Two minutes with Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Today is the official publication day of the extraordinarily wonderful The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. You might have already spotted it in stores, as it's Waterstones' Children's Book of the Month for May! We caught up with Kiran to ask her some of our burning questions ...
For readers who haven’t yet got their hands on a beautiful copy, can you sum up The Girl of Ink & Stars in a few sentences?
The Girl of Ink & Stars is about Isabella Riosse, a mapmaker's daughter. Forbidden to leave the isle of Joya, she lives through her father's stories of the world beyond the horizon. When strange things begin happening on the island, including her best friend Lupe going missing, she is the only one who sees the truth. There's lots of myths, maps, and a touch of magic.
Where did the idea for the novel come from?
The first seed was planted in the Canary Islands. I was staying on the second-smallest island, La Gomera, in a house overlooking the sea. The only English language book was a collection of Canarian myths, and after reading it I sat down to write a page about a girl waking up to the smell of burning.
Isabella is an incredible heroine – brave, inquisitive, loyal, determined – was she based on anyone?
Very much so! She's an amalgamation of a few people I know and love, but is mainly based on Sabine, my cousin (who lives in India). I don't get to see her much, so this was a way to show I was thinking about her, as well as bringing her beautiful personality to a story for others to enjoy.
The plot leads on from Isabella’s determination to find her friend Lupe. Was it a conscious decision to make the central relationship in the novel one of friendship rather than romance?
Absolutely. I love romance in books but think that friendship too often gets shunted to the side, which is strange as it is often more complicated and interesting! Isabella and Lupe became the focus in this story, but portraying Isabella and Pablo's friendship was also key.
What sort of reader would you recommend The Girl of Ink & Stars to?
A tricky question, but I’d love for it to be recommended to readers who enjoyed books like Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker's Daughter, David Almond’s Kit's Wilderness, Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother, or Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder. You’ve got to aim high, right?! I also aspire to how Abi Elphinstone writes adventure, Emma Carroll’s light touch in storytelling, and Frances Hardinge’s particular brand of magical realism.
Finally, what tips would you give an author currently writing their first novel?
Firstly, read books. Books that do what you want yours to do, books that don’t. Just read.
Secondly: Bum. On. Seat. Nothing is going to get your story written except you putting one word after another. And it’s hard, sometimes painful, but ultimately it should feel good. You’re bringing a story into the world that you think is worth telling, and that’s exciting. So enjoy it. If you keep writing with some vague idea of where you want it to go and what you want it to be, you’ll eventually reach the end. Then the real work begins!