Alabama Writers Conclave


What’s happening in the Alabama writing world…

Young Adult Fiction & Fantasy: A conversation between Claire Datnow and Emma Fox.

AWC Author-to-Author Interview with Claire Datnow (author of The Sizzling Six series of ecological mysteries) and Emma Fox, author of YA fantasy novel The Arrow and the Crown

Claire Datnow: It is my honor to speak with Emma Fox, author and reviewer of young adult fantasy and historical fiction. In this interview Emma reveals the roots of her inspiration, and the path she travelled to write and publish The Arrow and The Crown, a YA fantasy novel. I’d like to start by asking Emma what influences or inspirations came to bear on this novel.

Emma: I’ve loved fairytales for as long as I can remember. As a child, I read every fairytale collection I could find, from cultures all around the world. Some of my favorites were the old Grimms’ fairytales, which have such a sense of mystery, loss and longing. A year before I began to write The Arrow and the Crown, my husband and I traveled through southern Germany, visiting many old castles and out-of-the-way villages, and walking through quiet forests and medieval towns. Many details from those experiences found their way into my novel.

Claire: You write “historical fantasy.” What does that mean?

Emma: I love fantasy that draws on actual times and places, while opening up the possibility of other realities. There are some great fairytale retellings in this genre, such as Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, which recasts a little-known Grimms’ fairytale into the world of medieval Mongolia, or Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy, where historical figures from 14th century Russia combine forces with characters from folklore.

Although The Arrow and the Crown is an original fantasy, I wanted it to have the feel of a classic fairytale, along with a real sense of history and culture. Many of the cultural details are drawn from medieval German accounts and artifacts. I researched everything from medieval cookbook recipes, to herbal lore, to the proper way to thatch a roof…and everything in-between. These are the sort of details that make the book more vivid and “grounded.” But there are also magical elements, which I think help to open up a sense of mystery and wonder to the reader.

Claire: How has the AWC helped in your development as a writer? 

Emma: Back in 2017, I entered the first pages of The Arrow and the Crown (under its working title The Beast of Weissburg) in the AWC Writing Competition. It was the first contest I’d entered since deciding to pursue my writing passion a few years earlier. When my entry won 1st place in Juvenile Fiction, it was a huge encouragement to me to keep pursuing this dream! I’ve also appreciated the warm welcome and support I’ve received from various members of the AWC. And the conference workshops I’ve attended have helped me hone my craft and learn more about the process and business of writing.  

Claire: What are some of the hurdles and surprises you’ve encountered as a debut novelist?

Emma: Well, I think this experience is a common one, but when I first started out as an author, I didn’t realize how huge and complex the publishing industry is. I had to spend a lot of time educating myself on the business side of writing: how the industry works, who the players are, how to write query letters and proposals, and the pros and cons of various publication options. Now that my novel’s out in print, I’ve had to continue learning how to manage and market it, while also carving out time for continued creative work.

As for joys, it has been great fun to see my book spread to unexpected places, and to receive feedback from various readers. So far The Arrow and the Crown has traveled to at least 7 different countries! I’ve also been surprised at the age range of my readership. I conceived this book as a young adult (YA) novel, and I’ve had fantastic responses from teen readers, which I love. But I’ve also heard back from readers all the way from 7- to 70-year-olds. It’s pretty neat, as an author, to see where your words may land!

Claire: What’s coming up next?

Emma: I’m currently working on a fantasy novel set in early-19th century Russia. It’s a fascinating time to research and write about, and there’s such a wealth of mythology in eastern Europe that most American readers are unfamiliar with. I’ve enjoyed this chance to journey farther afield in my writing!

You can learn more about Emma’s work and read her book reviews at her website.

Alina Stefanescu