Emma Whitehall – Q&A

Emma Whitehall

Emma Whitehall

Today we have a Q&A session with Emma Whitehall, a bookseller for the bound in Whitley Bay, who has her debut novel Clockwork Magpie coming out on the 10th of February, the launch of which is at the bound.

Tell us what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I wanted to write a story where my characters’ Northern-ness was part of why we loved them – not a plot point or something to overcome. Clockwork Magpies is set in an alternate-universe England, where the industry and wealth migrated upwards towards the coal-rich North East to form the city of Loxport. Publishing is slowly but surely realising how rich and talented Northern voices can be, but when I started this story nearly a decade ago, there was virtually nothing – especially not in YA!

What came first the characters or the world?

They kind of grew out of each other – the original Clockwork Magpies was a short story collection, with stories and characters and settings that crossed paths with each other. It wasn’t until that draft was done that a certain infamous sneak thief kept strolling into other people’s stories and demanding I write about her…

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

The wonderful YA bookseller Charley from The Rabbit Hole in Brigg recently interviewed me for her channel, and she called the book ‘cosy’ – which isn’t something I ever thought my writing would be called! She also said she wanted to give Ida a big hug and a shake, which I think is exactly what my grumpy little criminal needs.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I always write fantasy fiction, but the base for that fantasy changes from story to story. I just had a high fantasy, meta-fictional short story published with Paperbound Magazine’s Winter issue, and right now I’m working on a Solarpunk love story. Being playful and trying new things is really important for me as a writer.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m a bookseller! I work at the bound, Whitley Bay, where I also run a YA Book Club. Basically, if I’m not involved with something to do with books, I’m usually asleep.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I think reading a wide range of books is really important, both as a writer and as a bookseller. Think of all the amazing pieces of work you’d miss out on if you only read one genre! I love fantasy and YA fiction, but I also read a lot of Victorian period dramas (like Elizabeth Macneal’s The Doll Factory) and in 2021 I got really into romance fiction, especially Talia Hibbert’s work!

What books can you not resist buying?

Anything that promises great characters – you could have the grandest, most intricate world imaginable, but if your characters don’t ring true or make me love them in some way, I lose interest really quickly.

Clockwork Magpies

Clockwork Magpies

Do you have any rituals when writing?

My favourite way to write is while sitting in a café, really early in the morning, with a hot drink and something sweet to eat. I think this came from squeezing in writing time before I went to work, but after all these years I just love working early in the day – once I come home from work I just crash, I don’t want to start plotting or writing dialogue!

What is your current or latest read?

I’m just finishing up You And Me On Vacation, and I’m about to start either The Atlas Six or These Violent Delights – yes, I’m big into TikTok books right now!

Any events in the near future?

My launch party for Clockwork Magpies is happening at the bound, Whitley Bay on the 10th February, and then we’re organising a panel in March where readers can ask me about the world of Loxport! The tickets for the party are available now, but keep your eyes peeled for the panel in the near future. You can find out more at https://linktr.ee/pensandpizza

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I write fantasy because we can use it as a lens. Using genre fiction allows us – both readers and writers – to explore themes like love, grief, classism and finding your own family (which are all themes in Clockwork Magpies) in ways that writing about “the real world” might not allow. Sometimes you just need a really good story to slip through a crack in your heart and open it up again.

You can find Emma at @pensandpizza on both Twitter and Instagram.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

La Belle Sauvage

Philip Pullman. Penguin. (592p) ISBN 9780241365854
La Belle Sauvage

La Belle Sauvage

I’ve had the special edition of La Belle Sauvage with the Lynx daemon sat on my shelves since it was released but never got around to reading it.

I found this on the RBDigital service whilst looking through for a fantasy or sci-fi book to listen to and thought walking was a great opportunity to listen to this.

Really pleased to report that Michael Sheen is a wonderful narrator and that the audiobook was wonderfully paced and was a complete pleasure to listen to.

Set twelve years before Lyra’s adventures in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, this helps explain some of the beginnings of that trilogy and how Lyra got to the college in Oxford, also the background to some of the main characters to come.

Malcolm Polstead, Alice, and La Belle Sauvage are the main characters in this adventure, building Malcolm’s strong moral character in the first part of the book and then their flight from danger in the second half of the book.

Well fleshed out characters and world help propel the story along at the speed of the flood that they are caught up in. Some really hard scenes, especially the ones with the hyena in it, sorrow and disgust mingle with a feeling of strangeness when compared to other daemons in Pullman’s world.

A world of strange and totalitarian religious groups which seek to control all, but also a world of magics and old gods, living cheek by jowl with a world of science and engineering.

A wonderful setup for ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and then onto The Secret Commonwealth which I’ll have to listen to as soon as possible, and any book that mentions Danish oil is all right by me, that and spontaneous combustion always make for a good combination.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

VOX

Christina Dalcher. HarperCollins. (400p) ISBN 9780008300678

VOX

VOX

I was so late to the VOX party amongst my colleagues, and I have no idea why?

It hits all the right targets for me a feminist dystopia looking at what could feasibly happen if we extrapolate from current trends.

Vox is set in an imaginable near-future where the ‘moral’ right has transformed the USA into a living hell for women, limiting them to domesticity and silence, and the laughing stock of the world. 100 words a day, more than that then an electric shock punishes the transgressors.

Does this seem to be too far fetched? If you think that you really need to watch more news.

The main characters are so well written that you empathise with them from page one, and following her development and her story of how it cam to pass was hypnotic.

Short, sharp chapters kept the tension growing throughout to the end.

This sits in the same area as The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power, this is a must read.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

The Power

Naomi Alderman. Penguin Books. (352p) ISBN 9780670919963

The Power

The Power

Naomi Alderman’s novel ‘The Power’ is a well-deserved winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Naomi takes the idea of a change to which gender holds the reins of power and moves it along logical lines to a logical outcome, the end of the book gives this logical progression a wonderful twist.

One day young women wake a power which has been developing in them over a number of years which gives them the ability to channel electricity through them, storing it in an organ called a ‘skein’.

As this develops through the world, women start to control various power centres and men fight back at the gender inequalities raised by the change in their societal position.

One of the funniest, but most poignant changes is the change in gender positions of the newscasters throughout the book.

Written in an episodic fashion reminiscent of ‘World War Z’, the story develops at a cracking pace, in a horrifying but true way which I won’t spoil, but when the only model of holding power is that which has been developed in our patriarchal, capitalist society, the story’s outcomes ring sadly true.

A wonderful novel which should be read by men as well as women as a pointer to what is wrong in our current society, and as a well-written piece of speculative fiction.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.