Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Emma Mylrea - Curse of the Dearmad - Interview (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #3


Hello everybody. Welcome to the third interview as part of our debut author series. If you haven't already then please support these by checking out all of the others that have been shared to date. 

One of the middle-grade books to watch out for this August (2021) is this book by Emma Mylrea. Curse of the Dearmad is published by a small publishing company (Tiny Tree). The book is illustrated by Hannah Jesse and looks like a sure-fire winner to me. We've recently had the opportunity to ask Emma some questions about the book as well as finding out more about the author. We hope you enjoy this post and if you would like to purchase a copy then you can HERE. Equally, if you have any questions that you would like answering then please get in touch. 
 

  • Curse of the Dearmad is your debut book, what can we expect from the story?
The book follows the story of Percy and Nell Shearwater, who live in a world where some people, called 'gillies', can live underwater for long periods. They look like everyone else, but have small circles on their neck which set them apart. However, the world is not a safe place for gillies any more, as they rely on a perfect equilibrium with nature and the environment in order to survive. This kind of unity and balance with the environment is becoming more and more difficult to achieve due to the damage being done by humankind.
  • What is particularly special about the two main characters, Percy and Nell Shearwater?
Nell and Percy are twins. Percy was born a gillie, but his sister was not. Nell is jealous of her brother's gift, but as the story unfolds she will discover that she has a gift too, which she will need to learn how to use and control. 
  • It looks like there are a number of illustrations as part of the story, what do you think these bring and how do they add to the narrative?
Working with Hannah Jesse was wonderful. She picked up the tiniest, most subtle details from the text, and fed them into her drawings beautifully. Each chapter begins with a small illustration which sets the tone for the chapter. It was incredibly important to me that my writing should build a world for children to believe in and lose themselves in, and I think Hannah's illustrations are a jumping off point for the imagination. Of course, some readers will build their own picture of how things should look, particularly the characters, and that is the wonderful thing about writing a book, it takes on a life of its own when it winds its way into the imaginations of readers.
  • What emotions did the characters in your book take you on? Do they talk to you?
They certainly do! I really do feel that the characters in Dearmad have taken on a life of their own. Even though they are entirely fictional, I feel proud of the children in Curse of the Dearmad; they are the heroes of the story in every sense of the word. I wanted to write a book where children were empowered to take action in a world where adults are flawed and don't have all the answers. Percy, Nell and Connor take control of their lives and try to do the best for the people they love. They encounter challenges and make mistakes, but they are strong and I hope young readers will recognise themselves in Percy, Nell and Connor. 
  • How do you process your ideas into the story? 
I try to get a complete draft done, focussing on world building, and I resist the urge to edit (something I'm not good at - I find it so tempting to polish and dig down into the minutiae in that first draft). I then go back to the start and make sure the structure is plotted out properly, with pace and enough jeopardy to keep the momentum going through the book. Then I edit, edit and edit some more. 
  • The book is published by Tiny Tree Books. What can you tell us about the publisher and where can we buy your book from?
Tiny Tree is a small, independent publisher. Working with them has been such an honour. They don't publish a huge number of books each year, and have historically published picture books rather than middle grade, so for them to choose my book felt very special. They are always at the end of the phone, are really communicative and generous with their time. Tiny Tree chose to appoint a freelance editor, Emma Roberts, to work with me and it was the perfect fit; she was incredible and working with her was a complete joy. Working with Tiny Tree, and having Hannah Jesse on board, made it feel like a real team project. I don't have an agent, so knowing that I had such a great relationship with my publisher really helped me when I had moments of worry along the way. You can order direct from Tiny Tree, or from Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon, bookshop.org or your local bookshop.

  • You are a member of the Golden Egg Academy. How better do you think your story is for attending their writing courses? What support did they give you?
I wrote Dearmad before I started the Golden Egg Academy course. I chose to apply to GEA to help me get to grips with the mechanics of storytelling for the benefit of my next project, and it's been brilliant. I don't think I'll ever stop wanting to learn about the craft of writing and taking time to hone my skills. I have found that a lot of the things my editor supported me with when we were editing Dearmad are things that GEA teach too. In terms of support, my tutor is incredible; it never ceases to amaze me how perfectly she can get to the nub of an issue that has tied me up in knots for weeks! She can spy a spark of wonder and a fatal flaw in your story a mile off. 
  • What surprised you the most about the story once you'd finished writing the book?
Curse of the Dearmad is fundamentally a story about family and friendship, which is something I didn't plan or see coming at all! I saw it as being a pure fantasy-adventure story. There are parts that still make me cry, and those are the parts that wrote themselves once the characters became real in my mind and started to take on a life of their own.
  • Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
I like reading characters who aren't the finished article and who have some growing and learning to do. When you begin to love a character, despite their flaws (or even because of their flaws), they start to feel real and that's the best kind of reading experience. Heroes who you believe in, despite how much they doubt themselves, are the kind I can get behind.
  • Which authors do you enjoy reading when you have time to relax?
I read a lot of middle-grade fiction, and have read some amazing debuts this year. I return to Katherine Rundell, Frank Cotrell-Boyce and Ros Welford over and over and am starting to read them with my children too, which is a real treat. I always have a non-children's book on the go and I'd say the common feature of these books is that they have to be character driven for me to lose myself in them. I particularly enjoyed The Falconer by Dana Czapnik and Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenburg-Jephcott this year.

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