Emma Gates

Emma Gates was born in New York and spent her childhood in England. She earned a BA in Spanish/Latin American Studies from Indiana University Bloomington, and an MBA with concentration in Arabic/Middle Eastern Studies from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. She worked for three years in Mexico and five in Saudi Arabia. She's an international trade and telecoms specialist currently living near Chicago with her family and two inscrutable cats. Early in her writing career she won two first-place prizes for a short story and for  ...See more >

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"A troubling but perhaps necessary portrait of abuse handled with grace and sensitivity."

Kirkus Reviews


Kirkus Reviews Indie selection, 2014: Walking to Israel

Praying for Rain, 2014

Hometown Oak Park IL

Favorite author Michael Cunningham

Favorite book The Hours

Day job Watching the wheels go round and round

Favorite line from a book "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Favorite word Conundrum

Unexpected skill or talent Prodigious memory - can recall almost every scene I've seen, and song lyric I've heard

Passion in life Writing novels, of course!


Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0988890688
Page count: 332pp
A business-driven debut thriller, laced with romantic entanglements.
Gates’ (Walking to Israel, 2014) novel, set in 2003, is split into two interlocking parts: One is set in Milwaukee, the other in France. Tyler is a handsome, brash international executive for a major American telecom company, GlobeAll, looking to close a substantial deal in France. But Delphine, the chief negotiator for the French company, FranceFon, resists signing on the dotted line. Their tug of war becomes more complicated when their attraction threatens to blossom into something more than professional friendliness. She eventually discloses the source of her discomfort with the deal—she strongly suspects Tyler’s company of deeply unethical and illegal practices. Later, back in Milwaukee, Carly, a GlobeAll regional executive, hears swirling rumors about her company, and she soon makes Tyler’s acquaintance. They struggle to process the revelations about the company they love and discover that they share a crackling sexual tension. The artful prose effectively captures the sensual dynamism that underscores the entire narrative: “He held the bottle up to her, smiling again, so beguiling that he hardly resembled the man she’d recently known. He seemed like the one she’d met last summer, the one who’d gazed longingly and listened patiently and loved so thoroughly that it still made her wet to recall.” The author also does a credible job of educating readers about the complexities of the telecom industry without burying them in confusing jargon or gratuitous detail. (Gates is an international telecom expert and even went to the same business school as her protagonist, Tyler.) She also nicely juxtaposes the jagged cynicism of big business with the tenderness of the love stories.

A light, entertaining tale of love and commercial intrigue.
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0988890671
Page count: 312pp
The intricately plotted story of a love affair with both a man and a culture, and the painful lessons learned from each.
Gates (Private Lines, 2014, etc.) received her master’s degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies from Thunderbird School of Global Management and lived for five years in Saudi Arabia; she appears to draw on both her academic and personal experiences in the atmospheric, evocative descriptions that enliven this fictional account of a young American ESL teacher abroad. Leaving behind a life of relative aimlessness and a pile of student loan debt, 24-year-old Arden Armstrong accepts a one-year contract teaching English to female college students in Saudi Arabia. Although her motivations were initially adventure and money, she soon finds herself increasingly invested in her students and in her host culture. Despite her fascination with the country, though, she can’t keep herself from agitating for some Western-style reforms, especially with regard to women’s academic achievements. And when a chance meeting with the attractive archaeologist Dr. Faisal Al Ansary turns into multiple chance meetings, and an unexpected connection with one of her students, Arden finds that even the repressive religious and legal strictures can’t keep her from pursuing her desire. But this dangerous relationship turns out to have risks far beyond what she had imagined, and Arden stands to lose everything. Gates’ book overcomes a somewhat slow start to build in intensity toward a satisfying, emotionally resonant conclusion. Along the way, deft pacing and a number of unexpected but credible plot twists will keep readers interested. Dialogue is generally fresh and authentic, main characters are well-developed, and even minor characters have unique personalities skillfully sketched out. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comes alive as well, with Gates’ poignant depictions providing a haunting backdrop for the fast-paced action. Overall, this complex, enjoyable read will leave readers hoping for more from this talented new writer.

