Author Talks: Emily Barr

Blogger Lizzie Arnold was able to speak with novelist Emily Barr after her workshops on Thursday to check in about the North Cornwall Book Festival and her new book! 


I really enjoyed your workshop this morning. How are you finding the festival so far? 

 Thank you! I’m loving it! It isn’t like any other festival, is it? I’ve definitely never taught a workshop in a church before. I have done one in a high-security prison, though, but never in a church, so yes, it’s a new experience. I think the festival’s just so lovely, and there’s just so much goodwill – it makes you want to, you know, do whatever you can for them. And the children are lovely, as well! I thought that, being teenagers, I’d need some kind of crowd control for the teachers, but they’re just so motivated and lovely, and they’re getting a lot out of it.  


I know you talked a little about your new book, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, earlier, which I understand is coming out on the 12th – a week from today!   

 It is on Kindle, on eBook, and then it’s out in paperback in January. It’s an unusually long time between them – Penguin are trying it out to see how that works. It is quite terrifying, really, when a book comes out into the world – it’s something you’ve been just been locked away by yourself in a room doing and then suddenly anybody can let you know via Amazon exactly what they think of it. 


Would you be able to talk a little about it without giving away any spoilers? 

 It’s about a seventeen year-old girl, Ella Black, who’s at sixth form, and she’s not happy. She’s got one of those dark sides that she kind of keeps in check, and she calls it “Bella.” And every now and then she has to let it out, she has to become “Bella,” by shutting herself away. And nobody knows about it, she’s just struggling a lot, I suppose, with her mental health, and just trying to keep things normal and fit in when she’s got something inside her that doesn’t fit in. She’s at school one day and her mum comes and picks her up and says “we’re going, right now,” and they go to Rio. But they give her all kinds of excuses about why, and then when she gets there, she’s always dreamed of Rio, so she’s kind of happy anyway. Then she finally gets an opportunity to work out what’s going on. The Amazon description currently has a massive spoiler on it, when she works out why she’s there, and then she ends up off by herself in Rio, trying to survive. Everything unravels. So, that was quite fun to write. To just explore identity and things like that, but without actually having to leave my house! Although I did go to Rio, so that was nice – but I didn’t have to sleep rough in a favela or anything like she does. 


If there was one author that you could invite to the festival, who would you choose, and why? 

 It would be Margaret Atwood because I think she’s awesome and I would love to meet her. I went to a festival in September, in Svalbard, where quite a lot of Flora Banks is set, and it was the first literary festival they’ve had there. They had invited Margaret Atwood. And she said she wanted to come, but she couldn’t, because her husband was ill, and she couldn’t leave him. And, also, Annie Proulx was supposed to be there – also amazing – and she had to drop out at the last minute. But imagine sitting in this church, listening to Margaret Atwood talking – it would be amazing. 


It would be an experience. 

 Yes, The Handmaid’s Tale has such currency now; she would probably get superstar treatment, as she should.