Hungry, The Stars and Everything Launch
20th Jun 2011
Hungry, The Stars and Everything is not only Emma’s debut novel, but the first publication for Hidden Gem Press whose launch we covered at the end of last year. If the warm welcome and passion for what they do is anything to go by, this independent publisher is definitely one to watch. Sherry Ashworth, of Hidden Gem Press, has known Emma for years, watching her writing develop and blossom throughout school and beyond. Hungry, The Stars and Everything is a labour of love in more ways than one, with Emma describing the long process from research, to writing to editing and redrafting which took several years to complete. She candidly admitted that after all that time, she was “glad to get shut of” her main character, Helen.
Helen is a 29 year old food critic with a big black hole in her life. But a lot to be thankful for: a great job, a loving partner and an assignment to review a mysterious new restaurant, Bethel, tipped for a Michelin star.
Then, alone in the restaurant, she finds herself embarking upon an extraordinary eleven-course meal where each dish takes her back to a life-shaping moment in the past. There’s a dysfunctional family home, some unexplained dark fantasies, and a heartbreaking love affair. All of which leaves Helen wondering whether she is where she wants to be after all.
Emma told the gathered audience how the story – and title – of her debut encompasses her main passions: food, science, romance and, well, everything else! She explained that the ‘everything’ in the title comes from the first-time-novelist’s fear that if she didn’t cram all her ideas into this book she might never write another. From the sounds of it, she’s done an excellent job of creating something beautiful and complex. With astronomy, magic realism, psychology and romance, the book follows food critic Helen through several courses of a tasting menu. With each course, Helen experiences new sensations and tastes, but something takes her back to memories of encounters in her past – a first date, a chance meeting on a train, the emotions tied to her sense-memory as she presses plump Italian olives between her molars. The reading didn’t just make me hungry (though it did succeed in that!), but made me eager to get my hands on a copy. Emma’s northern humour is warm, sometimes dark, and compelling, and her attention to detail creates vivid recollections of times, places and people.
One of the questions Emma was asked was how she would label the book – it is literary fiction? Chick lit? What genre does it fit into? Emma readily, and happily, admits that the book doesn’t comfortably sit in any one genre, but maintains that at its heart, Hungry, The Stars and Everything, is a love story. She commented that she has often been asked how writing ‘old fashioned romance’ can sit alongside her feminist views, as she does identify as a feminist. Emma’s response was simple, personal and one that made me all the more eager to read the book: “You can still be a feminist and long for love.”
On July 7th, Emma will be at Manchester’s Central Library (Elliot House, Deadngate) reading from her book. Entry is free from 6.30pm, and you can email Hidden Gem to RSVP.
For you London lit lovers, there will be a London launch of the book on 19th July – be sure to check the Hidden Gem website for more details as they are released.
And we are lucky enough to have Emma appearing at our For Books’ Sake Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on July 15th– if you haven’t got your ticket already, that’s another great reason to snap one up!