“Writing Flora Banks was like an explosion of creativity”: Emily Barr on writing before dawn, the Arctic and going from adult to YA

Emily Barr’s gorgeous YA debut, ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ is taking the world by storm with its beautiful writing, unreliable narrator and addictive story so we obviously had to pick Emily’s brain about all things #FloraBanks.

Get the lowdown on writing, the Arctic and the difference between YA and adult fiction.

Can you describe ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ in the length of a tweet? ‘Flora is 17 and has no short term memory until she kisses a boy and remembers it. Miracle! But he’s moved to the Arctic. Can she find him?’ (that took me ages)

As an established adult writer, how have you found writing your YA debut? I’ve absolutely loved it! I love YA anyway, and writing Flora Banks was like an explosion of creativity. When I started writing it, it wasn’t YA and Flora was a bit older and it really didn’t work. When I made her 17 everything fell into place and I couldn’t tear myself away from the writing. It was the most exciting thing.

Can you pick a favourite line or quote from ‘Flora Banks’? I think it has to be: ‘be brave’: Flora has that tattooed on her hand to remind her to overcome everything and go out and have adventures. I’m thinking of getting the same thing myself.

We know you’re a big traveller, so have you ever been to the Arctic yourself? Yes, twice now. I spent a week there on my own in the early stages of planning the book, and it was magical. I wandered around alone, couldn’t really afford to buy much food, hardly spoke to anyone, and had the best time breathing the air and looking at the breathtaking snowy landscape. The midnight sun is an incredible thing to experience.

Then my partner, Craig, and I spent a week in Tromsø in Northern Norway this summer and loved every second of it and spent most of our time imagining ourselves living there.

And thirdly, Craig and I are going back to Svalbard soon, just for a few days, because in the book everyone tells Flora not to go to there in winter, and I wrote that so much that I ended up wanting to go, so we’re off to experience the opposite of the midnight sun.

Flora’s condition means that there’s a lot of repetition in her narrative, but it never actually feels repetitive. Was this hard to balance out? Thank you so much for saying that! It was a hard thing to balance, yes. I’ve never written anything that involved so much deleting, rewriting, writing slightly differently, and then editing. I did a lot of cutting out of parts where she was reorientating herself, but some of them still needed to be there. So I tried to make each bit of repetition reveal something new, however subtle. I hope it’s worked.

Please send us a snap of where you write! We’d love to see where the magic happens. I find the early morning, when it’s dark and when no one else is awake, to be incredibly inspiring and I’m most productive then. I write in a bit of a nomadic way in different places around the house but very often gravitate to the kitchen table, and below is a picture of what that looks like. It’s all quite chaotic in there, as you can see (I’ve never quite managed minimalism!)

That’s generally where I end up writing in the daytime. For my early morning writing I get up at around 5 and go back to bed with a coffee, and just sit up in bed with the laptop and write there for an hour or two until the children get up.

There’s still time to pre-order yourself a shiny copy of ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’!

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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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