Elle McNicoll, star author of A Kind of Spark

I’m SUCH an annoying fangirl about Elle McNicoll’s amazing debut novel, A Kind of Spark (Knights Of, 2020). It tells the story of 11-year-old Addie’s brave campaign for a memorial to the women killed in her Scottish village’s witch trials. Addie is neurodivergent, as is Elle McNicoll, and I really feel that this book helped me understand some important things about autism that I’d been completely ignorant of before.

I’m not by ANY means alone in loving it, either – it was Waterstones Book of the Month in October 2020 and is in the running for multiple awards, including the super-prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Blue Peter Book Awards (I’m there too, with Who Do You Think You Are? – my fun quiz-yourself psychology book! Different categories, though, so no fisticuffs…)

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Elle McNicoll in her own words!

1. In A Kind of Spark, Addie bravely faces up to her critics. What does ‘being brave’ mean to you?

I think some of our bravest moments are ones that no one else ever sees or hears about. And I think acknowledging those moments and using them to keep on going is very brave.

2. What made you want to write about witch trials?

I just think they’re really interesting. Especially Scotland’s, as they have a vast history with witch-hunting. And there were direct parallels with the story I was hoping to tell.

Elle McNicoll A Kind of Spark
Fabulous cover design by Kay Wilson – love the sharks and sparks!

3. What advice would you give a kid who wants to be an author?

Start writing down everything now. It doesn’t even have to make sense, but it’s important to get into the habit. Don’t bother with what other people think, there are always going to be doubters and critics – those are the easiest things in the world to be. Just start telling the stories that you care about, and start now.

4. What are Own Voices children’s books? And why are they so important?

Own Voices refers to an author writing a book or about a subject matter that they have experience with. A black author with a black main character, a disabled author writing about disability, etc. The movement was created to amplify the voices of writers who are on the margins and whose stories are typically appropriated or ignored.

5. Any other amazing children’s books to recommend?

I like A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson and the Run series by Jason Reynolds.

Thank you so much, Elle! I would definitely recommend following Elle McNicoll on Instagram or Twitter, and make sure to grab your copy of A Kind of Spark – you won’t regret it.

Want to know more about the wonderful world of children’s books? Check out these interviews with author and illustrator Yuval Zommer and designer Avni Patel.

And, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to What Book Now?, my monthly newsletter. It’s packed with interesting, inclusive children’s books and other great stuff!

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