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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Emma Wells talks about the experiences that inspired her to write her new book, Unseen Victims.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Emma Wells about her life and career, the experiences that inspired her to write her book, Unseen Victims, and her writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Emma Wells, I am 49 years old I have 3 fabulous children and 1 amazing granddaughter. I am originally from East Lancashire but I now live in Cumbria.
I am hugely involved in the rapidly growing ‘falsely accused’ movement in the UK and I campaign tirelessly for prison reform and the acknowledgement of the unseen victims of another’s sexual offending. Be it a false allegation or wholly true I hold zero prejudice. When I’m not writing or supporting people through their journeys I will be found on the beach , near my home, with my best friend in the whole world, my Jack Russell, Fanny.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I always knew that I’d write and publish a book one day, The subject matter that afforded me this ambition was a million miles away from what I had in mind for so many years. I was always going to write about my life as it’s was pretty crazy even before the event which started me on this journey in 2015.
I’ve travelled all over that place on my own. I managed a nightclub for 4 years back in the day and my second marriage was a truly awful experience, in itself. I WANTED to write this book to assist, educate and open debate about the unseen victims of another’s offending and I thank every single warrior who I have met on my journey. At one point in the book I discuss ‘deaths in custody’. So little is known about the processes involved when this happens. I was afforded 2 heartbreaking submissions. One being ‘Sophie’s’ story. She had a stillborn only months after her partner, at that time, was jailed for sexual offending, the second one being ‘Joan’ whose husband died whilst in prison custody. I want their stories to be heard and hopefully open debate about the awfulness of these situations. And I want the unlikely angels who are in their tens of thousands voices to be heard.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed creative writing but I knew that I would dedicate my first book to the unlikely angels that I have supported throughout the past 7 years. The crucial point for writing “unseen victims” came about in Feb 2022, I had a really bad day at the office and then I had a really terrible evening. As a result a lost my job and my best friend in the same day. I completely lost the plot, bought a Berlingo camper van, sold pretty much everything that I owned and set off on a kind of pilgrimage, I guess, with my Jack Russell Fanny. We spent 7 months driving along the NC500 In the Scottish Highlands. What an adventure!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I hand wrote the backbone of the book whilst travelling and on my returning to my parents home, who I stayed with for a couple pf months, I wrote the whole book in just under 6 weeks. I was incredibly nervous about publishing it due to the content and I am painfully aware that should there ever be a backlash caused by the books content, that this could affect my loved ones. I approached them individually and every single person who this could possibly affect gave me their full support. I am still incredibly proud of their bravery for doing so and should any one of them asked me not to pursue it I would have accepted their choice and never published it.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The whole process took around 9 months from when I first put pen to paper up to the day it was published
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Unseen Victims?
Having supported thousands of loved ones through their own journeys after a loved one has been accused of sexual criminality and having to deal with my own fears, anxieties and curiosities supporting my partner, at that time, throughout the duration of his custodial sentence of 3 1/2 years and then into the afterlife for just over a year I decided to write this ‘handbook’ of sorts. So many crazy things happened during this time and every experience which I personally had are discussed.
I begin the book discussing the day that the nightmare begins and a person is made aware that their loved one has been accused of a sexual crime. I then discuss the courts process and offer strong words of advice and my own opinions about juries. I then go on to discuss ‘the firsts’ I speak about how I felt having to deal with that first night alone, the first call and the first visit. I collapsed from a panic attack on my first visit.
On the day of ‘Roberts’ police interview ITV were filming a police documentary at the station. I explain how utterly damaging it is for a person, who through absolutely no fault of their own, has their private life made public knowledge by media attention. I was seconds away from killing myself 3 days after it aired in 2017, on my birthday. I made a complaint to OFCOM about the intrusion that was not upheld. I use this experience to assist the reader with identifying how difficult complaints procedures are. Whilst I have always maintained that I wholly believe that there was cause for the complaints to be made against Robert, I stand by the fact that after having first hand knowledge and evidence that he was not given a fair trial.
Every year 1000’s of false sexual allegations are made. I have always said that I wasn’t there when the offences were claimed to have happened. I became deeply involved in the falsely accused movement and still am to this day. I have 2 support groups on social media, 1.9k followers on twitter and I am affiliated with countless other groups and organisations.
