We’re big fans of your “Poppy Pym” series, so it was lovely to meet another strong female character in Effie Kostas. Can you tell us what inspired you to write Effie’s story?
Thank you! There were lots of things that inspired Effie’s story – it’s really so much of its moment. I was meeting lots of brilliant, really switched on kids at festivals and school events, and I was stunned by how politically engaged they were. When the first Women’s March took place in 2017 I was really moved by how many young people were there, marching in the cold and standing up for what they believe in. It felt like such a moment of hope in the darkness, and I knew I wanted to write something that captured that spirit of optimism. Out of that, Effie – fierce, and noisy, and brimming with ideas – was born!
Is there any of your own personality in Effie at all?
We definitely share a love of stationery products and loyalty to our friends, but Effie is a lot more fearless than me. I think we could probably all stand to be a bit more like her!
The book includes a number of topical issues within its story, as well as others that affect children day to day (starting school, making new friends, etc). How important do you feel it is for this age group of children to be aware of these messages and do you hope that your books will encourage them to have more confidence to speak up?
I think it’s so important. I wanted the book to have a clear, strong message – there’s no need to be vague about it. The book is openly political, openly feminist, but I think that’s only reflective of the generation who are reading it. It was also important not to be preachy or heavy-handed. Yes, the book has a lot to say, but it is also funny and light-hearted. I would love to think that it will encourage more young people to have the confidence to speak up. It’s one of the reasons that we were so keen to include resources and questions in the back of the book, so that young readers would have a practical way to use their voices.
Last year you also published your first YA novel “A Sky Painted Gold”. How different do you find it writing for a slightly older audience than your middle grade titles?
I love writing for both age groups. The biggest difference for me is that when writing middle grade books I focus a lot on the pacing, on keeping the momentum of the story up very high. With YA there’s a bit more time for reflection, to stop and look around or to look inward. Both are great fun to write.
Will we be seeing any more of Poppy Pym in the near future?
At the moment Effie is keeping me busy so I’ll be focussing on her, but I do have at least two more Poppy books in my head that I’d love to write. It’s really nice that my newer books are helping readers to stumble across the Poppy series. I’d love to work on another Poppy book in the future, so who knows!
Vote for Effie was published by Scholastic on 3rd January 2019. For more information on Laura’s other work visit https://www.lauraclarewood.com/