Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brief Interview with Emma Clayton; Author of the Roar

Emma Clayton, the fabulous author of The Roar was gracious enough to answer questions that I posed to her. Thanks so much for taking the time Emma. If you haven't already, please take the time to pick up your own copy of The Roar. It was certainly one of my favorites from this last year.

If you wouldn’t mind, tell us a little bit about yourself (a short bio)?

I was born in 1968. My father was an officer in the RAF, so we moved a lot when I was small. He died when I was seven, while we were living in Gibraltar and I returned to England with my mother and brothers and lived in and around Oxford until recently.

At school I was quite shy, but really into books, comics, music, art and film. I read and drew a lot and played in bands. English and Art were my favourite subjects.

I left school when I was 16, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At the time I was told you could only make a living out of art and English through graphic design or teaching, and neither of these appealed to me. It was only after I’d made friends with people working in comics and film that I realized there were more exciting paths to follow.

In my late teens, I trained as a Field Archaeologist. I spent a brief time working as a freelance illustrator, then I returned to education in my mid-twenties, studying film and screen writing. I wrote my first novel after the birth of my daughter when I was 26, and wrote The Roar several years later, while I was studying for a HND in Visual Communication.

How did you come to be a professional writer? Was there any one event that pushed you into the field?

While I was writing The Roar, I entered the first three chapters of an early draft into a competition organized by the bookseller, Waterstone’s and the publisher, Faber and Faber. The competition was called, ‘The Wow Factor’ and the prize was a publishing deal. I entered because I wanted to test my manuscript before sending it to agents and luckily, it reached the shortlist. This gave me the confidence to approach my agent, Sophie Hicks, who secured my publishing deal with Chicken House and Scholastic.

I would recommend competitions to new writers. It’s a great way to get your work read by the right people.

Do you ever tire of people comparing your work to other books in similar genres?

No. When ‘The Roar’ was first compared to ‘Ender’s Game,’ I was surprised more than anything, because like many writers before me, I thought I’d come up with an original idea! After I’d read ‘Ender’s Game’ I felt humbled to dust, because it’s such a great book. However, when I thought about it, I realized Orson Scott Card and I were exploring a similar idea in very different times. Orson Scott Card wrote the first version of ‘Ender’s Game’ over thirty years ago, in 1977, when virtual environments and computer games didn’t exist. I am writing for young people in a world dominated by them. I was trying to create an environment that worked as an interface between games, films and books and would consequently encourage young people to read. Orson Scott Card was visionary. I am responding to a culture that exists. I find this very interesting.

The Roar is also compared to The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I did wonder while I was writing my book if I was part of a movement - whether there were other writers out there exploring similar ideas. The Roar was published in the UK at the same time as The Hunger Games in the US, and we were both observing a media obsessed world. It feels exciting to be part of this new wave in youth literature and I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games.

In terms of logistics, when can expect the new book?

I’m still writing it, so I’m afraid I don’t know yet!

If you could deliver one important message to the world, what would that be?

People have already said much smarter things than I ever will. One of my favourite quotes opens The Whisper, the sequel to The Roar.

‘War does not determine who is right, only who is left.’

Bertrand Russell