Competition win gives Emily first published book
Apr 1 2009 by Hilarie Stelfox, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
YORKSHIRE author Emily Diamand is being tipped as the new JK Rowling. Her futuristic first novel for children, Reavers’ Ransom, found its way into print after she won a competition. Now a full-time writer, Emily recently visited Huddersfield and talked to HILARIE STELFOX
ENGLAND in the 22nd century has been partially flooded by climate change and is a hostile world where vicious outlaws raid and pillage.
But it is not a world without goodness or hope.
It’s creator, author Emily Diamand, was determined that her first children’s novel, Reavers’ Ransom, would be entertaining and exciting rather than gloomily post-apocalyptic.
Despite the seriousness of its theme, she was also eager to avoid thrusting the environmental message too firmly down her young readers’ throats.
“I didn’t want to write anything too depressing or to preach,’’ said 38-year-old Emily.
“It’s an adventure story and I want children to be able to relate to the characters. I don’t want children to feel hopeless and terrified, but to know that people will survive no matter how bad it might get,’’
It’s not really surprising that Emily’s first book, which was published to wide acclaim, should have both a futuristic and environmental starting point.
With a degree in environmental science and a lifelong interest in matters ecological, Emily has worked on organic farms and for the Friends of the Earth.
It is her passion, she says.
Her breadth of knowledge on the subject lends weight to her writing and informs her opinions: “Unfortunately, with every day I feel more worried about the future.
“It seems that our leaders, business people and everyone won’t act in time. Ordinary people are concerned, but it’s only natural to think that it (environmental disaster) won’t happen.
“My understanding is that the solutions are all there, if we have the will.’’
Environmental work brought Emily to Yorkshire although she was born in London and raised in Oxfordshire.
“Interestingly, when researching my family tree I found out that all of my mother’s side of the family were from Yorkshire so it’s like I belong here,’’ she said.
She now lives in Harrogate with her fiancé, interior designer Matthew Collins, and their two-year-old son Arlo, and it’s there that she wrote Reavers’ Ransom.
The book combines her environmental interests with her love of the science fiction genre.
It’s a fascination that began in her own childhood when her brother gave her one of his sci fi books to read.
“I can’t even remember what it was, but I was hooked,’’ she says.
Emily was one of those children who wrote stories – not because she had to but because she enjoyed it.
“I always wanted to be a writer, but the passion for the environment took over for quite a long time,’’ she said.
“I had the idea for a book in the back of my mind.
“I’d been working with Friends of the Earth in Leeds for seven or eight years when I decided to take some time out to start writing.”
Helped by an evening class in creative writing at Leeds University – which she describes as a fantastic course – she began her novel.
After a false start, when she realised she didn’t know where her story was going, she had a major re-think and the manuscript was finally completed just before she gave birth to Arlo.
At this point Emily’s own life story takes an interesting and exciting turn.
Believing, quite rightly, that she had nothing to lose, she entered for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2008.
She didn’t know it then, but hers was one of 2,000 entries.
Emily says she was amazed when she discovered that she’d been shortlisted and totally stunned when she won.
Barry Cunningham, the owner of Chicken House which publishes children’s literature, says he was blown away by Emily’s novel: “It has everything.
“It’s got a great storyline, really believable characters and the writing has a real sense of style about it.
“Sometimes you look at novels by first-time authors and you think it’s great, but that’s probably the only book they’ve got in them.
“With Emily, it’s different. I really believe we’ve discovered not just a great book, but a great writer.’’
Reavers’ Ransom, which follows the exploits of a girl who sets out to rescue the Prime Minister’s daughter who has been kidnapped by reavers is already being translated into 15 different languages and there has been interest from more than 40 countries so far.
Emily is now working on the sequel which is due for publication later this year.
Reavers’ Ransom by Emily Diamand is published by Chicken House, price £6.99.
A rumour spread on the internet that Emily based her book on the reevers featured in the movie Serenity and short-lived television series Firefly. This is not true. Emily’s reavers are named after the 16th century border raiders who patrolled the border between England and Scotland.