BB: Hi Emily, welcome to Blogger's Bookshelf! Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got started as a book blogger?
I'd always enjoyed reading book reviews and articles, but I was apprehensive about starting a book blog. Other bloggers I know read over 100 books a year, whereas I manage an average of 30 or 40. I feel like there's currently a real lack of reviewers out on the blogsphere writing about the sort of books I usually read, so I thought I might actually contribute to the book blogging scene rather than just repeat what other people were already writing.
BB: As well as sharing your love for books through your blog Lady Of Letters you also have a YouTube channel. What made you want to start making videos?
My path into YouTubing is a slightly strange one. I first got into YouTube as a place of original content (rather than just looking up, say, cat videos) through literary web series like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. I decided to make my own, inspired by Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (called Elinor and Marianne Take Barton), and whilst I was writing that, I watched other YouTube vloggers to help me get the style right. I then sort of stumbled upon BookTube and realised that these were my sort of people, and that I wanted to join in the conversation!
BB: In a recent video you mentioned how much you love Historical Romance novels. Which 5 books or series would you recommend to anyone new to this genre?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This is a dazzling romantic fantasy about the creation of a travelling circus, and a competition between two rival magicians (Celia and Marco) who end up falling in love. Morgenstern has the most unbelievable imagination, and the world of this enchanted Victorian circus is one that I never get tired of revisiting!
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Mary (sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn) is a naïve and unworldly girl when she arrives at court and catches the eye of Henry VIII. Soon she is competing with her sister for the ultimate prize of the king's heart, and his throne. The characters in this book are utterly compelling, and you can't help but get swept up in the story. To me, this book is one of the best historical novels because although you know what's going to happen (it's history we're all taught in schools, after all), the novel makes you see it from a fresh perspective.
The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
Downtrodden Valancy Stirling's romantic fantasies about living in a castle are her only escape from her cruel family. When she is diagnosed with a fatal heart condition with only a few months to live, she sets out for a fresh start, and meets an enigmatic man with a host of secrets. Written by the author of Anne of Green Gables, this is a sweet and funny proto-feminist story about the power of imagination and defying convention to find happiness.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
This is a fascinating novel which pulls back the curtain to give us glimpse of the mysterious world of the Japanese geisha. Chico is sold into servitude as an apprentice geisha and, even though it is forbidden, falls in love with a powerful business man. This novel transports the reader into a world that you very rarely see in books, with so much detail it's hard not to believe that it's a real story.
A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
Harriet flees her dreary existence in Cambridge to join an eccentric ballet company on tour to the Amazon, where she meets a wealthy British expatriate. This is a very old-fashioned story, and it's a bit dated in places (particularly the heroine, who is very much the naïve damsel in distress), but it's also charming and beautifully written. I always fall in love with the story's optimism, which is something we need in our cynical times.
BB: You also talk film and TV; which book that has not yet been adapted would you love to be brought to life on screen? Who would you love to see in the main role/s?
I'd love to see an adaptation of Angela Carter's beautifully macabre short story, The Bloody Chamber. A poor pianist catches the eye of a wealthy French aristocrat, and he sweeps her off to his remote gothic mansion. He gives her a key to his private apartments with the instructions never to go in there. Naturally, she does, and discovers that her husband has concealed a rather awful secret about his previous marriages.
The Bloody Chamber would make a fantastic film because Carter creates immensely vivid images when she writes, which would translate beautifully to screen. It's the perfect antidote to the Fifty Shades of Grey-style romance novel about the innocent girl caught up with the wealthy but troubled older man. The Bloody Chamber unflinchingly explores the reality of being dependant on a man with dark addictions which you can't fully understand.
I'd cast Alicia Vikander as the heroine, because I was really impressed by her performances in Testament of Youth and A Royal Affair, and she has the acting chops to make the part really stand out. For her aristocratic husband, I think Toby Stephens could bring the dark, brooding Byronic hero which he was so good as with Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. There's also a young, blind servant who falls hopelessly in love with the heroine, and I think Josh Hutcherson would be adorable in that part.
BB: If you had to pick your top reads of the year so far which books would make the cut?
I had a pretty dry and disappointing start to this year's reading, but over the summer I've been really lucky, and I've just kept picking up fantastic book after fantastic book (clearly I'm doing something right!)
My first favourite of the year was actually a book I was re-reading for one of my university modules, Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen. Hedda is bored by her stultifying bourgeoisie marriage, so she tries to manipulate everyone around her for her own goals. This is my favourite play, and I've unfortunately never been able to see a production of it (though I did act in one once - I was Hedda, obviously), so reading it is the next best thing. Hedda has been described as 'the female Hamlet' and it's easy to see why. She's a fascinating character; by turns defiant, destructive, passionate and frightened.
As I've just graduated this summer, I decided to read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. This is a collection of short stories and non-fiction essays published after Marina Keegan's death (she was killed in a car accident five days after graduating from Yale). It's a feisty, inspirational collection which really makes you want to get out there and change the world.
The Paris Wife by Paula McClain is a novel that I've been intending to read for ages, and finally got the chance after I finished exams. It's the story of Hadley, who falls passionately in love with the writer Ernest Hemmingway. I'm a sucker for stories about tortured artists and doomed love stories, and I can never resist a novel set in the Roaring Twenties or glamourous European cities.
BB: Just for fun, if you could swap lives for the day with any fictional character who would it be and why?
This is a hard one, because I think most of the time fictional characters actually lead pretty miserable existences which are much more fun to read about than to experience first-hand. I would love to be Daenerys Targarean (from A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin) so that I could try out being queen. Only for a day, though, or I think the power would go to my head.
BB: Finally, we're always looking for new book blogs to read and YouTube channels to watch, do you have any favourites?
I do! One of the first BookTubers I discovered is still one of my favourites - Sanne at Books and Quills. She's so creative with her videos, and I love how she incorporates travel and interviews into her channel. I also really like Lauren at Reads and Daydreams. We have pretty similar taste in books, so whenever I watch her monthly wrap-ups, I end up adding about 10 books to my To Be Read pile.
I also love reading Khahn's reviews at The Book Nookery because she has the most hilarious, snarky style. She's very critical and I don't always agree with her opinions but they're always entertaining to read.
Where to find Emily online: Blog | YouTube | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads | Letterboxd | Instagram
I'd like to say a huge thank you from all of us here at BB to Emily for taking part in this interview. If you are a booktuber or book blogger and would like to be featured in a similar post we'd love to hear from you - just email us at email@example.com for information!
Images c/o Emily