Emma Warner-Reed is a lawyer, author, and legal journalist from Yorkshire Dales in the United Kingdom (go ahead and look that up, I’ll wait). In 2015, after writing a number of legal textbooks and legal columns, she published her first novel, Dotty and the Calendar House Key, which went on to win many awards and recognition. After having the opportunity to read Dotty (see my review here), I reached out and was fortunate enough to arrange to have a few questions answered.
What came first: the lawyer or the writer?
The lawyer came first. In fact, that’s how I got into writing – I was commissioned to write a textbook on law by an academic publisher, and then more followed. I only started writing fiction 2 years ago.
Did you draw from any of your own experiences for the Dotty series?
Yes, I draw upon my own experiences in my writing all the time. Any of my friends from school will recognise the description of Dotty’s school uniform – and the difficulty she has keeping a hat on her head is a problem we both share!
What made Great Expectations such an influence for you in writing Dotty and the Calendar House Key?
Eek – I’m afraid it didn’t! The name Pip is coincidental, although I am a big fan of Dickens and so perhaps I was thinking of Philip Pirrip when I was creating my character, Pip. To my recollection, there is no mention of chimney sweeps in Great Expectations, though – although in Oliver Twist there is a scene in front of the magistrate where the unfortunate Oliver is almost apprenticed to a very unsavoury character called Gamfield, as a climbing boy (a chimney sweep’s apprentice).
Aside from the Dickensian references, the story feels like an homage to so many classic stories. Was that done on purpose or just a wonderful coincidence?
A lot of people reference my writing to children’s classics, which I’m delighted about. But I can’t claim it’s intentional, I’m afraid! It’s just my natural writing style. Again, it’s probably just my classical influences shining through. I love all the old classics and have a bit of fun referencing them in my books, too. Have you worked out which book Dotty is reading in the library in DOTTY and the Calendar House Key? Have a guess!
Lastly, did you write these books for someone, or just for yourself?
That’s an interesting (but sad) story. I came up with the idea for DOTTY after my second son was born, but didn’t sit down to write it until four years later. A friend of mine, who was a real bookworm, lost a child and it led to her having difficulty concentrating, to the point where she hadn’t been able to read a book from cover to cover since it happened. I determined to help her and wrote DOTTY and the Calendar House Key in half-chapter installments, which I sent to her one after another, by email. To date it’s still the only book she’s managed to read from start to finish.
For more about Emma Warner-Reed and her Dotty series, visit www.thedottyseries.com
For my review of the first book in the Dotty series, see The Books That Built Me