Lit Fest: Five minutes with Emma Kennedy

Emma Kennedy is a travel writer who focuses on the quirks, idiosyncrasies and, ultimately, the adventures that happen when taking trips with beloved family members or best friends. She’s the author of The Tent, The Bucket And Me, and has just published I Left My Tent In San Fransisco, which tells the tale of a highly eventful road-trip across America that turns out to be far more surreal than expected. ELL caught up with Emma to ask her some questions about life on the road…

What is it about travel and the experiences that go with it that make you want to write about it?

I think travel is a rich seam for writers. It has a sense of the unknown, especially if you’re financially compromised. All good fiction takes a character and puts them out of their comfort zone and in non-fiction, travel allows you to do the same.

It seems like you didn’t have a dream start to life on the road in America. What were your expectations and what was the reality?

Oh we genuinely thought we were going to make our fortune. And that was based purely on the say so of a lanky boy with curly hair. He persuaded us that because we had reasonably decent teeth and pleasant accents that the Americans would be fighting over themselves to give us a job. They weren’t.

California to New York is a long way to travel. What kept you going?

Each other. I went with my best friend and I don’t think I’d have made it without her. Even though the book is ostensibly about a disastrous road trip, it’s actually about that amazing platonic love you have for your best friend. The friendship that only exists after school or university before significant others come along.

A lot has changed since 1989. Would it be as thrilling to do the trip now?

Probably not because I have a credit card and a mobile phone now – and the internet. We really were stabbing in the dark back then and at the mercy of the Fates. We may as well have been in crinolines and bonnets.

If you were about to embark on another life defining journey, where would you be going?

Australia and New Zealand. I’ve never been.

What can we expect from your appearance at Stokey Lit Fest?

I’ll be doing a few readings and I’ll do a Q and A with the audience so come armed with questions!

Emma Kennedy appears at Stoke Newington Public Library at 7pm on Sunday as part of Stoke Newington Literary Festival. Tickets cost £6 and are available here.

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