Romance, geopolitical instability and coming-of-age angst in a well-crafted tale.
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0988890664
Page count: 310pp
In Gates’ (Walking to Israel, 2014) novel, two Vietnam War–era college students have a two-month romance, break up and meet again a decade later in the Middle East.
Seventeen-year-old Clare Meredith is a freshman at Indiana University in 1972 when she first eyes handsome grad student Lowell Goodenow. Outwardly, the two are mismatched: Clare is a hippie from Indiana, while Lowell, who plans a career in the U.S. Foreign Service, is from a fine Virginia family. Despite their differences, however, a passionate, sexually charged romance ensues. Eventually, however, Clare’s anti-war activity brings the relationship to a sudden, seemingly permanent end. Clare signs up for a university program in Mexico, and the trip brings her a new relationship and new adventures, but it doesn’t succeed in erasing her memories of Lowell. Similarly, Lowell begins his Foreign Service career overseas but finds he can’t stop thinking about Clare. Years later, she’s working for a U.S. tech company that sends her to a conference in Kuwait City; there, she comes face to face with Lowell, who’s serving as a U.S. commercial attaché. They find that the sparks are still there, but so are the differences that caused their split years ago, making a reunion appear impossible. Gates is best at setting scenes, and she nicely conjures the pot-filled counterculture vibe of the 1970s as well as the budding technological scene of the ’80s. However, the story dwells too long on the initial campus romance, which sometimes features banal prose (“His gaze swept Clare like a sunburn”). The book is also occasionally marred by awkward descriptions, as when Lowell remembers Clare’s hair as “waist-length ripples lit with damp-looking dark-honey color.” When the former lovers meet in Kuwait City, though, Gates wisely avoids the temptation to have them simply run back into each other’s arms, as if time and distance had not kept them apart. The book’s conclusion may be predictable, but the journey there is by no means dull.

A well-plotted, if uneven, international romance.
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0988890695
Page count: 282pp
A historical novel in which an abused young girl finds the strength to stand up for herself.
All is not well in the Arkwright family. In 1962, recently divorced Althea has moved with her three children—Lars, Nell and Lottie—from Chicago to London, the first stop on a pilgrimage to Israel. Unemployed and plagued by unpredictable moods, Althea is more focused on composing a narrative poem about the life of St. Paul than caring for her children. But she’s also committed to nurturing their creative spirits, including dedicating some of the family’s limited funds to pay for 9-year-old Lottie’s piano lessons with Master Rory, a talented 24-year-old concert pianist. Lottie is a gifted musician, but Rory’s interest in her goes beyond teaching her scales. He abuses her sexually, exploiting her mother’s trust in him and manipulating Lottie so that she says nothing of his crimes. As Althea’s condition deteriorates, Rory insinuates himself into the family, buying them food and inviting them to his country estate. But when Rory moves to assume guardianship of the Arkwright children, Lottie takes matters into her own hands. In her latest novel, Gates (Praying for Rain, 2014) offers a glimpse into the psyche of an abused child, from her feelings of shame and fear to her affection for her abuser and desire to please him. As a result, Lottie is by turns heartbreaking and charming. She’s still young enough to trust in her mother’s addled fantasies of speaking to God but old enough to suspect that there is something seriously wrong with her family, and especially with Rory’s unhealthy fixation on her. Gates also skillfully shows how abuse can go unnoticed, even by those closest to the victim, as Lottie’s family sees Rory as a savior, not a deviant. Midcentury London comes to life through period details (Beatles songs on the radio, Little Noddy on the “telly”) as well as Lottie’s sometimes-incongruous cockney accent. Even characters who behave badly are sympathetic at times, including Althea and even Rory, particularly when his own history of abuse is revealed. But the smart, funny and wounded Lottie remains the story’s heart and soul.

A troubling but perhaps necessary portrait of abuse handled with grace and sensitivity.