Welcome to this virtual landscape where SCBWI-BI members share their debut journeys with us. This month Helen Victoria steps out with author Emma Perry, who is enjoying her debut year with I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End illustrated by Sharon Davey (Feb 2020) and This Book Has Alpacas and Bears illustrated by Rikin Parekh (June 2020). 

                                                            Let’s begin our journey...

Where are you taking us on our walk today? 

I’m going to pop back to February half term in 2015 for this walk. I’d been writing book reviews for MyBookCorner and writing freelance for years, but this was the year I decided to pour everything into writing fiction. I’d read lots of things ABOUT writing, and now knew that picture books were calling me. But… the big question was, who would be my main character? Hmmm. Meanwhile the kids were climbing the walls and needed to get out. So, we headed over to Avon Valley Farm Park, I’d heard it was a great place for a day out with the kids. I clearly remember wandering past the various animals thinking – nope, they’ve been in a book before; nope, plenty of books about that animal. And then an amazing mop-haired alpaca was staring over at us. Alpacas? In books? I’ve never come across one of those before… why AREN’T they in picture books? And so, quite literally the whole seed of the story was born – about a loveable and very excitable alpaca named Alfonso, who has suddenly realised there are so many books about bears, and none about alpacas. Alfonso is on a mission!

What about the landscape you have created in your books? How important is the setting to your plot and themes?

They say write about what you know, right? I’m quite a literal person… and so off I went. The very first picture book script I wrote, I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End was about books. Of course! I’ve been reviewing them for nearly ten (gulp!) years on MyBookCorner so books simply had to feature somewhere. Mabel, a reluctant reader in the beginning, has a wonderful time diving into the landscapes of some very exciting books. They are crucial to the plot of the book – they are what helps Mabel realise what she’s been missing all this time.

Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing these books?

Ooo yes! When I wasn’t dwelling on the fact I was now up to draft number 1,345, I really was having fun – pulling out the humour and seeing what crazy situations I can put my characters into… falling into a book, and an alpaca doing the 4-legged splits!

We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing … and how you got back onto the right path?

Ah… waiting, rejection, editing. Spending all afternoon focusing on one spread, only to delete it the next day?! Yikes, this is all part and parcel of the journey. I write because I love it, and that far outweighs the tricky moments. It has to I guess because there will always be those tricky moments. Always.

 As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first-time author?

To be fair, it’s been bloomin’ lovely. Sure it’s had its up and downs, but our books are out there and I’m super happy about that. The book launches you say? Sure! The book launch for I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End was on the STORMIEST weekend – remember that? Back in February? At the time I thought the timing was bad for a book launch (sniggers at past self, little did I know!) Despite the wind and the rain, Sharon Davey and I had a wonderful audience in Waterstones Bath's shiny new event space. It was lovely – a slightly delayed start due to a scramble for extra chairs, and then we were off. The little people got to dress up, eat cupcakes and Sharon taught them all how to draw Mabel. We had an absolute blast.

Poor Alfonso from This Book Has Alpacas and Bears didn’t have quite the same launch… something to do with some virus floating around. This was the very first script I ever wrote, and to see it in actual book form? Bloomin’ brilliant! In the meantime, Rikin and I are patiently waiting until we can pop into bookshops with Alfonso. Alfonso isn’t quite so patient! But, we knew that would be the case. Colin is handling the situation!

Ooooo, you mentioned credits?!?!!?! YEEEEES let me at them. Picture book writers get a teeny tiny line for our dedication. Wowzas… you may want to grab a cup of tea for this one. First has got to go to my husband who didn’t roll his eyes when I announced I wanted to try writing a book. Instead, he bought me the lovely textbooks I’d been eyeing up and a shiny new notebook. Result. He can stay. Secondly, is Golden Egg Academy… they said ‘yes’ when I applied. It was the first time I’d sent out my words. I was super scared, super nervous and had no idea if I was totally deluded for even considering writing fiction. Thirdly, SCBWI. The ‘yes’ from GEA gave me the confidence to join them. Through SCBWI I found an amazing critique group. Then SCBWI and the Slush Pile competition led to an agent and a book deal with David Fickling Books. More grateful than I can possibly put into words. My publisher, David Fickling Books, have been amazing. Super supportive, encouraging and so friendly. I got lucky there. Really lucky. Holding me up along this journey has been a lovely circle of friends who are always there for niggling questions and helping me tackle the inevitable writer paranoia and doubt. And then of course, the biggest thank you simply must go to the creative geniuses that are Sharon Davey and Rikin Parekh. Pure brilliance. Has your tea gone cold now? Yikes, sorry!

We’ve finished our walk and now so I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future?

Oooo I do love a cosy inn and a real fire. Is my wine on its way? I’ve got a few more things in the pipeline, I’m really excited about them. Clues? Owls, rain, confidence. How’s that? Not necessarily all in the same text… you’ll have to wait and see.

Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers?

Aw, thank you. It’s been lovely. Thank goodness those rain clouds stayed away! My one tip… enjoy it. Find the joy in it. Enjoy the words and the worlds. Let that enjoyment allow you to celebrate the ups, and breeze through the downs.


Emma Perry is a children's picture book author. Her debut titles, launched in 2020, are I Don't Like Books Never Ever. The End. illustrated by Sharon Davey. Plus, This Book Has Alpacas and Bears, illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Both are published by David Fickling Books.


Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full-time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall.

Follow Helen:
Twitter: @helensimmons100

Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

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