In this article, Ashley answers a few questions about her work...
Q1: How did you come up with the setting for Emajen?
Originally, I was thinking of just one world, which was where all the doodles that human beings sketch come to life. Unfortunately, Crevitos put paid to that, since he decided to devastate that world very early on in the story! So, I needed another world for him to try to conquer.
Emajen itself sort of emerged as an ideal type of Earth - I suppose, my idea of utopia, where the inhabitants are considerably more respectful to each other than we are on Earth.
I guess, too, that if you’re going to have a good old fashioned battle between good and evil, it helps to have a lovely world with lovely inhabitants and a super cruel baddy trying to spoil things.
Q2: Did you have to do a lot of work to keep track of the setting, or did it simply turn up?
Because Emajen is set on Earth, Emajen and Doodland, I did have to be careful not to contradict myself in places. Some parts, like the ranch in America needed a little research, but imagining your own worlds is lots of fun.
Q3: Do you doodle? What sort of things do you draw?
I do doodle, particularly if I’m bored. Often, I draw animals, especially dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and tortoises all of which I either have, or have had. I doodle trees a lot too and then sometimes random patterns or weird hybrid creatures. I wish I were better at drawing though - which is probably why I only doodle!
Q4: Who were your favourite authors when you were a child? Do you still read them? What are you reading now?
Well, I was definitely of that era where I pretty much always had an Enid Blyton book on the go. My favourite book when I was about ten years old though, was J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I lost count of how many times I read that (and of course The Hobbit). I read lots of other books, too like Jennie by Paul Gallico and Watership Down and Shardik by Richard Adams.
Now I’ll read pretty much anything, in almost any genre, although from time to time I do like to immerse myself in a bit of scary Stephen King or James Herbert. Right now, as a serious read, I’m reading Psychoanalysis, Clinic and Context by Ian Parker. For relaxation, I’m just in the middle of The Litigators by John Grisham.
Q5: Who have you written this book for?
Technically, it’s for middle grade readers, but a number of adult readers have said they enjoyed it, so I’m going to say it's for children of all ages from 8 to 98+!
Q6: What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
I hope that the message of kindness towards animals (and animal welfare in general) is the one readers would most take away with them. Obviously, it’s a fantasy and an adventure story, but I really hope the animal welfare message is a strong theme within that.
Q7: What made you want to write for younger readers?
At the time I began writing Emajen, many years ago, my daughter was still young and I wanted to write a book for her. Now, I think that storytelling is a fabulous way to educate children about animals and about their world in a way that keeps them engaged.
Q8: This is your debut novel, are there more stories on the way?
Well, without giving too much away, Emajen does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger and there is one character in particular, Saddler, who has a bit of explaining to do. So yes, Saddler’s Tale is finished, and in its final read through and edit. I think there are probably three or four in the Emajen series, but I also have a psychological thriller (not aimed at children, of course) burbling around in my head that keeps nagging at me to get started. So that may have to be the next project.
Just out of interest, I did actually write an adult novel many years ago called Fragile Lives - a saga about a mother and daughter. There were a few copies printed, but I never really found the time to do anything with it. (Randomly, there is a copy on Amazon, though I didn't put it there.)
Q9: I think stories about young people saving worlds have contributed to the way actual young people are out there trying to save our world from the folly of adults. What do you think? Will your book inspire young readers to action?
Yes, I really do believe that storytelling can be a very powerful way of reaching out to young people. After all, it’s what human beings have done for hundred’s of years isn’t it? Long before there were even written words, let alone printed or computerized ones. From various comments I’ve had, yes, I hope I can inspire young readers to think about the consequences that their actions have on all the animal inhabitants of our world. Saddler’s Tale delves more into world conservation, too - at one point there is a most informative (and rather dangerous) escapade in the rainforest… but that’s a tale for another time!
Find out more about Emajen here - https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/ourstreet-books/our-books/emajen
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