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Copywriters on the rack #12: Emma Cownley

Hello and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. Pull up a chair (with a spike in it) and enjoy the show…

Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?

I’m Emma Cownley. I make a living assembling letters into words for lifestyle and music brands.

What was your career path to get to where you are now?

I graduated into the 2008 recession with no idea what I wanted to do, so I worked as a Starbucks barista until I could afford a Master’s in Creative and Professional Writing. That qualification showed me it was possible to get paid to write.

I applied for a job at an online aquatic retailer because they were keen to let me tinker with their copy as part of my customer service role. I also learned a lot about fishkeeping — a skill which has proven totally useless in the years since.

I moved to in 2013 and got stuck into a proper copywriting role. After 4 years, I realised I couldn’t climb any higher and that I’d get comfy and lazy if I stayed. So, I went freelance and here we are today!

What’s the best thing about your job?

Always getting to work on cool s*** with cool people.

What’s the worst?

Having to stand up for myself.

How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?

I have a lot of hobbies! I do taxidermy, horse riding and I play drums. I also have a B-movie horror podcast with my mate Jordan; it’s called Radio Gore Gore.

Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:

Tell me something that will make my skin crawl.

There’s a type of parasitic worm (Leucochloridium) that reproduces by killing snails from the inside out. They get into the snail’s eye stalks and pulse under the translucent skin to mimic the undulating crawl of a caterpillar. This makes the snail more eye-catching to birds. Once the worm is inside the bird’s digestive tract, it lays eggs which are pooped out by the bird and eaten by other snails.

There are videos of it on YouTube, but I wouldn’t recommend watching.

Yeah, that’s pretty nasty. Tell me something that will make my heart melt.

A critical mass level incident (like the one at Tokaimura Nuclear Plant) would make your heart melt. Literally. It would erode the rest of your organs, too.

I’m sensing a dark side, and I like it. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve done, that’s just shy of illegal?

I’m from Brighton, so I’ve smoked a fair amount of weed in my time. Other than that, I don’t like breaking rules because I always get caught and I’m s*** at lying.

Write me three straplines for:

1) Acme Indestructible underpants:

Withstands the wear and tear of ‘down there’.

2) Boris Johnson’s workout DVD, ‘Bounce with Bojo’:

Crush it like a backbench rebellion.

3) Kilts for pigs:

The only way to dress pork.

Who’d win in a fight, a Jelly Baby or a Gummy Bear?

A bear would definitely kill a baby. Even in sweet form.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An air hostess. I was dead set on it, too — as a teen I was a silver service waitress, a St John’s nursing cadet and had GCSE Spanish and German. All the pieces were in place!

What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time?

A robin. I’m already small, loud, and garish, so it would only be a minor step down.

Draw me a picture of an emu on a Harley Davidson (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

  1. Ride horses in New Zealand
  2. Be an extra in a Harry Potter film
  3. Snog Adam Driver

What is love?

Truly seeing someone — the good and the bad — and choosing to love the whole package.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

This is a photo of The Black Heart in Camden. I took it in September 2020, because I wanted to commemorate my first visit since lockdown.*

It’s a special place for me and my husband. We had our wedding reception there, I went there to celebrate handing in my dissertation, and it’s where we’ve shared amazing times with our closest mates (some of whom aren’t with us today).

Fun fact: Edgar Wright filmed the infamous Spacedepic slow motion gun fight’ in the street outside.

*the first and best one so far (Ed.)

Is there anyone you’d like to say thank you to?

My husband, Rich. The poor guy has endured my antics for the last 14 years and still wants to hang out.

Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?

Anyone who’s had the misfortune of walking aimlessly or slowly in front of me. I was probably passive aggressive and I’m sorry for it!

What would you do with your last tenner?

Buy a cinema ticket.

Let’s play word association:

Cobblers peach
Handy man
Stink hole (sorry lol)

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

A YouTube clip of an elderly ballerina with Alzheimer’s listening to Swan Lake. She remembered the choreography and started to move through it from her wheelchair. Her expression when she first hears the music totally ended me.

Make up your own question and tell us whatever you want to get off your chest.

Which Stephen King book has been the most impactful film adaptation?

I’ve given a lot of time and thought to this pointless question over the years and, in my humble opinion, Different Seasons is the ultimate Stephen King book for film adaptation. It’s an anthology of four short stories (one for each season) and its adaptations are 100% on point.

You’ve got Bryan Singer’s thriller Apt Pupil, Frank Darabont’s drama The Shawshank Redemption and Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. The final story, The Breathing Method, was the only one not to get a film.

As far as book-to-film adaptations go, Different Seasons gives you the most bang for your buck. So that’s that on that. Thanks for asking!

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

I can’t think of any reasons why I should be released. I’m quite enjoying it here. Not entirely sure what that says about me…

You’re a weirdo. But then again, I like weirdos.

So I’m letting you out alive, but before you scuttle away, tell us where we can find you online.

You can find me procrastinating on Twitter, being reluctantly professional on LinkedIn, being a smart ass on my own website or being a sassy miss on YouTube.

Fancy a little bit more of this kinda gubbins?

#11 Joe Jeffries
#10 Sophie Cross
#9 Lee Trott