Interview: Emma Barnes

Emma Barnes is a Yorkshire-based author, whose new book Wolfie has recently been published. Featuring illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark of Blue Kangaroo fame, it follows the adventures of a little girl whose best friend is …a WOLF. Emma’s previous books How (Not) to Make Bad Children Good and  Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher are also illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.

I’m sure you must get asked a lot about where you get your ideas from, but what inspired you to write Wolfie?

I wanted to write something mysterious, with deep woods and snow.  Something that was contemporary in setting, like my other children’s books, but which harked back to children’s books I loved growing up, like The Midnight Folk or The Dark is Rising, with a bit of a fairy tale element.  So this book was inspired by a certain “feel” almost.

And I did have a pet dog as a child.  Nobody ever thought he was a wolf – although once a child did think he was a sheep!


Wolfie contains magical elements (not least the talking wolf!) Is this something you’d like to explore further in your books?

The magic is a new thing for me – it crept into my last book, How (Not) To Make Bad Children Good, which has a grumpy Guardian Agent character, and is present even more so in Wolfie, where Lucie meets a whole pack of magical wolves!  It may be partly because my daughter loves that mixture of magic and everyday.  But also, I’m very aware of how supervised and constrained children’s lives are now.  With a magical canine companion, a modern child can still have adventures.

I understand that Wolfie will be launched on Oct 19th at Waterstones in Leeds. What will the event involve? Do you have any other upcoming book-related events in the run-up to Christmas?

Wolf-themed cakes and nibbles, a quiz about wolves, lots of activities for children, a chance to meet the author (me!) and have your book signed.  And a wolf of course!  (You don’t believe me, do you?  Wait and see.)  It’s a free event, and should be lots of fun – come along.

Other events include the Beverley Festival on Saturday 13th October – come and meet me in the children’s library.

2012 has been a busy year for you, with the publication of Wolfie and your first event at Edinburgh International Book Festival. What has been your own highlight of the year?

Edinburgh – I grew up there, and have been in the audience at the Book Festival so many times, listening to favourite authors, like Antony Buckeridge and Diana Wynne Jones.  So that felt a bit of a dream come true.  And they have lovely cake in the Authors’ yurt!

Readers may be aware of a website you’re involved with, called ‘An Awfully Big Blog Adventure’. Could you tell us a little about the site and your involvement with it?

It’s a blog that is shared by a group of children’s writers who take turns to post.  I guess we are  too lazy to blog each day!  And it’s more interesting to have lots of voices and discussions – a bit of a community.  ABBA has everything from fierce diatribes against library cuts, to meditative pieces on landscape and inspiration, to discussions about pet hedgehogs…

Do you have a favourite place to write? Or a set routine to get you in the frame of mind for writing? (I believe Roald Dahl would sharpen 6 identical pencils each day before he started writing. )

I try and write while my daughter is at school.  My dog, Rocky, imposes a routine.  He reckons two hour blocks sat at a laptop is enough for anyone.  Then it must be walk or play time.

Do you have a favourite place where you like to go, to escape from everyday life?

Roundhay Park, Leeds – in fact, it is the setting for part of Wolfie.  I don’t identify it in the book but one reader has already spotted it.  Despite being in a city, it has two lakes, woods, a ravine, a gorge…

What has been the most bizarre or funniest thing a child has said at one of your events?

One child said to me, “You wrote my favourite book in the whole world!” Naturally I was very pleased, and asked which book that was.  She replied, “Malory Towers!”  I had to explain that I was not Enid Blyton.  I’ve also been surprised by the number of children who claim to like eating dog food, like one of my child characters.

For more information about Emma’s upcoming events, please click on the links:
Wolfie book launch at Waterstones Leeds on Friday 19th October at 6.30pm.
Emma at Beverley Literature Festival on Saturday 13th October.

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