In the first of an ongoing series of snapshots of Bristol by the creatives who walk it, we have Emylia Hall, award-winning author of The Book of Summers and A Heart Bent Out of Shape.

I moved to Bristol in the summer of 2007. My husband and I had been living in the French Alps for the past two winters, and London before that, so to us, Bristol felt like the ideal place to set up a new home. There’s enough big city vibrancy, but with a mellower feel, and easy access to the great outdoors – a blending of our previous two worlds. The mood of the place was important for other reasons too - I wanted to write a novel and work as hard as I could to get it published. That was, in fact, my sole objective in returning to England. My husband, Robin Etherington, had similar ambitions – he’s a comic book writer – and there was something exciting about moving with a common purpose, our heads buzzing with personal projects.

When we first arrived, we only knew a couple of people in the city – my husband’s brother and his wife – which made it the perfect place to devote ourselves to our creative endeavours, without too much distraction. We rented a flat in Redland, took day jobs, and worked in our spare time. I wrote my first novel, The Book of Summers, in a tiny room at the back of that flat, and my second novel, A Heart Bent Out of Shape, was born in our house in Southville.

I don’t drive, and have little patience with buses, so I walk everywhere in the city, always chewing over story ideas when I’m on the move. I’ve untangled many a plot point while wandering across the Downs or stomping through Ashton Court. Autumn is my favourite season in the city, and I always head for green (russet/ gold/ brown) space. I like kicking through leaves while my head turns over my work, tucking into a cosy café, somewhere like Hennessey’s or Primrose Café, with a notebook for scribbling. Mark’s Bread on North Street make the best almond croissants – I consider them essential fuel, and the best way to start my writing day - and the Tobacco Factory market is a favoured haunt on a Sunday. I’m lucky enough to write full-time, and I always feel a thrill when I’m out and about during office hours; I still feel like I’m skiving. Bristol, for me, is a place that’s synonymous with freedom, and inspiration. I’ll always associate my move to the city as the start of my life as a writer.

Emylia Hall is the author of The Book of Summers and A Heart Bent Out of Shape (Headline Review).

Emylia’s website

Emylia on Twitter

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