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Interview: Emma Wood talks about Tulip and Sprout

Emma Wood writes quirky, humorous stories for children – partly because she doesn’t feel like a proper grown-up yet, but also because children are the best people on the planet. Emma talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Tulip and Sprout.

Tulip and Sprout is the sequel to Tulip and Doug, which made headlines last year when Jacinda Ardern gifted it to Prince William and described it as one of her favourite children’s books – quite a pinch-me moment!

In Tulip and Sprout, we reunite with adventurous Tulip, kind-hearted Max and trusty pet rock Susan.

Tulip already misses her lost pet potato Doug – and then her friends Max and Susan go overseas for the school holidays. Tulip is stuck at home feeling bored and lonely, until she makes an incredible discovery in her garden that sparks a new spud-tastic friendship.

What inspired you to write this book?

After the success of the first book, Scholastic NZ asked me if I might have another adventure for Tulip in mind. I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the original, which is a humorous and quirky friendship story that also deals gently with the concept of loss. Tulip and Sprout remains faithful to the same broad themes – this time with a focus on renewal and the cycle of life.

What research was involved?

I looked to echo aspects of the first book in a fresh way while also moving the characters forward, so that was my main source material really. I also looked a little bit into the realities of potato sprouting and replanting.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I thought a lot about plot ideas before I started writing, so I had a good sense of where I wanted the story to go by the time I sat down at my computer. This meant I was able to write and revise it fairly quickly. I also shared the manuscript with a couple of trusted critique partners at the first draft stage to confirm that I was on the right path, and was pleased when they responded positively.

How did you work with the illustrator?

Carla Martell is a brilliant illustrator – her art is so vibrant, expressive and quirky. I feel incredibly lucky to have Carla as my partner in the creation of these books.

In most cases, authors and illustrators work separately during the creation of a picture book, so Carla and I don’t work together as such. But I’m always delighted to see each stage of Carla’s illustration process as it unfolds, from thumbnails, rough sketches and draft illustrations through to the final art. That’s the most exciting part of the bookmaking journey for me.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I’d include Susan’s favourite song, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and His Comets, and also Jungle Boogie by Kool and the Gang because it’s the perfect tune for jungle expeditions with friends.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

Revisiting these characters, which was an unexpected treat as I’d conceived the first book as a one-off. The whole process was enjoyable, actually. I particularly liked the challenge of writing a satisfying sequel that was fresh and able to stand on its own, but also included a few call-backs for readers of the first book.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Scoffed half a block of chocolate, probably. Any excuse!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton – she is such a perceptive thinker and writer, and I loved the whole experience of reading this book.

Also, The Golden Mole by Katherine Rundell, a collection of awe-inspiring essays about the natural world and our actions within it. It’s both fascinating and moving.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m writing some junior nonfiction at the moment (books and articles), as well as polishing up another couple of fiction picture book manuscripts for submission.

Scholastic New Zealand


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