It’s been a little while since I talked and tea-ed with a children’s author. But then, my good friend Edwina Wyatt’s new book Always Together was released this month, and I couldn’t resist asking Edwina a few questions.
By way of introduction, I met Edwina on my book tour last year. She too had recently published her first picture book. Edwina and I have been emailing ever since, and she is an absolute support, and beacon in the children’s book world for me. She’s my rock.
And it so happens, she makes really lovely books. Like her new book, Together Always, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (Little Hare), which is a profound little story of two friends, Pig and Goat.
Pouring tea now…
Edwina, you write stories for young people. What does storytelling mean to you?
To steal a phrase – stories make us care.
That’s a good thing to be a part of.
What process do you use to find a new story?
I start with a feeling, a word or a line that has been rolling around for a while, then I follow it on the page. Often these words don’t come at the beginning of the story, rather somewhere in the middle and I work my way around them. Clearly not a plotter!
Sometimes I will force myself to write a line and see if I can make myself interested in it. More times than not, I can’t, and it is only cringe worthy self consciousness that comes of it. But then there are those other times when creativity feeds creativity. For me, writing feels a bit like those moments when you force a smile or a laugh – awkward at first, but if you commit to it, it somehow becomes real.
Your books are very subtle, and elegant. A Haiku almost. Possibly deceptively simple! Am I right about the deception part?
Thank you for saying so! I suppose I am always striving to create a balance between simplicity and depth. I want to write books that are accessible but I never want to write ‘down’ to children.
The picture books that I love to read are multilayered; you can take as little or as much out of them as you need, and they keep giving on closer inspection.
Perhaps we can substitute the concept of deception with attention to detail?
Top of mind is the ‘evening’ motif running through my picture book In the Evening. This has significance to me, since it was intended to mirror the interior life of Oscar: a character suspended between the light and the dark in himself – the worthy and the unworthy – and so it extends the theme of transformation.
I also felt that the symbol of the gloaming or blue hour, as painters call it, was a nice foil for the story since it is tricky to decipher what is ending and what is beginning; another theme that I wanted to play with.
Together Always is your latest book. Where did the seed for this story originate from?
I started with these lines:
Together in the cold.
Together in the dark.
It did not feel so cold or so dark.
The lines were a response to a question that I was pondering and I wove a story around them to see if I could find an answer. Those lines were ultimately cut from the story by the editorial team who felt that they had a negative effect on the tone of the story – making it too sombre.
You work. You have a child. How do you find time to be creative?
Yes, and another on the way!
For me, the stolen moments are always the most appealing and productive, creatively. I find the idea of an extended period of time dedicated purely to writing to be immobilising. Adrenaline and sleep deprivation seem to have the surprising effect of pushing self-awareness to the side; the writing is more authentic and less indulgent as a consequence.
Where do you write?
Anywhere and everywhere.
But I have great faith in the powers of the kitchen table to aid both procrastination and creativity; not always mutually exclusive when there is tea involved!
Tell me about five of your favourite things in life.
In no particular order…
What are your creative hopes for the future?
To keep at it.
To grow a thicker skin.
To write something that an illustrator finds stimulating and nourishing to bring to life rather than it being purely work. It is this creative ‘conversation’ with an artist that is one of the best parts of it all for me – what a privilege to have your words interpreted and extended in ways you could never have imagined!