A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I loved Emma Carroll’s debut, the spine-chillingly spooky and deliciously snowy, FROST HOLLOW HALL, so I was delighted to interview her about her latest book THE GIRL WHO WALKED ON AIR.
Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.
One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.
Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .
THE GIRL WHO WALKED ON AIR is such a fabulous title. How do you choose titles? Do they come before or after you’ve written the story?
Sometimes a title just ‘arrives’, sometimes it feels like pulling teeth. I made a list of potential titles in the book’s very early stages:‘The Girl Who Walked On Air’ was on it. The working title though was ‘Little Miss Blondin’. It was a massive relief to finally agree on a title everyone was happy with.
I love the way your characters really sound Victorian. Did you do a lot of work on getting the vocabulary right?
I’ve probably read enough Victorian novels to absorb bits and pieces of vocab. As a child of the seventies we didn’t do much formal grammar at school, so I’m quite at home writing non-standard English!
Reading TGWWOA taught me a lot about Victorian circuses! How did you go about your research? Was there anything interesting that you discovered that you didn’t end up including?
I read LOADS. Especially brilliant books were ‘The Circus and Victorian Society’ by Brenda Assael, and ‘Inventing the Victorians’ by Matthew Sweet. Online you can read the oirginal newspaper coverage of Blondin’s Niagara crossings- these were fascinating too. There was plenty I didn’t include: wild animals for instance- to be authentic their stories would’ve been too sad.
If you could perfect a circus skill what would it be?
I’m rubbish at anything involving co-ordination or heights. But I’d be up for having a go at standing upright on a galloping horse. In a tutu. There HAS to be a tutu.
I think your books have got a real ‘modern classic’ feel to them. What’s your favourite children’s classic?
Arrggh! Tough call! Particular favourites are ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ and ‘Carrie’s War.’
TGWWOA features an adorable dog called Pip. Have you got any more animal characters coming up?
Oh yes! In book 3 there’s a whiskery old lurcher called Borage who comforts main character Alice in her darker moments.
There’s a bit of a mystery in TGWWOA, I was so intrigued to find out how everything fitted together (which it did beautifully), do you ever get in a tangle with your plot, and if you do, how do you go about sorting things out?
I’m not a great plotter. I do have coloured pens and post-it notes but don’t use them to any method. So I tend to spend ridiculous amounts of time editing. And I’m lucky to have a brilliant editor at Faber.
You do a brilliant job of using just the right amount of historical detail to create an atmosphere without making it feel like a history lesson. What advice would you give to writers working on historical fiction for children?
The story and the character come first.
What did it feel like to be writing the dreaded second book?
Hard work at the beginning- I was still teaching quite a lot at the time and busy promoting Frost Hollow Hall- so it took some juggling. It wasn’t long though before the story took off in my head. Now it’s about to be published I’m just as excited and nervous as I was the first time round.
What’s next for you?
Next week I hand over the first draft of book 3. Then I’m writing a Christmas- themed novella for Faber, followed by book 4. So, in short- busy! But I’m only teaching one day a week these days, which will mean less juggling. I’m thrilled to be working on more books with the Faber team.
I’ve recently discovered you’re a Moomins fan (me too). Who’s your favourite character and why?
A toss up between The Hemulen who is a dead ringer for Mr Carroll or The Hattiefatteners, whose name says it all.
When she isn’t writing, Emma Carroll teaches English part-time at a secondary school in Devon. She has also worked as a news reporter, an avocado picker and the person who punches holes into filofax paper. She recently graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ is Emma’s debut novel for Faber. Told in the distinctive voice of Tilly Higgins, it was inspired by a winter’s day from Emma’s childhood
Candy Harper is the fourth of five sisters, which means she still eats with one arm shielding her plate. There are enough children’s books in her house to build a fort, but she absolutely hasn’t ever skived off work to do that.
Her latest book KEEP THE FAITH continues the story of tearaway Faith as she tries to snag her dream boy and stay out of trouble without bringing her granny or pickled onions into the mix. Unsuccessfully.