Emma Pearl has loved writing ever since she was a small child and becoming an author is something she has always aspired to, she says.
Like many children growing up in 1980s Britain, Emma grew up with books and stories from the incomparable imagination of the beloved children’s author Roald Dahl. Unlike her peers however, Emma didn’t just read his books, but she heard them in Roald’s own voice. Roald Dahl was Emma’s great-uncle, and he lived just “a few fields away” from her when she was growing up, featuring in many of her childhood memories.
Not only did Roald nurture a love of books and stories in her, he was also responsible for her conquering her fear of swimming, she says.
“I was 5 years old and I wasn’t enjoying learning to swim. He told me if I could swim a whole width of his swimming pool he would buy me the biggest box of chocolates I had ever seen.”
Emma took up the challenge, and when she successfully swam that width, he took her straight to the village shop where he asked the shopkeeper for exactly what he had promised - the biggest box of chocolates there was.
He encouraged her writing and imagination too, one day suggesting she interview him as though she was a journalist. She would have been about 10 years old at the time, she says, and he recorded the interview.
“He said to me, ‘I will call you Miss Pearl and you will call me Mr Dahl’.”
The recording of that interview is available on Emma’s website.
His book The Twits is dedicated to Emma, and she remembers it being really exciting to see her name inscribed in the book at the time. Forty years later, and Emma’s name is appearing on other books, now on the front cover as her children’s book Mending the Moon was published late last year. The book is the first of a two book deal Emma was signed up for after her book caught the attention of Page Street Kids during a Twitter pitch event.
She also has a young adult book currently with a United States-based agent that is currently in front of publishers and has plenty more stories to come, she says.
“I love writing, and have lots of stories and characters I am working on. I always wanted to be an author, but a few years ago I decided to actually buckle down and focus on that dream.”
Emma, her husband and two children had settled in Toko by then, having moved from Paignton in the UK in 2021.
“I started putting more time into developing my writing, learning from others and joining various online writing programmes and mentoring groups. While authors can often be quite introverted, they are also really supportive of each other, and I found a lot of help and advice from people which I was able to use as I worked on my various book ideas.”
Children’s picture books such as Mending the Moon can carry big messages, she says, and the stories they contain aren’t just for the pre-school age group.
“I think people can sometimes dismiss them, but we can also all remember our own favourite storybooks from those early years.”
Emma’s own favourite children’s book is The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, and just like Mending the Moon it contains a message for all ages, she says.
“For me, that is what is so magical about children’s books, they can make you think just as much as a big adult fiction book can.”
Fitting those big ideas and themes into just 500 or so words can be a challenge, says Emma, which is why she values the support she received from other writers as she worked towards getting her own book deal. Her advice to any budding authors is simple, she says.
“Read. Read as much as you can and join lots of groups aimed at supporting authors. There are lots of resources out there for writers and the community is really welcoming.”
Emma herself now guides and mentors other would-be authors, offering general help and support as well as a paid manuscript critique service.
“I think the more people who write the better. Writers aren’t competitive as such, we all love books and reading and so we encourage each other.”
What: Mending the Moon by Emma Pearl is available from bookshops now. Emma Pearl reads Mending the Moon.
When: Saturday, February 25, 10am
Where: Stratford Library, Prospero Place, Stratford.
More details: Open to all. Reading to be followed by craft activities for little ones.
Visit www.emmapearlauthor.com for more information.