We are thrilled to welcome Eve Wersocki Morris into The Reading Realm to talk about her debut children’s book THE BIRD SINGERS!
Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS! How does it feel having your debut book out there?
Thank you! It feels absolutely amazing! I’m not exaggerating when I say this a true dream come too – I feel like I’m skipping amongst the clouds!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about The Bird Singers?
It’s a mystery adventure about two sisters, Layah and Izzie, on holiday in the Lake District, where strange things start happening… There’s a whistling in the garden, a dead bird in the lane and a banging at their cottage door at night. The sisters’ Babcia (Grandmother, in Polish) has been telling them tales about myths and monsters and they start to wonder whether those myths might just be real… It’s a mysterious, eerie and thrilling adventure!
The relationship between Layah and Izzie is central to the story. What inspired these characters and their relationships?
Layah and Izzie are sisters and they don’t always get along. Rather like me and my younger sister! I wanted to explore that fascinating bond between siblings – that bantering relationship which is underpinned by immense love and loyalty. As the mystery unfolds and the stakes get higher, Layah starts to realise that her younger sister Izzie can hold her own and doesn’t always need to be shielded by Layah’s protection. Their adventure helps them to grow and understand each other afresh. I think this is definitely something I’ve experienced with my younger sister as we’ve grown older; little sisters don’t stay little forever and when given the chance they can be just as brave as older sisters.
The book is so exciting and mysterious, a real thrill ride! How did you create this page-turning feel to the book?
I’ve definitely written a book I would have loved to read as a child. I think I have a very cinematic mind when it comes to plotting a story and want to make sure every chapter is full of energy and excitement. I’m always thinking about the rhythm of the story – making sure it keeps rising towards a dramatic finale! Being dyslexic, I sometimes found it hard to read as a kid so would always enjoy picking a book which was fast-paced and thrilling, which would motivate me to read more.
Can you remember how you felt seeing the front cover for the first time?
It was the most amazing email attachment I’ve ever received! I felt dizzy with excitement and then I think I probably cried! The designer, Michelle Brackenborough, has really brought out central elements of the story and the illustrator, Paola Escobar, has created a piece of exquisite artwork. I could not have wished for a more remarkable, evocative, enchanting cover – it is the cover of my dreams.
I loved all the descriptions of the Polish food – it’s a real sensory feast! Can you tell us about the role of food in your life and childhood and how it came to be so integral to the story?
I’m half Polish and since I don’t speak Polish, food has always been that link to my Polish heritage. Since I can remember, my family have celebrated Wigilia (which is a Polish celebration on Christmas Eve) and it’s a tradition which always reminds me of my Babcia; my Polish grandmother, who passed away when I was in my early twenties. She was the one who taught me and my sister to make pierogi (Polish dumplings) and she’s always make an iced torte (a flourless cake with hazelnuts) with little Christmas figures on top. The Polish food in THE BIRD SINGERS has a similar nostalgia for Layah and all her memories of Babcia are connected to food in some way. I think food also symbolises family for both Layah and Izzie – meal times have always been incredibly important for them but when the story starts we find their family in a state of flux and uncertainty. Layah and Izzie tend to bond over food (mostly cakes and scones!) and their mum is always avoiding meal times which puts a strain on their relationships. Also its super fun to write about food!
The story ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and left me with lots of questions. Are you planning any more adventures for Layah and Izzie?
Well well well… We will have to wait and see! My next fantasy middle-grade is another stand-alone – another hair-raising mystery set on a theatre camp, with a dyslexic heroine (out Feb 2023) – but who knows, Layah and Izzie may well return…
Finally, can you describe The Bird Singers in three words?
Sisters. Mystery. Myths.
THE BIRD SINGERS by Eve Wersocki Morris is out now (£7.99, Hodder)