Author Interview: Emma Finlayson-Palmer by Sarah Broadley

Emma Finlayson-Palmer’s debut, Autumn MoonBeam, has just launched. Sarah Broadley ushered her into MyBookCorner for plenty of bookish, creative chat. Enjoy…

Autumn is a fantastic character in a cast of many superb friends that help her along the way. Did she evolve as you wrote her or did you already have a plan of your characters before you started writing?

Some aspects of Autumn have stayed the same but there are other elements that evolved as I edited and rewrote. I knew that I wanted to write a character that was shy and full of self-doubt, but who also loved music and dance. Early drafts had Autumn join a competitive Cheer team rather than Dance, and that changed over the drafts as it made it a little less niche. Although I still believe Cheer is now becoming a well known sport within the UK.

Working with illustrator, Heidi Cannon, must have been an amazing experience? Can you tell us a little about the work you both did together?

Heidi is an absolute star! She has taken my ideas and brought Autumn and her world to life in ways I couldn’t even imagine. Heidi has such an amazing attention to subtle details, each time you look at the illustrations you might spot a beetle or some other little touch you might not have noticed before. Heidi also worked a starry cape in to the illustrations for Autumn’s mum that matches one I have in real life!

Writing a series for younger readers can have its challenges – smaller word count, tight story arc etc – what advice would you give anyone writing for this age group?

Always the biggest advice for writing for any age group is to read. Read lots, and especially read as many books in the age group and genre you’re writing for. Make sure they are books released in the past few years if possible too, as styles change a lot over the years so you want to look at more up-to-date books. Really study the characters, how they speak, the story arcs, length and so on. The stories you read can take on the role of a mentor to guide you through your own writing.

Out of all your characters, who was the most fun to write and do you see yourself in any of them?

I think Autumn has some of my own traits, though sadly I can’t even cartwheel! But the shyness and social awkward side of Autumn’s character often shines a light on an aspect of being autistic, which can be missed more often in girls (and women). Leif was great fun to write, he’s a lovely character, great dancer and he has the most groan-worthy dad-jokes.

Who inspires you? Did you have a favourite author when you were young?

I can remember reading Ruth Manning-Sanders books featuring witches and all manner of magical creatures and knowing I wanted to write about that sort of world. Then The Worst Witch really sparked my imagination, combined with other classics like Fantastic Mr Fox, I really loved the more complicated main characters who weren’t always perfect but had flaws. I’ve always been inspired by Neil Gaiman and his ability to write for different age groups and genres, and short stories to long fiction, something I have always aspired to do.

What’s next for Emma and Autumn? With book two ‘Spooky Sleepover’ coming out in October this year, are there plans for more books set in Autumn’s world or are you going on to write something for a different age group?

I’ll be getting ready for an autumnal and Halloweeny launch for book two after a summer spent with Autumn’s first story. There’s going to be lots of fun activities posted online each week that people can join in with throughout the summer holidays, including a character quiz so you’ll be able to find out which character you’re most like, and making spooky biscuits. If the world loves Autumn then who knows, she may well get to come back for another story next year.

Emma Finlayson-Palmer is an autistic, working class writer who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Author of the Autumn Moonbeam chapter book series, from UCLan publishing. Emma runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter, and edits, mentors and reads competition entries for #WriteMentor and also reads flash fiction entries for Retreat West. She’s also one half of Word Witches, as a children’s fiction editor.

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