Emma NorryAuthor of 'Sam' a title from our TWO SIDES series.

Q&A with Emma Norry

What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?

Finding reading a challenge shouldn't deter anyone from enjoying a good story. We engage in forms of storytelling all the time: 'Did I tell you what she said to me?' 'Have you heard this joke?' 'Remember when we...?'

I believe that stories are how we make sense of the world, they're an essential part of who we are and what makes us human.

What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?

Sometimes the length of a book can be off-putting – I still feel this as an adult! Why invest in all that time if you aren't sure whether or not you're going to enjoy it? Heavy type that is too close together is another intimating layout.
Boring stories and characters they can't relate to.

What is your favourite type of character to create?

I prefer realistic contemporary stories, although also am fascinated by history, too. Writing about characters who are morally ambiguous is always interesting; sometimes people do bad things even though they think they have good reasons.

I also like complicated characters; after all, we're full of contradictions, aren't we?

What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High-Interest appeal that really engages young readers?

Lots of dialogue that is realistic, fast-paced and authentic.

What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?

I think, like anything, certain areas of learning can be tricky, but shouldn't mean you have to miss out! At school, I struggled with Maths. As an adult, I went back to evening class to study Maths and discovered I actually quite enjoyed it!

Reading is for everyone. A 'good story' doesn't need to be difficult. It's a fantastic chance to imagine the characters in your head.

Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your upcoming TWO SIDES title?

Appearances can be deceptive is all I'll say!

What are the major themes of your work?

Feeling lost, confused, left out, broken families, or on the 'outside' of things is a theme that resonates with me personally, as a mixed race child who grew up in care.

What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?

I like to keep the words fairly simple but the emotional and intellectual content is often complicated.

What is your favourite children's book?

So many! I used fiction to escape my reality when I was younger. I was fan of the classics: Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfield), Little Women (Louisa Alcott), Anne of Green Gables (L.M Montgomery). When I was around thirteen I discovered Stephen King and became obsessed by his creepy short stories until I was about fifteen.

My children and I have really enjoyed the Mr. Gum series by Andy Stanton.

Now that I write YA novels, I read a lot of contemporary YA and particularly like: Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness and David Almond.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?

Play around with words and have fun. Remember that you're in charge of what happens – there are no limits!

First attempts are never perfect.

Reading lots really does help with writing a lot; you get to discover what stories work. Developing curiosity about other people helps too!