Further in the book I draw focus towards the loved ones who become victims themselves of further offending by their loved ones whilst incarcerated. Towards the end of the book, and scattered throughout are submissions that I have either adapted or they have been gratefully given to me to publish. The book discusses many topics that find concerned loved ones speaking about online day in day out. Drugs in prison, do ‘straight’ men turn ‘gay’ inside, the hard men on the wings, do officers have affairs with inmates. I draw on what I have seen, heard and personally experienced.
My sole ambition is to speak up for the unseen victims of another offending. The stigma is as real today as it has every been. No one wakes up one morning wishing to spend £1000’s every year supporting someone in jail, no one wishes to take children in prisons, no one expects to find themselves dealing with deaths whilst a loved one is in custody and no one deserves to be terrified about media intrusion, vigilante mobs and with the whole world seemingly judging them for another’s criminality. So I wrote a well seasoned and incredibly candid account of what happened to me and others with the ambition not only to assist those who will find themselves affected but to make any reader, who hasn’t been affected, to consider themselves in that situation; because NO ONE is exempt for finding themselves in that position, at any time.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Unseen Victims?
My biggest challenges was revisiting how I felt at the time when the very worst experiences in my life were happening. I hadn’t expected the fantastic contributions which a number of organisations that I am affiliated with to happen, but they did submit and added so much value. I’m no JK Rowling so I was and still am my worst critic. I’ve lost count of the number of times I closed my laptop and said “that’s it, it’s rubbish I give up”. But I found myself back writing again within hours. I am also very mindful that neither Robert or his family will welcome this book.
What was your research process for Unseen Victims?
My lived and learned experiences have afforded me truly unique insights into so many aspects that an unseen victim will experience themselves, in part. Some 15 months after Roberts trial I was summoned to the same court for jury service. I found myself selected and sat on a he said/she said trail, in the same courtroom, precised by the same judge who had been in situ for Roberts trial.
I was also invited to HMP Stafford to take a tour of the prison due to my work with the FA movement. I found myself actually stood in Roberts cell with him stood beside me. A UK first, at that time, in 2019 I was the only partner to have been afforded this ‘privileged’ experience.
How did you plan the structure of Unseen Victims?
The book is made up 29 short chapters and at the back of the book are a collection of 10 short stories which reflect on the topics discussed throughout the books content. The photo on the books cover was taken, by me, 3 years ago today 09/06/2020. Robert had been released from prison half way through his sentence at 9.36 am and I took the photo a matter of hours later whilst we were sat in a park holding hands. I knew at the time of taking it that it was incredibly emotive and that it would be symbolic in the future.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing Unseen Victims book need?
I wasn’t in any position to be able to afford to pay anyone to assist me with the editing. My son created a version that was able to be uploaded to KDP. I am painfully aware of the spelling and grammatical errors littering the book. I have resigned myself to this and formed the opinion that if these are being discussed, the book is being discussed, and that’s cool by me. I contacted a huge number of publishers to assist me but pretty much everyone that got back to me wanted to offer me a hybrid contract. I wasn’t in a position to pay them but in all honesty them being interested and invested about what I had written was really helpful in keeping me going, at times.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
DO IT. JUST DO IT. I have been incredibly unwell as a result of what happened in Feb 2022. Offloading the demons that I was carrying around every day through getting the experiences written down has helped so much.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am currently writing my second book ‘unreliable witness’. Without wanting to go into to much detail in Feb 2022 I had cause to make a complaint to the police about a serious offence against myself. I withdrew from the case due to a number of reasons but this book will explore the flip side of what happens when a complaint is made. Once again a rare and insightful experience given my previous involvement in the awfulness of these journey’s. The book won’t be finished until mid 2024 due to there being elements of research that won’t conclude until early next year.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am absolutely stunned that I actually did it if i’m honest. So many people, family included, scoffed at the idea that I could or would actually do it. There was no malice intended though and I simply had the same mindset which I adopted when they also scoffed at me undertaking my BSc degree in Environmental Management aged 35. Proved the doubters wrong, Go Wells 😀
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