'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 22 September 2017

Guest Post: Emma Middleton on Lions in Our Living Room

Today we are elated to have the beautiful, Emma Middleton share her thoughts behind her new picture book The Lion in our Living Room. This is Emma’s debut picture book as an author and we can’t wait to share it.

Tom, his older sister Tilly and their white dog Bessie excitedly wonder if the mighty lion will come to play.  When their dad has a nap after lunch, they eagerly await the lion’s arrival. However this isn’t an ordinary lion; this is daddy lion, who plays rollicking games and reads stories late into the night.  

Tell us about your experience writing this book.

In the early stages of writing The Lion in our Living Room, I was inspired by the phrase, ‘I’m coming to get you..!’ and the delightful excitement that follows. This evolved into a celebration of the special role fathers play in the lives of their children, and their unique talents of physical play.
I pictured a father playing with his children, chasing them and giving them exhilarating piggy back rides. Imagining the father as a mighty, roaring lion seemed even more fun, and so, The Lion in our Living Roomwas born.

I have felt very honoured during the collaborative process, as I have had the opportunity to work with two of Australia’s top editors, Clair Hume and Davina Bell from Affirm Press.  Clair has involved me at every step of the book creation process and she is an outstanding talent at every level of publishing.
The narrative is finely balanced with the visual. It was a joy to see Briony Stewart’s stunning and highly detailed illustrations bring the story to life.   

What inspired you to write this book?

I distinctly remember the moment of inspiration when I was thinking about the emotions of childhood. It is a time of expectancy, and I wanted to explore the thrill of anticipation. The phrase came into my mind, ‘I’m coming to get you!’ This was the catalyst for the story. I wanted to depict this excitement with the lion games played between father and child. 

The Lion in our Living Room presents a positive role model of fatherhood. Is this something you set out to portray in your story? 

To be honest, this wasn’t my initial objective. I was trying to express a thrilling experience of childhood, and what could be better than piggy backs and lion rides from a loving father figure. I am delighted that it has evolved into an inspiring depiction of fatherhood, as the important role fathers play in families is often underestimated by our society. 

You have a background in theatre – how does this influence your approach to picture books? 

To me there is a huge similarity between theatre and writing for children; rhythm, pace, story, drama, emotion and movement. Once theatre is in your blood, it remains with you forever. I hope to involve children in theatrical presentations of my stories. 

You are also an illustrator yourself? Does this affect your writing? 

I believe so. As I write I visualise the pictures telling their half of the story, so the words do not need to spell out every element. This is one reason why I am completely enamoured with picture books. I believe it is the only true genre, where the pictures are an essential ingredient to the story telling.

How did you feel when you first saw Briony Stewart’s illustrations?

I know how talented Briony Stewart is as an illustrator and author, however I was really blown away by her illustrations. The detail adds so much to the book and the visual clues she includes are delightful, such as her magnificent lion shaped topiary, with leaf claws and a poignant flower eye.

We know how important it is for children to have stories read aloud to them. How do you see The Lion in our Living Room contributing to this cause? 

One of the important jobs of a picture book author is to make the words sound wonderful when they are read aloud. In fact, in my early drafts, I often get carried away with the sound of the words and forget that the story actually needs to make sense! In other words I hear the rhythm of the story first, and the plot grows from this point of inspiration. 

I aspire to be one of the many Australian authors involved in the community, bringing my story to life. But of course, there is nothing better than a loving parent sharing the experience of story with their child. This is where the life-long love of book begins. 

Emma Middleton is an award-winning writer, illustrator and artist. In 2017 Emma will have two titles released, The Lion in our Living Room (Illustrated by Briony Stewart, Affirm Press) and  Clover’s Big Ideas (Georgie Donaghey and Emma Middleton, Little Pink Dog Books). Emma creates children’s literature and illustrations that provide young children with a sense of wonder, delight and unlimited possibility.

The wellspring for Emma’s creative passion is fed by her love of reading and art-making, a 15-year career as a professional ballerina; and the deeply rewarding experience of teaching a generation of children at her own ballet school. Now, Emma has found in children’s literature, a place where her passions have a natural creative connection; where literature comes to life in her picture books through the rhythm of music, the drama of story and the colour of art. 

You can visit Emma at: emmamiddleton.com
Watch out for our review of The Lion in our Living Room, which is due for release 1 October 2017.