Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Em Horsfield – Santa’s Magic Beard
by Dimity Powell - November 20th, 2013
Tis almost the season to be jolly and over-indulge a little. And because it takes more than just Santa and a bit of tinsel to make the season jingle and jive, I’ve invited author, Em Horsfield along to share more about the creation of newly released picture book, Santa’s Magic Beard.
Time settle back with a cuppa and early fruit mince pie…
Q Who is Em Horsfield? Tell us about the scribe in you.
I grew up in South Africa with my parents, older brother and Oscar, my favourite hound. I have always written stories. From the silly age of seven I began scribbling ridiculous rhymes about family and friends, often far-fetched tales about my mum, which I’m sure she didn’t appreciate!
I took things a little more seriously when I attended the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg and completed an honours degree – Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, majoring in television, film, writing and psychology.
It was during this time that I wrote a collection of illustrated poems entitled, Poems for Kiddies and Adults Like Me. I am constantly inspired by the ridiculous – Roald Dahl will always be a favourite as will Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Quentin Blake and Tim Burton.
After completing my degree, I freelanced as a writer for OutCulture – an online magazine at the time, and also worked as an editorial assistant for the Analytical Reporter. As soon as I’d saved enough pennies, I packed my bags for London, where I continued to write, in between playing PA to the CEO at United Business Media and running networking events throughout the UK.
I then chose to travel the world some more and explored parts of Asia and Australia – an experience that both challenged and intrigued…and inspired many a tale! I joined the Macadamia House team in 2012 and found myself living alongside my better half on a macadamia farm in Redland Bay. It was here where I immersed myself in the world of Nosh the Nutmobile and scribbled his adventures – all based on true stories inspired by farm life. Publishing three books has been a true highlight.
Writing is how I express myself. Incapable of taking myself too seriously, I prefer to dabble in the imaginary realms or chuckle at the ridiculous truths of life. I live out my days doing what I love best: creating, writing and walking a large basset hound who answers to the name of Duncan…yet never comes when he’s called!
Q We know many of the storylines for the Nosh Nutmobile books stem from real life events but where did the concept of this adventurous series originate from? Was it purely a need for you to write about your farm experiences or did it evolve organically as a collaborative effort?
Well as you may have guessed, the story revolves around the Nutmobile. Many people have fond memories of the Aussie icon from his old home – chugging round the Big Pineapple, amusing crowds. When the Big Pineapple closed its doors, the Bromet Family – macadamia farmers and owners of Macadamia House – bought the Nutmobile and relocated him to Bauple in July 2011. Bauple, for those of you who don’t know, is the home of the original macadamia – what better place for a Nutmobile really!
It was only till their first grandson was born – Max – that the idea came about to write a book. The Bromet family wanted to give something to Max that he would always remember. I joined the team in 2012 and together with Glen, set to work creating farm inspired tales that would not only amuse but also promote healthy messages for kids growing up.
Living on a farm was also an entirely new experience for me, so yes, I guess creating the Nutmobile series was a great way for me to express and make sense of my new farm life!
Q Describe your writing passion. What do you enjoy most about writing for kids?
Well, I am quite simply an over-grown kid myself so it’s something that comes quite naturally to me! I seem to relate to the random silliness of kids and their imaginative minds where anything is possible. I enjoy playing in their world. On the flip side, I enjoy the challenge of writing for kids – crafting a colourfully complex tale, layered with meaning and disguising it in a simple 15 verse rhyming structure.
I also love the characters I am allowed to create. From a very young age, I collected soft toys – never dolls – just hundreds of hippos, elephants, cows and other bizarre animal creatures. Many of them have travelled the world with me and continue to do so! They fuelled my imaginative mind growing up and continue to do so at the crusty age of 30! I really struggle with human characters – nearly all my characters have a furry back or a fine fleece, which again steered me away from romantic novels and into the realm of the 32 pg picture book.
Writing the Nutmobile series was a good compromise between the real and the unreal and allowed me to grow as a writer. It challenged me to communicate true stories – often singed with serious issues such as devastating floods or bullying – and craft them into humorous rhymes starring eccentric emus and culinary roos; into colourful tales which children could digest and draw meaning from.
Q Have you penned any other stories or poems for children, if so what are they? Would you like to continue?
I have indeed. As mentioned, while studying many years back, I created a collection of poems / stories in rhyme, entitled ‘Poems for Kiddies and Adults Like Me’. Having worked on the Nutmobile series for close on two years, I’m keen to take a little break from Nosh and co. and revisit some of my earlier writing.
Q As with all of the Nutmobile books, they are written in rhyming verse. Is this the style you feel most comfortable writing in? Why so?
It must be, because even when I’m sick to death of the rhyming riddles, they always find their way on to my page! Stressing different beats of a story, allows one to communicate subtle meanings in a story, those which without the rhythm may otherwise go undetected. I have written many, many Nutmobile tales to date and only one is written in a different style – different but not completely rhyme-free!
It may have something to do with my musical background. My mum is a music teacher, so growing up, I was subjected to a daily dose of tunes as several little darlings descended on our abode for their weekly lesson. I have been surrounded by music my whole life and share a great love for the art – I guess without knowing it, I have been writing my own melodies, scribbling them down in rhythm and rhyme.
All that being said, I am also keen to step out my comfort zone and challenge myself to explore other styles. I’ll keep you posted!
Q Santa’s Magic Beard is the third in the Nosh series. Will there be more? Do you have a favourite?
Having lived alongside Nosh and his furry crew for close on two years, I have been lucky enough to join them on all their adventures – of which there have been many…it would be most selfish of me not to share! Out of the three adventures that have been published so far, Santa’s Magic Beard is my firm favourite. Being a big fan of Christmas festivities (me too!), I was delighted when Nosh stumbled upon the jolly man in red! ‘Barnabas the Bully Frog’ is another tale that tickles my fancy but let’s not give away too many secrets now!
Just for fun question: If you had an unlimited supply of macadamia nuts, what would you do with them?
It’s really tough but, as them macs are the hardest nut in the world to crack, I guess I’d makes myself some kind of superhero suit – call it my macca d’armour’ if you will, thereby making me invincible!
Santa’s Magic Beard is magic for 3- 6 year olds and fanatics of Christmas like me.
Little Steps Publishing – New Frontier Oct 2013
Look for it and more of the Nutmobile Series here.
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