If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.
Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.
My guest this week is emerging children’s author, Emma Hamilton.
Hi Emma, thank you for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Thanks very much for inviting me. I married very young, straight out of school, and was mother to four gorgeous little boys by the time I was twenty-five. As you might imagine, life was extremely busy. Now that they are growing up (and now I am no longer married) I find myself with more time to devote to the things I want to do- like writing. I still spend a lot of time with children through my job as a nanny and find myself naturally drawn towards writing for pre-schoolers. I also write poetry (the kind that’s definitely not suitable for children) and short stories.
What were you like at school?
I absolutely loved everything about school.The learning, hanging out with my friends, even the tests and exams. Okay… I might have been a swot.
When did you start writing?
I began writing as soon as I could form the words on the page. I remember coming home from school in primary one and writing notes to my mum detailing my day, instead of just telling her about it. She still has one, I believe.
As a teenager, most of my writing was in the form of letters to my London pen friend, Jeremy. We would send massive wads of heavily scribbled A4 up and down the country to each another, occasionally accompanied by a mix tape or two.
I plucked up the courage to go to my first creative writing course (run by the Workers Educational Association – WEA) around 12 years ago. They put on a crèche so that my boys would be looked after and I was lucky enough to have the late Highland poet and writer Angus Dunn as my tutor. I can confidently say that that was the point where I began to take my writing more seriously and to devote as much time to it as I could – which still wasn’t very much. The breakdown of my marriage two years ago made me really examine what was important to me. I realised then that I must prioritise my writing and so embraced it with a new fervour.
Have you ever kept a diary?
Absolutely. As a teenager, I had one of those locking ones with the flimsy wee keys which I updated religiously every night. It was full of rambling angst about whichever boy was filling my thoughts at that particular time. I don’t keep a diary now, though I still find it useful to vent onto the page when I have things to work through. It’s still mostly about teenage boys- this time, my sons.
How would you describe your style of writing?
My childrens’ stories are written in rhyme, taking a joy in rhythm. I like to write in this style simply because this is the form of story I most enjoy reading aloud. I like to use Scottish words where I can to give a hint of a sense of place.
Are you inspired by any writers in particular?
Julia Donaldson and Linley Dodds are my inspiration for my childrens’ stories. Who doesn’t love The Gruffalo or Hairy MacLary? I aspire to produce something that is as enchanting to children as those stories.
What are you working on just now?
At the moment, I’m working on a series of rhyming stories about a wee girl called Maggie, and the challenges that being four years old can bring. The first two are called Maggie’s Screamy Day and Maggie’s Green-eyed Day. You get the gist!
What has been your best writing moment so far?
Seeing the first illustration for Maggie’s Screamy Day, drawn by Phoebe Jones.It felt amazing to see the characters brought to life by her, and seeing her interpretation of them. She really caught the feeling of the moment she was portraying, I just thought, yes – someone else gets Maggie completely! It was a great feeling.
Is there any one book you would like to have written?
Fifty Shades, because I’d never have released the horror of it into the world.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Black Roses by Jane Thynne as my bookgroup chosen text. It’s not something I would have picked up myself, but I’m really enjoying it. This is exactly why it’s great to be part of a bookgroup.
If there was one person – contemporary or historical – you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?
I would love to spend the day with Audrey Hepburn. She was such a clever, remarkable woman with a rare level of empathy. I’d like to speak to her about her time spent in Holland as a teenager through WWII and the role she played in the Dutch resistance. I’d also like to hear about her UNICEF work in later life. And of course, get a lesson in eyeliner application!
A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Haruki Murakami, Ali Smith, Michel Faber, Sarah Waters, A.L. Kennedy… I can’t pick just one.
The Botanist Gin, COFFEE!
Anything that someone else cooks for me.
Orange is the New Black
Radio 4’s Bookclub
I like the local Highland music scene and support it whenever I can. Spring Break, The Leonard Jones Potential, Lionel, Ashley and the Cosmonauts and Sara Bills and the Hasbeens are among my favourites.
Good luck with your Maggie books, Emma, and thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord.