The Backstory: MENDING THE MOON
It's time to welcome Emma Pearl to The Backstory with her picture book debut, MENDING THE MOON (Page Street Kids, 2022) with illustrations by Sara Ugolotti. Beautiful words and gorgeous illustrations fill this fable and tells the story of Luna, her Poppa, and some friendly helpers as they work together to mend the moon.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind MENDING THE MOON.
Thank you for having me!
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
It’s about a little girl called Luna who sees the moon fall out of the sky one night. She drags her grandfather Poppa out of bed and they go out into the mountain forest where shattered pieces of the moon are glowing in the dark. They try to fix it together, but they need help from the animals before they can repair the moon and get it back into the sky.
This book is beautifully written and illustrated! It evokes a classic folktale vibe and draws the reader right into the forest along with Luna, Poppa, and the forest animals.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
I’ve always been fascinated by the moon, and although not all my stories are lunar by a long shot, it feels right that my first published book should be a moon story. This particular idea was the result of a brainstorming session where I was asking myself lots of silly ‘what if’ questions. As soon as I wrote down ‘what if the moon fell out of the sky?’, the story tumbled out of me.
Wonderful! And a great reminder of the positive results that brainstorming activities can yield.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now MENDING THE MOON? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
I wrote the first draft very quickly. I had the idea and it just flowed naturally from there, along with three other Luna and Poppa stories – I wrote all four in a couple of days. But of course the first draft was far too long (about 1600 words!) so it took a lot of editing. And two of the four stories never made it past the first draft.
Wow! A whole series poured out of you, not just the single book. That is amazing! I love the intergenerational relationship between Luna and Poppa and am glad that we will get to see them again. (More about this below)
Did MENDING THE MOON undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?
In the editing process, the story changed and evolved, grew tighter and stronger – as it should. I added layers and themes, which made it richer and more satisfying. But it really stepped up a level once my editor, Kayla Tostevin, got her hands on it! It still needed more words cutting and she knew just where to trim. She also suggested emphasizing the ‘fable’ element of the story by finding a way to leave a lasting impression on the moon. It ended up being, among other things, an origin story for the moon’s markings, which I absolutely love!
I love hearing about the places where emphasis was added. The origin story feels so natural in the book that I would have assumed it was always present. This just goes to show the collaborative effort that goes into each and every book, whether it is with critique partners, agents, or editors.
And I can't leave this question without singing Kayla's praises. She is the absolute best! Any author who gets the chance to collaborate with her is in good hands.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
My children. All children, in fact, but especially my own. I find fascinating the things that we, as adults, have forgotten, the things we stop questioning, the way doubts and fears creep in as we get older. I love observing how children are so free and pure in their thought processes and emotions.
Also nature is a source of endless inspiration for me – it’s so full of wonder and miracles – snow, flowers, sunsets, rainbows; oceans, mountains, rivers; the symbiosis, adaptability and resilience of all creatures and plants.
And all forms of human creativity inspire me. In fact, every book I read, every movie I watch, every conversation I have – once you start tuning your mind into potential ‘stories’, you can find them everywhere. I have more story ideas than I can ever hope to write in one lifetime!
You are so right! Once authors tap into that well of potential inspiration in their day-to-day lives the possibilities are endless. The next trick becomes identifying which ideas to pursue, those ideas that move us and insist on being written.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
Ah, so many! The following picture books have touched me deepest as a writer and have therefore impacted my own work: Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho, Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival, In a Jar and Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero, The Creature of Habit by Jennifer E. Smith and Leo Espinosa, Hortense and the Shadow by the O’Hara sisters, and Wild Violet by Patrick Latimer and Alex Latimer. And everything by Pat Zietlow Miller, who is a masterclass all on her own!
I write middle grade and young adult too, so of course there are many more inspirational authors and books in those categories, but I won’t bore you with those or we’ll be here all day!
Such a great list of titles and creators! It could be humorous or lyrical, but there is just a moment in some books where I pause in amazement at what the creators have accomplished. And when that happens, it is impossible not to be inspired to want to produce work that will have the same impact on others.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
I work at a small desk in a corner of my bedroom, which is cluttered with notebooks, pens, crystals and tiny drawings and objects my daughter has made for me – she’s going through a miniature phase at the moment and is very prolific! The only really essential tool for my writing is a computer. I touch-type and I find the words just flow from my fingers when I’m ‘in the zone’, far quicker than I can write by hand or even think! Often I’ll write for an hour or two, read back what I’ve written and it’s genuinely like it hasn’t come from a conscious part of my brain. I can’t do this kind of ‘automatic’ writing without a keyboard.
Ha, I love the description of your daughter as "prolific". I can just imagine the tiny pile of creations keeping you company as you create.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Be prepared for a really long, tough journey. Writing is emotionally brutal, financially unviable and it will take over your whole life! So go into it with your eyes open. That said, if you have a passion for it, once you start you won’t be able to stop.
Learn the craft – there is a wealth of information out there, much of it free. However good you are at writing, you still need to learn. A lot.
Read voraciously – this is your best resource for sparking ideas, learning craft and getting to know the market. You cannot read enough.
Reach out to authors you admire – read something you love? Let the author know. It will make their day, and you’ll be surprised at how validating those little connections can be.
Find a community – connecting with other writers is invaluable. They will give you so much support, knowledge, understanding and compassion. They will be your lifeline.
Persevere – keep reading, keep writing, keep connecting, keep learning. It’s definitely an ultra-marathon, not a sprint!
Amazing tips! I love the reminder to reach out to authors. Who doesn't like positive feedback? Authors are no different and who knows, that comment could turn their whole day around or lead to a beneficial connection down the road. I also appreciate your honesty at the front end of your answer. This is a challenging industry, but if you love writing it is worth the investment.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
A second Luna and Poppa book is coming out in September – Saving the Sun, in which the sun gets too hot and decides to go for a dip in the ocean. Luna, Poppa and the island animals have to literally save the day. More stunning illustrations from Sara Ugolotti, with the summer/island/beach vibes beautifully complementing the night/mountain/winter vibes of Mending the Moon.
Aside from that, my first YA novel is about to go out on submission, which is terrifying and exciting in equal measure!
I can't wait to see the illustrations Sara does for Saving the Sun. Based on her work on MENDING THE MOON they are guaranteed to be stunning. I also look forward to seeing Luna and Poppa again and how they approach the problem in this new story.
Where can people connect more with you?
Readers, if you aren't already following Emma, be sure to do so. You don't want to miss any of her writing news! And while you are at it, pick up a copy or complete a library request for MENDING THE MOON (Page Street Kids, 2022) with illustrations by Sara Ugolotti.
Thank you Emma for joining us and for sharing the backstory behind MENDING THE MOON! I loved hearing how it came to be and I look forward to reading the follow-up, SAVING THE SUN when it is available.
Emma is generously offering one winner their choice of a copy of MENDING THE MOON (US only) or a manuscript critique (pb fiction, non-rhyming < 800 words)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT EMMA PEARL
Emma has written stories for as long as she can remember. She grew up in the UK, traveled the world and now lives with her family in New Zealand.
Mending the Moon (illustrated by Sara Ugolotti, published by Page Street Kids) is her debut picture book. The sequel Saving the Sun will be published in September 2023. Emma also writes middle grade and young adult, is a WriteMentor picture book mentor, freelance editorial consultant, and is represented by Sera Rivers at Speilburg Literary.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.
Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2024) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.
Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.