Today we’re thrilled to have YA fantasy author, Emma Bradley visit. She has just released the third book in the Arcanium series, The Issue with Fairies which follows Demi, the only fairy in her family as she trains at the Arcanium, a prestigious of fairy organisations and battles those who are intent on overthrowing the Queen of Faerie. Amber’s review for the first book The Trouble with Fairies is here.
Merry Meet Monday: Emma Bradley
Willow: Hi, Emma. Come through to the back and Amber will pop the kettle on. What do you fancy to drink? We have tea of all descriptions, coffee or something stronger? Just be careful where you step. Inspired by your books, Amber tried a spell to communicate with fae and we now have an explosion of toadstools and fairy rings inside the shop.
Emma: This sounds so much fun! And yes, the toadstools will likely vanish during Faerie hour, but the fairy rings are immovable once they set up roots, so just leave little offerings of Jelly Babies and they’ll do you no harm! I will take a coke zero and also a job application form…
Amber: If Willow let me read the old grimoires she has under lock and key, I wouldn’t have to resort to experimenting and getting it wrong.
Willow: They’re locked away for a reason. I don’t want to imagine what chaos would happen if you read them. Emma doesn’t want to hear all this.
Emma: (I really do!)
Amber: Your books are popular with visitors to the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. I fell in love with the Arcanium and the dilapidated amusement arcade façade. Can you tell us about how the series came about?
Emma: Absolutely! I tend to do my worldbuilding before all else until the world is almost a character in its own right, and I imagined the Atrium first, just the mayhem and chaos and noise. I think the golden lifts were there as well, but the ivy walls came later (and also have some small relevance to the series now). Then I wondered what it would be like to have a completely random entry-point from the human world, like Diagon Alley or the Empire State Building. I live by the coast and there’s an arcade I walk past which is always empty yet always open, so this made total sense – how do they earn a living if there’s nothing ‘other’ going on? So Arcanium existed first, but for a long while Demi was actually the side-kick. Luckily she shouted the loudest and managed to take the top billing, and the rest of the series and plot sort of knit itself from there!
Willow: Demi is a relatable and likable protagonist but Leo is a star. What made you choose a chameleon as a character rather than any other animals?
Emma: He’s such a huge favourite with readers! I remember reading about chameleons during the whole Demi becoming the main character stage and thinking how cool it would be for her to have a pet. He was originally a snake that could breathe fire, but then I was reading about chameleons and figured the changeling aspect was very fae. Leo especially has very interesting depths what with him being from Faerie, but he’s still growing and developing his awesomeness.
Amber: Trevor adores jelly babies. What’s your favourite writer’s snack?
Emma: Mine would definitely be Skittles, although I don’t have them too often these days. I have a serious coke zero addiction though, so nine times out of ten there’ll be a can somewhere nearby! Strangely, it seems to calm me down rather than hype me up on caffeine, so I find it helps with focus when writing.
Willow: What has your writing journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Emma: I started out writing pony stories at the tender age of 9. They were awful, but in my teens I moved onto loving fantasy and have been dreaming myself away ever since. The logical option was to start writing them all down, and all I wanted to be when I was younger was the next Sir Terry, Neil Gaiman or Anne Rice. I don’t think I’d change anything on my writing journey though, but I would definitely recommend anyone going into publishing a book (trad or indie) to focus on promotion and marketing very early on in the process. I think there are some traditionally published authors who still get a lot of help, advertising done and events set up for them, etc. but with self-publishing, it’s all down to you. I love the control element of that, but it can get a bit overwhelming when there’s nobody to fall back on if things get hectic or tough. This is why the writing community is an absolute treasure overall though, as everyone’s been so lovely!
Amber: Great role models. The Enchanted Emporium loves all of them. What is your writing routine? And do have a favourite writing or reading place?
Emma: My routine is basically write notes in any spare gaps, draft in evenings and downtime, and edit when you absolutely can’t avoid it any longer. I’ve now also mastered the art of convincing myself that I’m not actually editing, I’m just rereading because I love the characters so much and tweaking as I go. And in all great honesty my bed is my favourite place to write – curl up with my many pillows, my dog and a coke zero on ice and simply lose myself in whatever story I’m working on!
