I am absolutely delighted that author Charlotte Taylor has taken the time to answer some questions for Unicorns and Kelpies. Charlotte’s debut, Broken Twigs: Farewell to Faerie Forest, was released earlier in the year and is the first in a series about a flawed little fairy named Twigs. It is a gorgeous, exciting tale and, I for one, cannot wait for the next instalment!
Charlotte Taylor Interview
1) Where did the inspiration for Twigs come from?
So…Twigs wasn’t planned at all! She appeared in my classroom 9 years ago when I had a particularly bubbly cohort, and from there, her magic spread. From starting out as the mischievous, classroom fairy, she soon became central to our ethos and identity. When children felt exceptionally sad or alone, she started to leave little gifts of sticks on their chairs to make them feel loved and valued. Since then, over the years, she has gifted these to many children, so making their days a little bit happier, if only for a few hours. The children quite often keep the sticks as little treasures; little reminders to them, when they are away from school, that their beloved fairy is thinking of them.
As she continued to become such an entity in my pupils’ lives, they began to ask more questions about her: where was she right now; who was she with; where did she live; how did she travel to see us? Hoping to inspire their young imaginations, I began to share with the class little anecdotes of her life. And so the book series was born!
2) Do you think that it is important for children’s books to have a message or moral at its core?
I think so, yes. It is fun to read books which aim to simply make us laugh, but I feel that the books that children eventually hold dear to their hearts are the ones which resonated with them the most: the ones where they saw themselves in the main character’s personality and the struggles they faced in the story; the ones where they could identify with a situation and then learn to solve it for themselves when reading about possible resolutions in the book; and, the ones where the moral or message helps them to understand themselves more easily.
With the Twigs books, the central theme throughout is to never give up hope. No matter how ‘dark’ life can become, or how alone children may feel, there is always someone out there who can help, if the child is brave enough to accept it. Twigs shares many, many lessons throughout the books, namely learning how to become the best version of herself that she can be through exploring different values, and I know this has resonated with a lot of my young (and older!) readers already.
3) Do you think that your experiences as a teacher have helped you in your writing journey?
Oh absolutely! In teaching children how to become the best writers they could be, I developed my own knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of grammar, whilst dusting off my own love for creative writing, which I established as a young girl. Being surrounded by so many young minds, and watching their imaginations take flight, I was inspired by the way children saw the world…something that we adults sometimes so easily forget with the stresses of modern life! Teaching gave me the confidence to write Twigs’ story down and to see value in my work. The children have supported me too, and they have been as excited about this journey as me!
4) I have loved following your journey to publication with Broken Twigs. Could you tell us a bit about how you got there?
Aww, thank you! It certainly has been a very surreal journey, and one which I have thoroughly enjoyed! I have connected with so many like-minded and supportive people (such as you, Kirsty!), who have helped to keep me harnessed to the path ahead during moments of self-doubt. I started writing Broken Twigs: Farewell to Faerie Forest in the Easter holidays of 2019. I signed with my publisher back in February of this year, and the last 9 months have been a fascinating experience as I worked alongside editors, proofreaders, layout designers and, of course, my amazing illustrator, Kezzia Crossley. The most memorable moment for me was seeing my characters come to life through her incredible artwork, and I am not sure I will ever find the words to describe that feeling!
Twigs has been so much a part of me for the last 9 years that it is phenomenal to be able to share her with the world and to see so many new children connect with her too. I am incredibly proud of her, and me, for keeping the faith!
5) What were your favourite books as a child?
Oh I had so many! Beatrix Potter’s books were my most loved when I was younger, and then Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Series, Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan and The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis when I was a bit older. Of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were also firm favourites as I entered my teenage years. I think it is safe to say that my love of fantasy fiction was truly ignited by Susan Cooper’s books (which my dad bought for me to read as we made our annual boat trip to Southern Ireland when I was 8) and then nurtured by so many other amazing authors in this genre.
6) Who are your current favourite children’s authors and have you read any brilliant children’s books recently that you think everyone should read?
Again, there are soooooooo many! My girls and I have very recently enjoyed Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone and Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson, to name but a few. We are currently reading The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley. Next on our ‘to be read’ pile are the Sophie Anderson books, The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler, Stephanie Burgis’ series about chocolate and dragons, and A. M. Howell’s The House of One Hundred Clocks. Struan Murray’s Orphans of the Tide is also on my list to share with my eldest daughter very soon! I am looking at my bookshelves as I type, and there are so many more I could mention!
For the younger reader, The Robot and the Bluebird is a gorgeous picture book by David Lucas. Oh, and I have to mention the Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker: these are picture books with no words, but, instead, the incredible stories are told through simply beautiful illustrations.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring authors, young and old?
To keep believing. I could have given up so many times when I was almost crippled with anxiety during my debut author journey. I have never been one to exude confidence in myself, so Imposter Syndrome quite often knocked on my door! But I kept going, and through the much appreciated support of my family, friends and new connections, I faced my fears and took the quantum leap of faith to share Twigs with the world.
I imagined my feisty little fairy sitting on my hand and chewing the inside of her cheek the night before publication. Erin Hanson’s poem came to mind, and I almost heard Twigs say to me, “What if I fall?” I had to be brave for her, and for me, so I gave her the now famous reply, “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” We will never realise our dreams if we are too scared to leap, and who knows what the future brings.
Every author, I have since learned, has these feelings of great worry when they release their new book for others to enjoy, and the same doubts and insecurities surface: what if nobody likes it; what if people are mean about it; what if I am ridiculed for it? But. What if people love it? What if people are really positive about it? What if people celebrate you bringing it into existence? So, keep believing; believing in yourself and in your story. Also get that team of supporters around you who will help you to achieve your dream. They are invaluable!
8) Finally, when should we expect the next instalment of Twigs’ adventures?
So, Book 2 (Broken Twigs: Realm of the Thunderbird) is now in the final stages of my own editing, and it should be ready for publication in the first half of next year. I have also worked on the first drafts of Books 3 (Broken Twigs: Where Unicorns Roam) and 4 (Broken Twigs: The Twins and the Tokoloshe) of the series, so there are many adventures to come. Ideally, Book 3 will be out during the latter half of 2021. For those who don’t already know, this series will have a total of 12 books as Twigs tries to find her way back home to her beloved Faerie Forest.
Thank you so much to Charlotte for her wonderful responses. I hope Twigs continues to fly!
You can follow Twigs’ journey here: