Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books is really pleased to be sharing with you the following Q&A with Amber Lee Dodd. Her latest book, We Are Giants, was published on the 7th April 2016 by Quercus Children's Books. The book deals with topics that will be familiar to a lot of 9-12 year olds. It is a refreshing and a heartwarming story, and very sensitively written. I hope that this interview piques your interest and encourages you to purchase a copy and read it. Thank you Amber.
Tell us a little bit about We Are Giants?
It’s about love, family and being proud of who you are.
It’s the story of Sydney, her sister Jade and her mother Amy who has dwarfism. When the family are forced to leave home and move to a new city, Sydney worries she will forget her Dad (who died a few years before) without the memories of home around her. To add to that, her new home is barely a home, it’s more of a shoe box and her new school is clearly run by mad teachers. With everything changing around her Sydney is determined to keep some things the same. Namely she wants to stay little, just like her Mum.
Who would love reading We Are Giants, and why?
Anyone who’s ever wanted to be different.
We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?
Sydney is shy and thoughtful and has a huge imagination. But she also has a fierce side she call ‘The Wild Thing’. Jade is brave and bold and is never more than five minutes away from throwing a wobbly. And Amy is creative and stubborn and force to be reckoned with.
I think all the characters where inspired by the children and teens I worked with, or people I knew.
In the book Sydney and Jade have to deal with bullies.
How much research did you do into this subject?
I used to tell people I hardly did any research, but that’s not true! I researched everything; it just never felt like work because all the things I found out where so interesting. Most of the research went into Amy’s dwarfism and Sydney’s fairytales. Things like place, school and the bullies are all drawn from my own childhood.
What tips can you share in writing a believable world/background?
I think in creating a world you have to give a voice to it as much as you would a character. Even in the craziest fantasy you have to ground your story in a place that feels real.
For me writing about Portsmouth, where We are Giants is set, was easy as I grew up here. It’s largely a working class city with a strong, proud identity and was the perfect setting for a family struggling in post recession Britain.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I write in bed because I don’t have a desk I can use. I’m also a very messy writer. I once walked out the house with several sticky notes stuck to the back of my leg!
What do you think makes a good story?
Oh gosh, this is such a hard one. I think great stories have their own voice. They couldn’t have been written by anyone else but that person.
What genre of books do you like to read? do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
I read everything! From plays to memoir, to short stories and literary fiction. My favourite books are Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout, Matilda by Roald Dahl, The play The Memory of Water by Shelia Stevenson and the short story collection How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer. I come back to these books again and again.
At the moment I have a tbr pile that includes the biographies of some lady adventures, a couple of crime novels (I love an Agatha Christie) and some smashing Middle grade books.
If you were to look for me in a bookshop you would find me by the picture books. It is pretty much impossible to be unhappy flicking through a good picture book.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
The first thing I desperately want to do was be a surgeon. I like to think it was because I wanted to help people, but I think it might have been more to do with the fact that I loved blood and guts. But sadly I wasn’t very good at science or maths. However, I was very good at telling stories. So that’s what I decided to do instead.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell us, like new writing projects?
I’m working on some more short stories. You should hopefully get to listen to my story The Love Songs of Foxes on BBC radio 4 again soon. And I’m also working on a new children’s book, staring lady adventurers, Scottish islands and a dyslexic hero with a very unusual gift. But Shhh, don’t tell anyone.