In Conversation With Emily Bleeker, Author of Wreckage, When I'M Gone, (Wall Street Journal Best Seller), Working Fire and Her Most Recent Novel, The Waiting Room
Norm Goldman

Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of

He has been reviewing books for the past twenty years after retiring from the legal profession.

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By Norm Goldman
Published on August 22, 2018 welcomes as our guest Emily Bleeker, author of Wreckage, When I'M Gone, (Wall Street Journal Best Seller), Working Fire and her most recent novel, The Waiting Room.

Emily is a former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer’s workshop. After surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer, she finally found the courage to share her stories. Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago. welcomes as our guest Emily Bleeker, author of Wreckage, When I'M Gone, (Wall Street Journal Best Seller), Working Fire and her most recent novel, The Waiting Room.

Emily is a former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer’s workshop. After surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer, she finally found the courage to share her stories. Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago.

Norm: Good day Emily and thanks for participating in our interview.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.

Emily: Hey, Norm! It’s great to be here. I feel like I’m fairly new to the writing game but I’ve been at it for the past eight years. I started writing my first book when I turned thirty (you can do the math) and now am about to publish my fourth book with Lake Union.

I’ve been lucky enough to call each book a “bestseller” and spent some time on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list. I have four kids and spend any time I’m not writing, wrangling though I also dove into the world of improv this year and am in my fifth round of classes.

Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?

Emily: I think that my biggest struggle is balancing my personal life with my writing life. I sometimes wish my job was more like an office job that you go into every day and has set hours and expectations, but it’s not. And because it’s not it is easy to overlook how much work goes into the profession of writing. Not to mention that, unlike most professions, there are many mental and personal roadblocks to getting your work done even if you have all the time in the world.

When I worked as a teacher I could go in and focus on the kids and lesson plans and make it through even the hardest of times but with writing if your mind is full of stress or worry it is hard to get the words on the page. My third book was written during my divorce which was a very difficult and chaotic time in my life and it ended up taking a year and a half to have a working draft. I think completing that novel and taking it to publication was a huge turning point in my career where I realized that I could do even the hardest of things if I just kept writing.

Norm: Why do you write and how long have you been writing? As a follow up how long did it take you to get your first major book contract?

Emily: I write because I have stories. I’ve always had stories in my mind. I remember sitting around as a child and just thinking through brand new people and adventures, I guess back then it seemed more like daydreaming. I didn’t know that I was a writer yet. I didn’t start writing with the intention of writing a book that might be published one day till I was thirty and didn’t call myself a writer (out loud) until I signed with my agent. It took me three and a half years to write WRECKAGE and another year to sign my first book contract.

Norm: Do you have a theme, message, or goal for your books?

Emily: I think my most consistent them is the idea that no family is what it looks like from the outside. Over and over again this idea pops up in my writing. I love exploring that idea because the more we all accept the fact that there is no “perfect” the more likely we are to fix the fixable things and accept or leave the things that can’t be fixed.

Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing and what inspires you? Are you a plot or character writer?

Emily: I am very much a character writer. I love intense and intricate plots but what drives my story is the characters. In fact, sometimes my characters make choices that I don’t approve of or haven’t planned for! Those are some interesting days, for sure. I always write a synopsis at the beginning of a story but it never, ever reflects the full, finished story.

And I’m very inspired by real life. Not usually my real life but the lives of those around me or in the news or on TV. I think real people are way more fascinating than the fake ones and the saying is correct—life really is stranger than fiction. I’ve found myself having to change storylines that are similar to ones I’ve researched in real life because on the page they just seem too ridiculous or contrived.

Norm: What helps you focus when you write?

Emily: Chaos. I’m not kidding. When my kids are gone and the house is quiet, it is really hard for me to write. But give me a room full of kids or headphones with loud music or even a mindless TV in the background and I can write for hours. I think I’ve become accustom to the balancing act of it all and when the weight on the other side of my scale is missing, I feel wobbly.

Norm: What advice can you give aspiring writers that you wished you had received, or that you wished you would have listened to?

Emily: That it is possible. I really didn’t ever think it was possible for a very average mom of four to not just write a book but also find a wide audience who enjoyed the stories I told. Also, to work hard and listen.

Talent is just the raw material of books—editing is the refining element. I run in to too many writers that don’t want to change their story but each of my books have had some major changes during the editing phases that made them even better than before.

When I was younger I thought that REAL writers turned out perfect masterpieces the first time they put pen to paper but as I’ve matured in my work I’ve found that the best writing happens when I am rewriting.

Norm: Could you tell us a little about your most recent novel, The Waiting Room?

Emily: The Waiting Room was inspired by an experience in my own therapist’s office. I saw the same man every week before and after my session and a few times he tried to chat with me and get my number. My friend made an offhanded comment about people connecting in a waiting room being a good story and, boom, The Waiting Room all clicked into place.

It is a story about Veronica Sheldon, a new mom suffering from severe postpartum depression. Veronica is so overwhelmed by motherhood after her husband is killed in a car accident just two weeks after their daughter is born, that she can’t seem to hold or touch the baby.

When Sophie  goes missing and her primary caregiver, Veronica’s mom, disappears leaving a trail of blood behind her, the police don’t suspect a stranger or an intruder, they suspect unstable Veronica.

The only way to clear her name and get her baby back is to find her—without the help of the police. Enlisting the assistance of someone she met in the waiting room at her therapists office, Veronica seeks to clear her name and save her daughter. But someone is still keeping secrets…and the mind games have only just begun.

Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?

Emily: This story might be my favorite (shhhh don’t tell my other books). The thing I love most about THE WAITING ROOM is how wonderfully imperfect all the characters are. It leaves so much room for growth and redemption. I hope someone will read this book and realize that it’s okay to be flawed—it is okay to struggle and need help to grow. It is okay to lean on others in our darkest hours. I think it is easy to forget we are not alone in this world—I hope THE WAITING ROOM can bring that perspective to those who read it.

Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for the book?

Emily: Well, my own experiences with therapy were a huge inspiration for this story. There was another patient who kept talking to me in the waiting room of my own therapists office and my friend suggested it would be an interesting place to start a story because everyone in a waiting room for a therapists office is there for a reason. The whole story clicked into place a few hours later while I was volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. I wrote out the whole plot on the back of a tracing of a bunny.

Norm: What is next for Emily Bleeker?

Emily: Well, I’m working on book 5. This one is a little different than my other books as the main protagonist is not a mother/father figure. It’s about a woman named Tara who has been basically held hostage by her controlling mother for nearly her whole life.

Her only outlet is an ancient computer where she earned her GED and posts items on ebay she shoplifted with her mother. This computer also has a limited version of YouTube. Through this website she watches mostly programming made for children, including a YouTube family called “All The Feels.”

When she secretly applies for an internship with the Feely family, a whole new world opens up to Tara. But it is a world she is wholly unprepared for as it doesn’t take long to learn that not everything you see on-line can be trusted. I’m getting really excited about this one!

Norm:  Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?

Emily: I LOVE connecting with readers so please reach out and I always try to reach back…



Don’t forget to connect with me on FACEBOOK



Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work