Author Spotlight: EM Norry
Feb. 12, 2021
We are excited to feature author EM Norry and her middle grade novel, AMBER UNDER COVER! (Oxford University Press) out on April 1, 2021.
Enter to win a copy!
|Cover Design: Rob Lowe OUP (Oxford University Press)
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I always "wanted to be a writer" since I was about ten years old, mainly because I was a huge reader, but I had no preference for what kind of thing I would write. For over twenty years I was content writing short stories for adults. I studied Film for a degree and then later a Screenwriting MA and always thought I'd like to get work on TV dramas. Before my 40th year I set myself a challenge to see if I could write a novel; previously, I'd never bothered trying to write anything much beyond 4,000 words. Although the first draft only took me nine months, I'm not a plotter, so it took another three years to edit my book into something presentable enough to send off to agents. I surprised myself by discovering it was YA too! My book didn't sell on sub, but I got offered a MG commission and that's how I got into writing for children.
Congrats on your new book, Amber Undercover! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Thank you! Well, I do like a bit of action. I enjoyed the Alex Rider books, Mission Impossible and Bond films, but the hero was always male! That was the inspiration for Amber Undercover. What if an ordinary girl found herself recruited as an undercover spy? The appeal was in trying to make her relatable, discovering how she would balance everyday school, friends and family issues with leading a double life. She's fourteen, so the book is suitable for upper MG, 10-13+.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I signed with my agent in July 2018, and the commissioned book came out in September 2019, so publication was relatively quick, I suppose? But, because my first book was a commission and part of a series, there wasn't much "fanfare," so it didn't feel anything like this book which is definitely much more of a debut celebration, which is wonderful.
What projects are you working on these days (and can you concentrate)?
I've just had a flurry of three separate deadlines, all for anthologies, so now I'm completely project free for the first time in two years! I'm considering trying to plot out an MG retelling... Regarding "creativity" and Covid... working on various projects that were all quite short (the longest was 6,000 words) actually gave me a lot of freedom and confidence because if I wasn't feeling in a particular mood, I knew I could turn to something different. It really has helped these past few months, being so busy. I mentored partway through the first lockdown and that was also really helpful actually, in terms of helping me focus.
Favorite classic MG? Recent ones?
Favourite classics - Emily of New Moon and the Anne of Green Gables series! When I was between nine and twelve, although I dipped into the odd adult book, I kept coming back to the simple times and friendship of books like Little Women and Pollyanna. I was obsessed by old Hollywood movie stars, so loved the sort of "putting on a show" books like Swish of the Curtain and Ballet Shoes. When I got to about thirteen, I moved onto Stephen King and used to scare myself silly with his short stories! As for recent MG? I'm reading a lot of my contemporaries and friends that I'm with on twitter. So, for an awesome spooky Victorian read, Jenni Spangler's The Vanishing Trick is a fantastic read with a wonderful villain. And my AMM mentee, JD Burns, is one to really watch. I can't wait for an agent to snap him up.
Middle grade voice is hard to nail. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My best advice would be to read the MG that is getting published today because it's so inclusive and varied and it's a very exciting space to be writing in right now. Also, really tune into your own childhood. Chances are if you can remember, really remember, the things that scared or excited you, what you worried about, what you dreamt about aged ten, eleven, twelve - then you'll have a good handle on the concerns of children today. Children are smart and can quite quickly see through any attempts to "preach" at them, so give them an unlikeable character, show some positive family relationship dynamics - we're so over orphaned kids! - and remember to be hopeful at the end.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I'm ridiculously open and happy to tell anyone anything, but for someone so short - I'm only five foot two - I sure do have massive feet! (Size 6.5/7!). I'm also, left-handed and have three tattoos. Oh, and I was once in a professional blue-collar boxing match!
Where can people find you online?
I did get myself an Instagram account, but rarely use it because how I'm supposed to use the platform goes over my head, but I really love twitter and am on there heaps at the weekends at @elnorry_writer - same on insta and I have a website too elnorry.com