What can you tell us about your new novel Emily Knight I Am?
Emily Knight I AM... is about a thirteen year old warrior named Emily, who is far from ordinary and she hates it. She’s the daughter of a heroic warrior and the press’s favourite problem child. Emily steals to get on the cover of the papers to show her absentee father that she needs him.
She lives with her godparents Sally and Michael Meran and their four foster children in Legends Village. Against her wishes, Emily is accepted in to the prestigious Osaki Training School for children who are born with supernatural powers aka warriors. She learns to fly, create fireballs, breathe under water and play Dojo.
Emily struggles to do basic techniques but her uncontrolled power kicks in whenever she’s extremely angry/sad/scared. She befriends, Michella Kinkle, who’s fears she's the average one in her talented family. Wesley Parker, who jokes to hide his pain that his mother is in rehab and is lethal with a pack of cards and the handsome but very smart Jason Notting, who never notices the girls falling at his feet.
Emily finds it hard dealing with the pressure of filling in her brother and father's famous shoes but when Emily encounters an old face, she has to find a way to choose between the two people that she loves. The wrong choice will have Emily fighting for her life.
What made you want to write for teenagers, rather than adults?
I have always preferred to write for children/ young adults than for adults as I love fantasy and I believe that young people are so imaginative, they can be lost instantly in the world that I create. Also as a kid, I loved to read and I learnt so much from different authors that helped shape my childhood so I wanted to do the same for another child.
How did you go about capturing the voice of a thirteen year old, was it challenging?
It was pretty easy for me to capture a voice of a thirteen year old - I just thought of what me and my friends were like at 13! Very sassy, insecure yet charming. I also teach a lot of young people so that helps too.
Have you always loved fantasy fiction?
I’ve always been a massive fan of fantasy fiction growing up. I love characters who are super natural so growing up reading Roald Dahl, Philip Ridley and J. K. Rowling was brilliant!
The book has been said to reflect the demographic of British students, so how have you achieved this?
It’s such a compliment that someone believes that Emily Knight reflects the demographic of British students. I think it’s because it’s a culturally diverse book; all the kids come from different backgrounds but can still connect and hang out with each other, which was definitely my childhood. There are issues addressed such as fostering, alcoholism which affects a lot of children in the UK and by writing about it, hopefully it will give some young people a better understanding. Also in the UK, we are lucky that we can express ourselves freely and be accepted, like Emily is a tough, angry girl who’s not afraid to fight the boys but yet is still girly and will dress up like a fairy at a party.
You wrote your first novel at age 8, so tell us about this!
At aged 8, I started to write my own stories; they were mainly about my friends, meeting witches and giants in the woods! I then got really influenced by a series called The Baby-sitter’s Club by Anne M. Martin so me and my friends became baby-sitters and had our own horrible situations! And that turned into my first ever book series of short stories.
Emily Knight came to you at age 12, so tell us about the development of this character from then until now.
When I thought of Emily at aged 12, she was a white, brown haired, blue eyed girl who loved being a celebrity warrior and was a foster child and lived in a world where warriors weren’t accepted. Sally and Michael Meran weren’t her godparents they were her foster parents and Emily went to the Osaki Training School but it was a mansion of selected warriors. Originally Emily was called Aurine Finknie -I know terrible and I’ve never told ANYONE that name - but as I got older, the thing that changed the most about Emily was her depth. She developed into this angry girl who hated this lifestyle she was born into and became more of a rebel figure. She became much stronger and more assertive. Emily became a black girl. I was advised to do this from an ex-editor called Laura Atkins and that change I think made Emily unique.
You are a professional street dancer by day, so how do you juggle this and your writing?
I am a professional dancer day and night! Due to teaching in the day and then rehearsals and shows in the evening. I write everywhere! On the bus, in my car, at church, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and write it down. I have to dedicate a few hours a day to type stuff up. It can get tough balancing it all but so far I am coping.
You have had TV and movie appearances too, so what can you tell us about these experiences?
TV and Film appearances are very fun but the hours are super long and most of the time you sit around waiting, so a lot of respect to those that have to do it every day but it is a once in a life time opportunity and it’s surreal seeing yourself on a screen. I think the funniest filming I’ve done was The Apprentice. We met the team we were helping out and the production team knew what they wanted so we got straight into it and it was so funny seeing them trying to get Street Dance moves in their nice suits and dresses. People still ask me about that episode and it was almost a year ago so that’s very cool.
What was your favourite novel as a child?
This is a hard one, I had so many favourite novels but I have two- Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume and The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson
Who do you most like to read now?
At the moment, my favourite Authors are Jodi Picolut and Sophie Kinsella.
Do you have any authors to thank for influencing your work today?
The writers that have influenced me the most are Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson, Jodi Picoult, Malorie Blackman, Sophie Kinsella, Philip Ridley, Roald Dahl so thank you amazing people!
What is next for you?
Next for me is to finish writing the 2ND Emily Knight book and hope it’s bigger and better than the first book. I would love to do a book signing and book tour at some point soon as well, I think that would be amazing!
Female First Lucy Walton