Emma Carroll is one of my favourite authors, I have recently seen her referred to as the ‘Queen of Historical Fiction’ which I completely agree with . I was delighted when Josh asked me to send in some interview questions for her. Here is the interview :
Which of your five books did you most enjoy researching and writing?
Which of your characters is your favourite? Are any of them based on you?
I’d probably have to say Tilly Higgins from Frost Hollow Hall. She’s a bit feisty but quite insecure, and fiercely loyal to the people she cares about.
Which period of history are you most interested in and what most appeals to you about writing historical fiction?
I’ve a special soft spot for the Victorian era because its such a dynamic, exciting time and feels quite modern in some ways but in others feels very alien. I really enjoyed setting In Darkling Wood in 1918; the aftermath of WW1 intrigues me as an era. I’m currently writing a book set in WW2 which is a time period amazingly rich in story details. Why does it appeal to me? It’s a way of creating another world- like fantasy but ‘real’. The stakes are higher often in terms of health, safety, wealth etc, and its relatively straightforward to get your child characters away from adults in a way that it isn’t in contemporary settings.
How long does it take you to come up with a plot and do you plan out the whole story before you start to write the first draft?
I tend to start writing with a loose plot, which then grows and knits together as I write. Often the plot isn’t totally nailed down until near the end of the editing process. I come up with story ideas all the time ( it can be quite annoying!) but my plots tend to be more organic.
Do you think that your teaching experience helps you write books that are so appealing to MG/YA readers?
Maybe. It’s certainly helped me when doing events- both in how to keep an audience interested, and how not to get stage fright. I’ve found school events easier to do than festivals, to be honest. The idea of talking to an audience for an hour is something teachers just never do! You’re always thinking of ways to break things down, be interactive etc. As for the books themselves, I think I’ve tapped into the things that intrigued me as a child, as well as literature I’ve enjoyed as an adult. In fact I’m probably more influenced by writers like Daphne Du Maurier than by children’s writers- bizarre but true!
What benefit did you gain from doing a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and would you recommend it to other aspiring writers?
It was a brilliant thing for me to do. I’d only just started writing again and wasn’t sure how good I was/ could potentially be. The MA made me take writing seriously and explore my strengths and weaknesses as a writer with the support of others. Through doing the course I met editors and agents, so it meant having a connection to the publishing world which I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I honestly don’t think I’d have got published without the MA. For me, it was a brilliant experience. Not everyone from the course got published, but I’d definitely recommend it for the support and insight it gives you.
One of the aspects that I love about all of your books is the way you capture your heroine’s voices in such an authentic way, how do you achieve this?
Thanks! Generally, I just think of my characters talking out loud, so my style tends to be quite colloquial. I also try to give them a few phrases from the era. Writing in the first person makes ‘voice’ much easier to do, I think.