Willow: We have several customers who are writers. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Emma: A first draft doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to really make 100% sense. It’s literally just you getting the shape of the story and the odd bits of dialogue out of your head and onto the page. Writing can be daunting when you think of it as this great project and start wondering ‘can I even do this’, but of course you can. Anyone can. That first draft won’t likely get you an agent or tons of readers, but you work on it, hone it, change it, dramatically pretend to bin it a million times, and slowly it takes shape. If you put the work in, and writing is a lot of work if you intend to write for publication, the story will come. I know there are also a lot of people who just want to write for fun, but I think this is how we should all start. Explore, experiment, play with it!
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Emma: I’m terrible with choices! I think I’m getting better with my ability to say no, and I sleep okay, so I suppose I’d choose the confidence one – to see what that would feel like. Most of my ‘writing self’ is online, which is much easier to handle and project confidently than in real life, so a confidence candle might just give me the boost to do more outside type things too!
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?
Emma: I’m trying to think of something, maybe from childhood, but I recently got back from a Barcelona holiday and I would give anything to go back right now, but maybe with my dog. To nearest the estate agents! Or I would go back to one of the lazy summer days from my teens where all I did was read and write and still believed the magic places I was reading about could maybe be real somehow.
Amber: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Emma: I think even the ghosts and ghouls would look at me and say ‘eh, too much flapping’ – I once went to the London Dungeon and was so paranoid about people jumping out that I screamed at a half-costumed woman coming out of a store room, startled the life out of her. We did do the whole ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ thing at a sleepover once though, and the girl did get fairly high in the air before we freaked out and dropped her. I also use tarot cards and pendulum for meditative thought fairly often – no guarantee there’s anyone listening or guiding, but you never know…
Willow: I’ve never attempted group levitation but people have varying results and you’ll have to browse our selection of tarot and oracle cards before you leave. They’re useful tools. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Emma: The ultimate question, and I still don’t have an answer! I’ve done flying in Virtual Reality before and that was an amazing sensation, so I think I’d say flying. Ooh no, I would be able to know any language. I’ve been agonising about learning Finnish recently and also now want to learn Spanish, so being able to do that superpower-style would be amazing.
Amber: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Emma: Oh, there are so many great fantasy books out – Mina and the Undead (Amy McCaw) was a brilliant YA read with a 90s vibe and New Orleans vampires. The Autumn Moonbeam (Emma Finlayson-Palmer) books promise to be great for younger readers and I’m sure Toby and the Silver Blood Witches (Sally Doherty) needs no introduction! Also, The Unadjusteds trilogy (Marisa Noelle) is dystopian but the genetic engineering fantasy element worked really well. Ooh and look out for Where Fate Whispers (E.G. Tudor) – technically adult but works well for the YA readers who like Throne of Swans and similar! Okay, I got carried away…
Willow: Our reading list has just got bigger. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Emma: *Inserts shameless plug for Arcanium book #3 without giving any spoilers!* I think fantasy and romance often go hand in hand, something about the wide-ranging ability of being able to dream maybe. Keeping it clean, I think the relationship in Where Fate Whispers (E.G. Tudor) was lovely, and I’m really excited there’s going to be a second book. Same with Mina and the Undead (Amy McCaw). Sometimes I do go back to reread old favourites as well though, and the last one of those was the Wicked Lovely (Melissa Marr) series which has multiple romantic plotlines!
Willow: More books to try and self promo is more than allowed. What are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Emma: The plot is top secret, but I can say that I’m focusing on the final two books (4 and 5) of the Arcanium series, plus some adult fantasy. I’ve also been writing a portal fantasy series of 4 trilogies which has wavered between adult and YA for years, so I’m hoping to focus on those and get those published next. But Arcanium first, although once people read book 4 they might not be talking to me… (it resolves in book 5 I promise!)
Amber: They sound great and you’ll have to pop by again with updates.
Willow: You must. Thanks for the chat and here’s some complimentary tea that tastes just like cola and an application form. I’ll keep you on file in case of emergencies or Amber breaks more rules than usual.
Emma lives on the UK south coast with her husband, her plant collection and a very lazy black Labrador who occasionally condescends to take her out for a walk. Aside from creative writing studies, an addiction to cereal and spending far too much time procrastinating on social media, Emma is still waiting for the arrival of her unicorn. Or a tank, she’s not fussy.
Twitter, TikTok: @emmaebradley