Her official CV makes no mention of this:
LIZ KESSLER studied English at Loughborough University, has worked as a teacher and a journalist and has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. After taking a year off to travel around Europe in a camper van, Liz now lives in St Ives, Cornwall.
But Liz's first published work was The Tail of Emily Windsnap, the story of a girl whose legs fuse into a fish's tail every time she enters the water. Imagine how alarming this is when it first happens in a school swimming lesson!
The fifth Emily Windsnap title is out this month and I asked Liz some questions about the book, which she was kind enough to answer.
Book Maven: I remember reading the first Emily Windsnap when the book came out in 2003 the year after we met. She was a little girl then and now in Land of the Midnight Sun, she has a boyfriend! Do you think your readers have been growing up alongside Emily and she has been keeping pace with them?
Liz Kessler: In Emily’s timeline, there is just under a year from the start of the first book to the end of this one. (What a busy year that has been for her - and you! BM) Aaron first showed up in the third book, and ever since then my readers have been wanting to see more of him (and asking if he is Emily’s boyfriend!) So I hope this means that Emily and my readers are on the same wavelength. I do often get emails asking for particular things to happen in the next book. Quite a lot of the time, these are things which I have already decided are going to happen, and it’s always a great relief when that happens. So yes, I think my readers and Emily seem to be keeping pace with each other quite well up to now. Let’s hope it continues!
BM: Can you explain what happens to Emily’s (and Aaron’s) clothes when they dive into the sea and adopt their Mer-forms? And are they then topless?
LK: It’s only ever adults who ask things like this! There are actually quite a few references to the ‘changing’ process throughout the series. I shall use your question as an excuse to quote one of them as an answer, taken from The Tail of Emily Windsnap.
‘So there I was, swimming like – well, like a fish! And in a way, I was a fish. My top half was the same as usual; skinny little arms, my fringe plastered to my forehead with seawater, black Speedo cozzy.
But then, just below the white line that goes across my tummy, I was someone else; something else. My costume melted away and, instead, I had shiny scales. My legs narrowed into a long, gleaming purple and green tail, waving gracefully as I skimmed along in the water.’ (Thank you for answering so patiently what I'm sure must be a very FAQ - at least from adults. BM)
BM: Neptune is in such a bad mood at the beginning of the story that he brings bad weather to the UK. You must have written this last year though. How did you KNOW we were going to have this awful summer?
LK: I know! Actually, I was reading from the first chapter at an event in Edinburgh last week and I could hear the rain pouring down around me as I read. I’ll try to write about beautiful sunny weather next time and see if that helps.
BM: There are five Emily Windsnap books now. Will there be more?
LK: I’ve actually stopped answering this question with any confidence. I was positive that there would only be three books, and then I was fairly sure that there would only be four. Now there are five – who knows? If people carry on wanting to read Emily’s stories, I’ll always be willing to write them. It’s such fun going on adventures with Emily. The research trips alone have given me some amazing times!
BM: Where did that lovely poem at the beginning come from? Did you write it yourself?
LK: Yes, I wrote it. (And thank you for saying it’s lovely.) It was at a workshop given by Lucy Coats at a Scattered Authors’ Society get together. She took us on a bardic journey, banging a drum and setting up a visualisation and then giving us a writing task. By the time I’d finished the visualisation, I completely ignored the task we were meant to do because all I wanted to do was write this poem. It was quite early on in my working out of the plot and was a pivotal and very exciting moment for me. (I envy you that experience. I too have tried Lucy's bardic journey but nothing happened to me. BM)
BM: And is Neptune’s brother Njord your own invention?
LK: Yes he is. I wanted to have this particular character in my book, and whilst thinking about names, I came across a Norse God called Njord. I knew instantly that he was the one. I tried to think of different names, as I knew that ‘Njord’ could be tricky for readers to know how to pronounce – but Njord was insistent that that was his name!
BM: Tell us a bit about researching this book. I think you took a ship to the Norwegian fjords. I wonder how many writers of fantasy for 8+ readers would be this thorough?
LK: I have this thing about my books. I always feel the need to go to the place where they are set – or as near to it as I can get. It feels like the only way to get right under the skin of the setting – and to get the best ideas for the plot. So I knew that I would have to see the Midnight Sun. A friend told me about a company called Hurtigruten, whose fleet of ships carry cargo, mail – and passengers – all around the northern coast of Norway. I looked into it and knew that I would have to do it.
It was one of the best research trips of my life – and one of the most beautiful experiences of my life too. Not only that, but it gave me absolutely loads of ideas for the book. If you’d like to see more about this inspiring trip, check out this slideshow I made on You Tube…
Thank you for having me on your lovely blog!
Thank you for coming, Liz!
If you know, or are a big Emily Windsnap fan, you can enter a competition to win a special Sleepover pack by going to Liz's website and clicking on The Emily Windsnap Friendship Festival.
And just to confirm my suspicions about Liz's dual nature, here is a link to another clip.
What other children's writer would be surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins who are obviously saying, "Jump in and find your tail - we want to take you on a magical sea adventure"?