Q&A with author Emma Carroll

  1. What inspired you to start writing?

From a very early age I loved English at school and wrote my own stories at home, so I’ve always harboured the dream of being an author. I finally plucked up courage to have a serious go at it in 2009, aged 39, after a serious cancer diagnosis in my early thirties made me re-evaluate my life direction.

2. Your latest book is The Tale of Truthwater Lake, please can you tell us a little bit about it?

The story starts in 2032 during a very hot summer when a girl called Polly goes to stay on the shores of an almost dried-up reservoir. One night whilst swimming, she finds herself back in 1952, when the reservoir was a still a beautiful valley containing a thriving village. It’s a story about friendship, determination, and the cost of changing our world too much, too quickly.

3. Can you describe this story using only three words? 

Time-slip eco-adventure (that’s probably four- or is it two? Maths was never my strong point!)

4. Can you recommend any other books that are similar? 

Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters is a wonderful time-slip story. Also, Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore which captures brilliantly that confusion and excitement of characters moving between two ‘worlds. I’d also recommend books by Nicola Penfold who writes beautiful and cleverly on eco-themes.

5. How long have you been writing?

I wrote a lot growing up, then lost confidence in it and stopped for about 25 years. I was a secondary school English teacher in that time, so still immersed in books and writing, but only started my own creative work again in 2009. It was a quite sudden and a very definite shift, as if the time had finally come for the dream, I’d been harbouring all those years to take shape. I’ve been writing furiously, feverishly, happily ever since.

6. Which authors do you most admire and why?

I admire every single person who turns up to write. It takes courage and a lot of commitment.

7. What were your favourite books growing up?

For Love of a Horse by Patricia Leitch. I was pony mad growing up, and this whole series was all about the beautiful bond between a girl and her horse- with adventure and ancient Celtic mythology thrown in. I also loved the Moomin books by Tove Jansson, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, anything spooky or with animals in it. I devoured the original Usborne Ghosts/ Vampires/Werewolves books and got a ‘Misty’ annual for Xmas each year (‘Misty’ was a comic-book series full of mystery stories + the supernatural).

8. What advice would you give to those who want to become published writers?

Talk to other writers. Be in touch with the writing world- join SWCBI, the Society of Authors, follow authors and agents you admire on social media, go to festivals and books signings. The life of a published author is wonderful: it’s also very demanding on your time and energy and can be an emotional rollercoaster! Do not expect to be paid well, especially not at first. I think it’s really important to balance your personal ambition with reality.

9. What do you think is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The first draft. Always.

10. You have written many stories which is your personal favourite and why?

This is the hardest question, and one I’m often asked! Each book is special in its own way- Frost Hollow Hall because it’s my debut, Letters from the Lighthouse because it’s my most successful book. The ones that were the most fun to write were Sun King, Strange Star, and River Sea. The hardest? Letters and World’s End. I think at a push I’d say Letters IS the one dearest to me because those characters have appeared in 2 other books. Plus, I named my dog after Olive, which is a sure sign!

11. What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

Writing historical fiction for kids. Back in 2012 only one publisher- Faber- wanted Frost Hollow Hall. Nowadays there are lots of brilliant MG historical fiction stories out there. Times, and publishing tastes, have changed, and continue to do so.

12. If you could spend the day with another author who would you choose and why?

I could hang out all day with most authors, – and we often do at festivals, which is a real highlight of the experience. My particular favourites are Hilary Mckay, Lesley Parr, Lisa Thompson, Jas Bilan, Phil Earle, Karl Nova, Jenny Valentine. I also recently met Katya Balen + Sharna Jackson, both for the first time and instantly fell in love with them! As for an author I’m never going to meet but would love to, I’d have to say Emily Bronte.

13. How does it feel being a published author knowing readers are really enjoying your stories?

Incredible. Humbling. It never stops being magical, and the best reason I can think of for writing.

14. It has just been announced that Letters from the Lighthouse stage production is coming this December, how did this come about and where will it be shown?

Yes! I’m so very excited for this. Last year the East Riding Theatre Company put on a brilliant production of Frost Hollow Hall as their Xmas show. The theatre director (who played Harry Potter’s dad in the movies!!!)  has a daughter who’d read my books and she alerted him to the story. I’m absolutely delighted that this year’s Xmas show will be Letters. It’s showing from Dec 1st until New Year at the East Riding Theatre in Beverly, Yorkshire. I’ll be there for the first night and can’t wait!

15. Are you writing anything else at the moment? If so, are you able to give us any clues? 

I’m about to start my next story for Faber, which is currently called ‘The Houdini Inheritance’ and is about a group of children who inadvertently trick Houdini live on stage during one of his famous shows… and then have to face the consequences.

Wow, what a feature. I want to say a huge thank you to Emma for taking the time to answer my questions and feature on my blog. You can buy pre/order all of Emma’s books from all booksellers, online and of course using any independent local bookshop.

Emma’s latest book The Tale of Truthwater Lake is available to buy now!

You can follow Emma on Twitter: @emmac2603 and on Instagram: @emmacarroll2603

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