Why I Write: Emmy Clarke
Photograph of a framed illustration of Ysabelle the Starwife, by Robin Jarvis.
Emmy Clarke is a children’s writer and poet living in Shropshire, UK. Her work has been featured in Stories of Care’s “Tales of the Bold, the Brave, and the Beautiful”, Little Thoughts Press, and Storytime Magazine. She is also the Founder of Changeling Annual, a publication for children featuring poetry, art, and fiction solely by neurodivergent creatives. Changeling has just celebrated the publication of its first issue. Emmy can be found at emmy-writes.com.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about a story that inspired me to start writing: The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis. This series of books follows Audrey Brown, a short-tempered, determined young mouse, and her friends in their fight against Jupiter, the living god of the rats that live in the sewers below Deptford, London.
The trilogy came to me second-hand when I was around nine years old. I was hooked at once, instantly connecting with Audrey. We came of age together, in a way. I dressed as her for World Book Day two years in a row, and when I finished the series, I cried for the loss. It was the first time I cared so much about a fictional world.
The Deptford Mice is quite gruesome and scary for a children’s series. Characters die, even fan favourites, and not all the imagery is as beautiful and wholesome as you’d expect from a story about talking mice!
But that is what I loved about it — it felt like Jarvis wasn’t talking down to me just because I was a kid.
His world was full of magic and danger, bloodthirsty cults, and lost loves. The characters were complex, and they didn’t always act as you wished they would. I appreciated that he handled tough topics with ease, emotion, and often the sort of bluntness the narrative required.
As a kid, I would often daydream about the characters and doodle them in school, copying carefully from his illustrations. These stories gave me an early taste of writing fanfiction.
Even today, Jarvis’s approach to storytelling has inspired me in my approach to writing for children.
My work today is not as fearsome as Jarvis’s, but the rush of magical excitement and wonder I felt when I read the Deptford trilogy for the first time is something I want to pass on to the next generation. Jarvis also didn’t shy from including spirituality and magic in his work, even creating his fictional deities, much like I did in “The Autumn Vixen.”
A few years ago, an old friend visited Robin Jarvis at a publishing event and took some of my well-loved copies to be signed. As Jarvis was aware that we had been championing his books online and interacted with us a few times, he’d prepared sketches of our favourite characters for us.
Ysabelle the Starwife sits pride of place on my desk, reminding me of the stories and characters that inspired me to begin writing in the first place. She reminds me of how far I’ve come, but also how connected I am to my younger self. This connection to the inner child is important when writing for younger audiences, and I’m ever thankful to walk hand in hand with ‘little Emmy’ as we brave the many wonders of being a grown-up author.