A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Alex Campbell: I’ve had the great pleasure of being one of the first to read Emma Haughton’s debut YA thriller, NOW YOU SEE ME, published 1st May 2014. And now I have the great pleasure of interviewing her!
Three years ago, thirteen-year-old Danny Geller vanished without trace.
His family and friends are still hanging on to every last shred of hope. Not knowing if he’s alive or dead, their world is shrouded in shadows, secrets and suspicions.
This is the story of what happens when hope comes back to haunt you. When your desperation is used against you. When you search for the truth – but are too scared to accept the reality staring you in the face…
A mesmerizing psychological thriller with the most incredible twist you’ll read all year.
Alex Campbell: Hi Emma –and congratulations on your book birthday! Firstly, can you start by telling our blog readers a little bit more about the book?
Emma Haughton: Thank you, Alex, and thank you too for taking the time to read the book! I guess I’d describe it as a contemporary YA thriller, but hopefully with crossover appeal for older adults too. It centres on the disappearance of 13-year-old Danny, and the impact it has on his family and on his best friend, Hannah.
AC: NOW YOU SEE ME is based on quite a harrowing true story – how did you come across it, and what inspired you to turn it into a piece of fiction?
EH: I first came across it in the Observer supplement, some years ago. It was one of those true-life tales that seems altogether stranger than fiction. From the moment I read it, I thought it would make a fascinating story.
AC: As the book was inspired from a true story – did the plot come to you before the characters?
EH: The crux of the plot was dictated by the true events, but essentially I made up all the characters. I never intended to stay faithful to what actually happened, merely to use it as a jumping off point for my imagination. Essentially I was interested in the situation, the opportunities it presented for exploring human nature, and how people might react given similar experiences.
AC: NOW YOU SEE ME has a fantastic twist to its tale…..how much plotting and planning is involved in writing a thriller like this in order to keep your readers guessing to the very end?
EH: This side of it, I would say quite a lot. In subsequent books, I’ve taken to planning quite a bit before embarking on a first draft. Now You See Me, however, evolved over some time, with different twists and ideas emerging as I rewrote using each set of feedback.
AC: The story is set at the seaside, was there a reason why you chose this as a setting for the novel?
EH: The seaside town in quite heavily based on Clevedon, in Avon. My grandparents used to live there and I spent quite a bit of time there over the course of my childhood. I guess I just thought it would make an interesting backdrop. It’s an old Victorian resort, rather eccentric and wonderful, and I love the natural landscape in that area – the mud and seaweed-covered beaches of the Bristol channel have their own charm.
AC:There are some tense scenes around the plight of families with missing children….what other research did you have to do around this issue beside the true story it was based upon?
EH: I read up everything I could on the web, particularly concerning police procedure for missing children. Apart from that I imagined what I would feel and do under similar circumstances – as a mother of four, it wasn’t hard. Just direct your imagination down the well-worn path of parental nightmare.
AC: The first section of the novel is written in both past and present – how did you manage to juggle the two tenses?
EH: This was actually at the suggestion of my editors, as an aid to navigating the reader, and I found it surprisingly tricky. Originally I’d written the novel entirely in the present tense, and became so used to it that it was difficult switching gears and putting whole chapters into the past tense. I naturally gravitate towards the present – for me it feels more immediate and somehow more compelling. After all, we all live our lives in first-person present.
AC: One of your main characters, Alice, has Down’s Syndrome…..she is so sensitively and powerfully described I was wondering if the character was inspired by someone you know?
EH: Thank you! No, she wasn’t based on anyone in particular, though I did spot a little girl down on the seafront last year who looked exactly as I’d imagined Alice. I did have specific reasons for choosing to have a disabled character – I wanted to give Danny a sibling who was quite clear-sighted, but found it difficult to express herself. But I also think we need more disabled characters in literature, without the whole book having to focus on their disability. Like Walter Jr in Breaking Bad – he may have cerebral palsy, but basically he’s just another character in a great story.
AC: When did you first decide to become a writer and what has the journey to publication been like?
EH: I guess I always wanted to write, but I procrastinated endlessly and sublimated my desire to write fiction by becoming a journalist. It took me many years to work up the courage to try to write a novel, and quite a few more to finally see it in print. A lot of wasted time, which I regret.
I wish I’d understood earlier that learning to write is a process, and not some talent you’re naturally born with. I was too terrified to commit myself to it properly in case I hadn’t got what it takes, not realising that what it takes more than anything is perseverance.
AC: What are your three top tips you’d pass on to other aspiring writers?
EH: 1. Write. Sounds obvious, but see above.
2. Expect to fail. Don’t beat yourself up if initially you stuff isn’t very good. You’ll get better, and anyway, everything starts out a bit crap. It’s all in the rewrite.
3. At first, focus more on plot and less on pretty sentences – all the style in the world won’t compensate for a dull or thin story. When you’ve nailed that, you can concentrate on making your words sing.
AC: And finally, you have another thriller coming out soon, can you tell us a bit about that?
EH: Better Left Buried started life as an image of a teenage girl being followed, and gradually explores why, and more importantly, by whom. In a weird reversal of Now You See Me, I made the whole lot up, only to find that strange elements of it had actually happened before.
Emma Haughton is a one-time family and travel journalist turned YA writer. Now You See Me is published by Usborne on 1st May, but you can order advance copies from Usborne here. Her second novel, Better Left Buried, comes out next year.
Visit Emma’s website at http://www.emmahaughton.com for more details, or connect with her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/emmahaughtonwriter or chat with her on Twitter: @Emma_Haughton.
I grew up in West Sussex and after a stint au pairing in Paris and a half-hearted attempt to backpack across Europe, I did a degree in English and got a job as a journalist on a trade paper. Bored of writing about computers, I swapped to articles for national newspapers on everything from making compost to holidays in Sweden.
My first fiction was a picture book called Rainy Day. I also wrote books for schools about things like death, stress and drug abuse. Cheerful stuff! Now I write contemporary thrillers for YA readers – two coming out with Usborne in 2014. I love intriguing stories – whether in books, TV or the big screen – and that feeling of desperately needing to know what’s going on or what happens next.
Alex Campbell announced she was going to be an author at the age of eight. But no one took much notice. Which was generally how life developed thereafter. After a nomadic school career in back row daydreaming, and one English degree later, she moved into the world of PR and copywriting where she got other people and products noticed instead.
Now, living near Bath with one husband, two children, and many abandoned manuscripts, she can’t stop smiling that her eight year old self has finally been heard and the kind people at Hot Key Books are publishing not one but two of her YA fiction novels. The first, LAND, is out 4 Sept 2014 (https://www.hotkeybooks.com/books/detail/land)
When she’s not writing she can mainly be found in dark art-house cinemas or propping up coffee bars, or worse.