop. But I think if anything got a bit “much” whatever that might be, I think I could definitely benefit from taking a little break. Taking a break away from a constant WIFI connection is a good thing, just to remind yourself that you CAN function without it! Me and boyfriend try and have this rule where if we’re going out for dinner we don’t take our phones.
As well as being a (very soon to be) published author and wordsmith extraordinaire, you’re a social media queen at Glamour- what’s the difference between writing for a publication and for yourself?
Writing and social media editing for GLAMOUR is brilliant because I get to work with such nice people. The main different is that I work in a team at GLAMOUR and we work towards the same goal. When working for myself, it’s all on me and I don’t have lots of people around me to bounce ideas off, sometimes I’ll email a blog post to a writer friend for their opinion before publishing but often I just go for it, so I guess there’s a bit more “risk-taking” when doing my own thing. I think doing both things make me better at both, if that makes sense. I love building and developing my own brand.
Have you ever interviewed anyone that’s really inspired you?
I came away feeling really inspired when I interviewed Grace Helbig. People sometimes just put her in the same category as all the other YouTubers out there but there’s something so unique about her. She’s hilarious, a ballsy feminist, a TV presenter, a podcast maker, an author, a writer – she’s amazing! She answered my questions so authentically and felt like after I met her I was little bit wiser, and a little bit braver.
You recently wrote a post about fangirling- which is something I can relate to hugely (hey, I’m a huge E.G fangirl myself)- and as this feature is all about girl crushes- are there any women who endlessly inspire you, and any ladies you’re crushing on?
OH SO MANY. Firstly Dawn O’Porter for writing so honestly. She writes a fantastically honest column for Glamour which I look forward to reading every month, but even before that i used to read her blog religiously and anything I could find that she’d written on the Internet. There’s a piece on Amanda De Cadenet’s site about how she couldn’t afford a haircut before the red carpet of Bridesmaids because she was so broke and that is the type of honesty I’d admire, she just isn’t afraid to say it how it is. People think other people’s lives are so perfect all the time but it takes a few writers to say “hey actually, let me tell you the truth about that” I fangirl over Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer and I really love Iris Apfel, she makes being old look quite fun. I also really admire Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, also a writer called Ashley C Ford. She’s amazing.
Finally- favourite books!
Favourite play: Othello. I still have my ratty old copy from GCSE at school, covered in annotations and completely dog-eared.
Favourite memoir: Any Nora Ephron or Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking.
Favourite book of essays: Marina Keegan’s The Opposite Of Loneliness.
Novel: It has to be Gone Girl (hated the film version though), or One Day by David Nicholls.
Old School novel: Emma, by Jane Austen.