When Luna’s family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey! But things don’t go entirely to plan – no one expects Luna’s younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example – and the secret festival they hold soon spirals out of control. But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all…
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about your new book, published by Nosy Crow, We Won an Island?
We Won an Island is about goats, donkeys, knitting, bat poo, rocking pensioners, sunshine, yoga, cheese flavoured ice-cream, flying, secrets, and a festival!
I wondered if this story was inspired by your own childhood in any way or your relationship with your family?
I spent a lot of time at the beach when I was little, and also at my grandparents’ smallholding, surrounded by animals. Those memories have definitely influenced the story. Also, my mother is very into fitness, so that’s where the yoga storyline comes from.
How important is the Scottish setting to the book and why did you decide to set the book in Scotland?
My family originally came from Orkney, so Scotland holds a really special place in my soul. I can’t imagine the book being set anywhere else, although at the same time, I wanted everyone to be able to identify with the setting, no matter where they’re from.
I love Luna! She’s so mischievous, plucky and funny! Who or what inspired her?
Thank you! She’s a lot like I was as a child, but her characteristics are amplified. I was animal mad, like Luna, and definitely “plucky” when around my family. I was also a bit of a dreamer, like Luna.
I particularly enjoyed your subversion and challenging of traditional gender stereotypes. Margot likes plane spotting, video games and reading books like How to Fly a Boeing 747: Volume 9. On the other hand, Fabien likes knitting, dancing and fashion. Was it important to you to tackle, or even just indirectly comment upon, the gendering of clothes, toys and children in general?
Yes, but I didn’t want to make a big deal of it in the book. Margot likes planes, and Fabien likes knitting, and that’s just the way it is. I was very conscious of not wanting the children to fall into gender stereotypes, because it pens children in.
I actually lost my Nan very suddenly at the beginning of the year, so I found your exploration of Dad’s grief and the impact of Granny’s death very moving. Was this difficult to write? Was it inspired at all by your own relationship with your grandparents?
Both my grandmothers passed away while I was writing the book, so that definitely influenced how I wrote about the impact of Granny’s death. I didn’t want the book to be about the children grieving (they are quite matter of fact when they think about Granny’s death, in that they miss her, but don’t often dwell on her absence), but found it interesting to gently explore the impact it had on Dad, and his sadness. It was tricky to get the tone right, because overall I wanted the book to be fun, cheerful, and uplifting, but also to have a heart.
I feel like re-connecting with nature and looking after our wildlife and animals is an important theme in the story. Would you agree?
Yes, I think it’s especially important nowadays, with hedgerow netting, and plastic filled oceans etc. I live in a large town, so often feel quite removed from nature. It was nice to sit down and write about it every day.
Do you remember how you felt when you first saw the colourful, bright front cover design and illustration by Aviel Basil? What do you feel it brings to the story?
I absolutely loved it! It captures the cheerfulness of the book perfectly, and kind of sets the tone of the book, before you actually open it.
You say at the beginning that ‘books will guide you on your adventures’. What do you mean by this? What’s been your favourite book-based adventure?
The dedication was for my two children. I hope that reading about adventures, even the most fantastical, will prepare them for their own in real life. Books are full of so much advice, and wisdom.
It’s so hard to pick a favourite adventure! I loved the Famous Five books when I was little, and also Harry Potter, which I remember reading back in 1999, before the hysteria over it had gripped the world. My favourite adult books are The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, because of their wonderful setting (technically mysteries, but I think all books are an adventure in some way).
Are you happy with where you’ve left Luna, Margot and Fabien? What do you think they’re up to right now? Will there be a sequel to We Won an Island?
I’m actually working on a sequel now! We originally planned for the book to be a standalone, so I left the characters in a place where they would be happy, but I always had other stories about them ticking over in my mind. There’s so much more to explore with their lives on the island.
Finally, can you describe We Won an Island in three words?
Fun, sunshine, goats.