King's alumna uses challenging times as jump-offs for writing
July 28, 2022
King’s alumna Emily Austin ’11, says she likes “to choose areas of my life that have been challenging as jumping-off points” in her writing. Her second novel and third book overall, Interesting Facts About Space, is currently in the editing stages, set to be released in 2023.
The novel follows a true crime-obsessed, bald-phobic serial dater who is navigating her first serious relationship, and who is convinced someone is stalking her. It deals with abandonment, the fear of being a bad person, and attachment trauma. It's also about depression, mother-daughter relationships, friendship, and space.
Austin says empathy and wondering why people behave the way they do drives her to write.
“In Interesting Facts About Space, I was inspired to write about a character who behaves poorly in romantic relationships, who sabotages themselves, and to dig into why,” says Austin.
In July 2021, Austin released Everyone in this Room will Someday Be Dead, about a highly anxious young woman who stumbles into a job as a receptionist for a Catholic church, where she hides her atheist lesbian identity, and becomes obsessed with her predecessor's mysterious death.
“A significant part of the story is about how that impacts the main character, and how the people who orbit depressed people are also impacted by mental illness,” says Austin. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead revolved around a mentally ill protagonist; in Interesting Facts About Space, the character's mother is depressed.
Austin’s career as a writer began long before she studied creative writing at King’s. In grade nine, she had “an uplifting high school English teacher,” who gave Austin’s short story an A+ and entered the story into a contest. Austin won the contest and the teacher moved her from college-track English to the university track.
“I decided to try becoming a writer because of her,” says Austin.
Austin fondly remembers her creative writing classes at King’s with Dr. Dorothy Nielsen, former Lecturer in Modern Languages and Creative Writing, and Dr. Vidya Natarajan, Writing Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor. Austin says Drs. Nielsen and Natarajan radiate similar energies to her high school English teacher.
“I remember leaving their classes believing my stories and writing had improved because of their lessons and feedback, but more than anything, I left feeling uplifted and encouraged by them,” says Austin.
Her first published work, a novella titled Oh Honey, was released by an indie press in the United Kingdom in 2017. Austin used her student job experiences as working as a telemarketer for the basis of the novella.
Following the release of her novella, Austin found a literary agent, Heather Carr at the Friedrich Agency, who sold Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead to Atria Books and Simon and Schuster Canada. The book was also bought by Atlantic Books in the United Kingdom.
With Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead, Austin focused on topics including mental illness and religious trauma rather than the horrors of telemarketing.
“I hope that readers who relate to my characters feel represented or seen, and that readers who don’t might leave my books with a deeper understanding of mental illness,” says Austin.
Learn more about Austin and her books on her website.