Welcome to this virtual landscape where debut authors get to take us along ancient streets, deserted beaches and dark forests, showing us what inspired them, pointing out the crossroads and obstacles along the way. This month Helen Victoria steps out with author Rebecca King whose debut Ember Shadows and The Fates of Mount Never published last month.


Let’s begin our journey...


There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today?


I’m taking you on a slightly terrifying walk today but I often think it’s the perfect analogy for writing a book so it seems apt! It’s the walk down to a place called the Boiling Pot at the bottom of Victoria Falls in Zambia.


The walk begins in blistering heat on a sharp descent down into thick trees. When I did this walk a man was just coming back up and he handed me a fallen tree branch. ‘You’re going to need this,’ he said, ‘you know – for the baboons. Just keep hitting the ground with it and they’ll stay a bit further away.’


I thought he was joking but I, (thankfully!), took the branch anyway. The walk is lined with jungle rainforest and there are plenty of howling, confident baboons, terrifyingly large insects and a dangerously unclear path.


At the bottom we’ll find a calm spot where we can see the Victoria Falls bridge high above joining the two canyon walls. The water is crashing down, spraying our faces and it’s the perfect place to take a moment and recognise how far we’ve come. Soon enough it will be time to slowly re-fill our courage as we prepare to head back up the steep path to the entrance. And, once we finish, we’ll be able to pass the tree branch onto someone else.


For me that climb down into the unknown is like a first draft. It’s worth it once you reach the bottom but, somehow, it’s equally terrifying knowing you have to wade back through your words in the editing stage to finally reach the end.


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


It’s hugely important. Ember’s small village needed to contrast the enormity of Mount Never, where she encounters magic and has her adventure and tries to change her destiny. She travels through lots of different realms on the mountain, each one representing a different determining factor in our destiny –knowledge, time, fear, talents etc. I felt that each one needed to stand alone and have its own unique qualities but they also needed to feel cohesive in terms of magic and wonder on the mountain. Building each realm was a lot of fun!


As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with one. Tell us about your inspiration for your novel.


I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of fate and whether we would want to know the details of our lives if we could find them out. I had the idea of Fate Cards a long time ago where each character is handed their destiny on a small white card. But this alone was only a premise not a whole story.


The idea stayed in the back of my mind until a trip took me to Tibet and Mount Everest. Staring up at the mountain, the idea of the Fate Cards seemed to collide with the idea of a magical mountain. Suddenly I thought, ‘What if someone has to climb a magical mountain in order to change their destiny?’ and Ember’s adventure was born.


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


I’ve loved the creative freedom. Ember’s adventure is filled with bizarre ideas, fun wordplay and characters that simply shouldn’t make sense but do. I remember coming up with Hans, the magical clock hand who becomes Ember’s good friend. It was the last day of normality before lockdown in 2020 and I was working in a Caffè Nero. Hans and his goofy, loveable personality popped into my head and I sat there writing about him for hours! I came home and told my partner Luke about this magical clock hand character and he looked at me like I was losing my mind. But now, Hans is usually readers’ favourite character! Having the freedom to play around with ideas like this is what makes children’s literature so much fun to write.


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?


Writing during lockdown, there were some days when I sat at the computer and simply had nothing to write. It felt pointless at times, writing when there was so much going on in the world. But writing is also what I do when I can’t do anything else – it’s the thing that keeps me going.


This wasn’t the first book I had submitted to agents. I’d had some full requests before but never anything more and so, while writing Ember’s adventures, I felt as though this might be my last attempt in this genre.



Eventually I found some freedom in these challenges. If writing it was pointless and it was my last attempt at children’s fiction, then I really didn’t have anything to lose. I was going to throw all my creativity and imagination into this world and write what I wanted to write without worrying about the result.


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


As clichéd as it sounds, it really does feel like a dream come true. On launch day I went into Sainsbury’s and saw my book on the shelves next to the likes of Jaqueline Wilson, who I had read growing up, and it felt incredible and surreal.


There are so many people I thank in my acknowledgements it felt like I was writing an Academy Awards speech! But, by the time the book goes to publication, there are a whole team of people behind it. Writing can often feel like a solitary activity but once your book is in the hands of a publisher it becomes the product of so many people with talents, ideas and passions.


We’ve finished our walk 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?


The next instalment in the series, Ember Shadows and the Lost Desert of Time, has just been sent to copyedits, which is very exciting! So I’m currently working on book three. I can’t say too much, only that there are plenty more exciting, magical lands to explore…


I’m hoping that my writing will continue to take me to magical worlds and that I can keep writing about characters who make tough choices and discover new things about the world and themselves.


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?


Remember to throw all your creativity into your work. Sometimes we share our ideas with others and they sound completely ridiculous when we say them out loud. Don’t let that stop you! Sometimes the most ridiculous ideas are the best and they will only make sense to you. Then, when you take the time to tease them out and turn them into a story, others will finally understand.


*Header illustration by Imogen Foxell





Rebecca King was born in Wolverhampton, but spent her childhood in Cheshire. She studied Journalism at the University of Portsmouth, and has worked as a reporter and a primary school teacher, including three years teaching in China. She now lives in Bratislava, Slovakia, with her partner and her Chinese rescue dog, Mushu.
Instagram and Twitter: @RKingWriter

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