Sunday 17 December 2017

Write side: Emily Barr on finding inspiration in the Arctic

Emily Barr
Emily Barr
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Emily Barr on lost memories, finding inspiration in the Arctic and blasting out her novel in a bed and breakfast.

Tell us about your young adult novel The One Memory of Flora Banks

It's about a teenage girl who can only remember things up until the age of 10. She can't form any short-term memories after that. She has this momentous event on a beach when she kisses a boy, her friend's ex-boyfriend, and she remembers it.

How did you come to set part of it in the Arctic?

I woke up one day and I wanted to write a story set near the North Pole in the midnight sun. I went to Svalbard on my own for a week and wandered around in the snow at three in the morning. It was mind-blowing.

Did you really write it in a bed and breakfast in Torquay? That sounds a bit like Fawlty Towers

Yes, I always do that when I have to finish the book. I write better if I am in a bit of a panic over the deadline. I get away somewhere to blast it out. I also do a bit of café-hopping.

Can you work at home?

Usually I sit at the kitchen table. We do have a room with a desk in it, but I never sit at it.

Are you the first writer in the family?

My dad is a retired lecturer in film studies. I used to lie in bed as a child listening to the clatter of his typewriter. He wrote books about Alfred Hitchcock and Ealing Studios. It made me think that writing a book was something you could do.

If you weren't a novelist what would you be?

My first job was working in a posh art gallery, then as a journalist for the Guardian. At one point I thought I would do something sensible and become a lawyer, and when I was 10 I wanted to be a ballerina.

Which books would you take to a desert island?

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. I would also take the Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. It's about a vicar who travels to another planet.

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