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Fablehouse | A conversation with writer E.L. Norry

Fablehouse is a children's home like no other. Housed in a mansion that perches on a cliff and backs on to ancient mysterious woodland, this is the home for many of Britain's Brown Babies, children born to African American GIs and white, British women following the Second World War. Heather has already been through several children's homes and is trying her hardest not to trust Fablehouse and its unusual head teacher, Miss Isolde.
But when children start acting strangely, Heather discovers a plot from a fae realm to infiltrate and overthrow the human world. With the help of Palamedes - a Black knight from King Arthur's Round Table who has been guarding the magical doorway to the fae world - and three friends, Heather sets off on a quest to rescue the children who have been replaced by changelings. No child will be forgotten or discarded on her watch. Discovering extraordinary powers and a fire inside herself, Heather will battle to save the first place that has felt like home for years...

Today, we’re welcoming author E.L. Norry to the Storymix blog!

Emma’s new book Fablehouse is the beginning of an outstanding new middle-grade adventure series steeped in magic and Arthurian legend. We spoke with Emma to find out more about the writing process, her background and journey to writing with Storymix.

What made you become a writer?

As a child, reading was my window into the world. Being a writer and telling stories was all I’ve wanted to do since I was ten. I believe stories are all there is; we are all full of stories. I wrote short stories for over twenty-five years. I didn’t attempt anything longer until I was approaching forty and thought I’d try to challenge myself by seeing if it was possible for me to get past 5,000 words.

Tell us about Fablehouse

Fablehouse is a magical adventure series set in 1954 about four children – Heather (11), Lloyd (12), Arlene (10) and Nat (9) who have been sent away from their birth parents because they are ‘brown babies’ – the offspring of white women and Black American GIs, which was a real historical event after the second world war. Thousands of babies were rehomed. In our Fablehouse, we’ve imagined a Black Arthurian Knight has been reawakened and when the children meet him at a cairn (a mysterious pile of stones), he warns them of a dangerous changeling plot from the fae world which lies right beneath their feet. Having come from a care background myself, I was excited to dive into the research around Holnicote House aswell as the Arthurian myths and legends which underpin the story.

How did you find working with Storymix?

I love writing collaboratively and it was a huge relief to not have to write the entire book in one go. Jasmine gave me an overview of the project and an outline for the first three chapters, this was the 'sample' that she'd send off to editors to see if they were interested in the project. I fell totally in love with her brilliant pitch and ended up writing another extra chapter because of where we'd left the characters!

After we sold the book, Jasmine provided me with a plot outline which I wrote from. She was keen to allow me freedom with this, so sometimes we brainstormed alternative ideas, and at other times I added chapters and story elements which I felt fitted the characters motivations and behaviour. Her editorial suggestions were spot on, and I felt I benefitted so much from having her extra guidance and support.

Favourite books as a child?

I was an avid reader from about age 7. I absolutely loved Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. More recently I enjoy anything from Katherine Rundell and Catherine Johnson blends real historical facts with story wonderfully. But my new favourite is a friend of mine, Jenni Spangler who writes spooky original Victorian middle grade.

Any advice for budding writers?

Consume story in all its forms – TV, film, comics. Start being curious and taking notice of everything and everyone around you. Start asking questions and don’t accept things how they are. If you have even a small idea for a story, jot down any facts or feelings about the characters, conversations they might have, things they might be passionate about. Every story involves someone wanting something. So ask, what do they most want? It doesn’t have to be in any structure or order, just get it on the page. If it’s a non-fiction idea - start with all the key facts you know. It will come from there, trust the process.

What’s next for you?

There will be a Fablehouse 2 next April, with more adventures from our favourite roamers and I’ve got a nonfiction book out in the Autumn with geneticist Adam Rutherford. It’s for younger readers and is about biology and belonging. It's packed with facts and information around race, humanity and how we're all ultimately related to each other.

Head to Buy Our Books to get your copy of Fablehouse, now available in paperback, ebook and audio format! In the meantime, you can find Emma on social media @elnorry_writer.

Book 2 of the series, Fablehouse: Heart of Fire is coming April 2024. Follow us on social media @storymixstudio for regular updates!


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