Elle McNicoll’s debut Children’s book, A Kind Of Spark, published by the fantastic indie Knights Of is out TODAY!
A KIND OF SPARK tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard? A story about friendship, courage and self-belief, perfect for fans of The Goldfish Boy.
Ahead of A Kind Of Spark‘s super-anticipated launch today, it was chosen earlier this week as Blackwell’s Children’s Book of The Month for the whole of June!
In addition to this, A Kind Of Spark was also featured in The Observer on Sunday, written by Kitty Empire;
Author Elle McNicoll is herself on the autism spectrum and in A Kind Of Spark (Knights Of), her protagonist Addie becomes outraged when she learns how her Scottish village persecuted women who were different - witches.
Might some of them have been autistic? Although Addie is adamant the women deserve a memorial, the village is not as keen to commemorate a bleak episode. Vividly drawn are Addie’s sensory overstimulation and bone-weary shifts worked by Addie’s loving parents; the cruelty of a new teacher who refuses to make allowances for Addie is particularly keenly felt.
BookTrust have also included A Kind of Spark in their Books We Love in June 2020 and Autism booklists – you can read the review in full here: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/book/a/a-kind-of-spark/
This debut novel from a neurodivergent writer offers an utterly convincing and hugely likeable narrative voice. Challenging many a myth and a stereotype, but never forcing its messages, this is a powerful book with a gentle touch. . . A short, sweet and accessible read, but with so very much to say.
In celebration of Elle’s publication day, we thought we would catch up with her for an exclusive Q&A:
1. What inspired you to write ‘A Kind of Spark’?
A KIND OF SPARK was inspired by the huge gaping hole in children’s publishing in regards to Neurodivergent, Own Voices representation. I wrote a story that had been sitting in my head for a couple of years, but I wrote it specifically for ND readers of all ages. It’s the book I wanted to read at the age of eleven.
2. How do you hope the character of Addie inspires readers who are neurodivergent?
I hope that her resilience and determination are inspiring. Addie has no magical powers, no savant gifts that make her a genius. She just has a good heart, a bright mind, lots of courage and curiosity and a desire to see justice done. She sets out to fight for her goals, knowing that she will get knocked back along the way. But that doesn’t stop her.
3. How was your own personal experience in school, does Addie’s reflect this?
My schooldays were very similar. I had a bullying teacher who tore up my work before reading it. It took me a while to tell the difference between people who were mean and people who were friends. I was often very overstimulated and found it difficult to communicate and be understood. And I could often be found alone in the library.
4. How do you hope the publishing industry develops to help neurodiversity visibility and accessibility?
Own. Voices. I’ll keep saying it over and over again. There are more titles emerging with ND heroes and heroines but they are often written by neurotypical authors, and the same red flags and stale versions of poor representation pop up again and again. There need to be more disabled people behind the scenes in publishing as well. Editorial, design, marketing.
5. Do you have a similar passion for the history of witches like Addie?
Yes. I was fascinated at school when I first discovered the witch trials, just like Addie. I think they represent the marginalised and the forgotten very profoundly.
6. What were your three favourite books when you were growing up?
I loved ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, anything by Anne Fine (lots of Anne’s!), SAFFY’S ANGEL by Hilary McKay and BEAUTY by Robin McKinley.
7. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on two projects that I really love. One is a modern fairy-tale, the other is a platonic love story. Both with ND characters. We’ll see what happens, but I like them both a lot. I also have a YA that I want to eventually start. Nothing with a pandemic in it!
8. Do you have any tips and tricks for writing for aspiring children’s authors?
Read! Read everything. Remember what it felt like to be eleven years old. Get the story out, whatever it is, and get around to tidying and editing once it’s out of you. There are no tricks, sadly. Perspiration and heartbreak.
9. How did you find the experience of writing ‘A Kind of Spark’- were there any highs or lows?
The highs of writing A KIND OF SPARK were the moments with all the sisters together, because those scenes are often explosive. It was cathartic and exciting, and it felt very easy. The lows were constructing the sadder scenes, and the meetings where Addie is fighting for what she believes in but she’s not being listened to. I think those scenes reflect things that I was battling in real life at the time.
10. How would you describe ‘A Kind of Spark’ in three words?
Neurodivergent. Emotional. #OwnVoices.
11. Do you have any book recommendations for readers who enjoyed your book?
Sure. Anything by other ND authors. THE GOLDFISH BOY by Lisa Thompson, LOOK BOTH WAYS by Jason Reynolds? STATE OF GRACE by Rachael Lucas.
For future reviews of the AMAZING A Kind Of Spark, make sure you follow along with the blog tour:
Lastly, if you have the means please do consider donating to the Inclusive Indies project that is supporting Knights Of, the publisher behind A Kind of Spark.
With your donation, they will be able to continue to support and develop diverse books, so that all children have the possibility to see themselves in the stories they read.
Donate here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/inclusive-indies