The hilarious new book children can sink their teeth into
Comedy writer Emily-Jane Clark has turned her attention from adult humour to writing her first children’s book
By Sarah Ward
“I did promise my children I would write something without swearing in it because my first book had quite a lot of swearing and one of them tried to take it into show and tell at school.”
Comedy writer Emily Jane-Clark has written her first book for children The Beasts of Knobbly Bottom: Attack of the Vampire Sheep!
Published by Scholastic, it is in all good bookshops now and when I spoke to Emily-Jane over zoom this week she had just finished a small book tour around independent bookshops and schools.
After years of writing adult comedy sketches, a piece she wrote for The Mash Report went viral and was even shared by Madonna; she is now making children laugh. Bedtime reading sessions with her two daughters inspired her to write a book that they could take into school and show their friends without a concerned phone call from the school.
“As bedtime haters the story time could be very, very long, which was great because I loved reading to them - if it was a book I liked.
“I was reading Mr Gum by Andy Stanton and it didn’t have any particular issue and it was just silly for silly sake and I thought I’d love to write something that kids and parents love.
“That was the idea - so hopefully it is doing that.”
The book is about the adventures of a young girl who moves to a small village.
As Emily explains:
“Knobbly Bottom is not a bum with nobbles on it - it’s actually a village. It’s about a girl called Maggie who lives in Leicester, in a flat with her mum and sister and her mum forces her to move to the countryside and she is not happy about this - because her mum says it is a safe place to live in the countryside for children - but as Maggie points out, she doesn’t have any children so she doesn’t care about that!
“She thinks it is incredibly boring - there is one church and one shop. But then some strange things start happening and she meets some very eccentric characters warning her off this village, but even weirder than that she meets some sheep who are really odd because their eyes turn red and they start growing fangs. So she soon realises that Knobbly Bottom is not as boring as she thought.”
The book is getting good reviews and importantly for Emily-Jane her kids approve:
“I was quite nervous about them reading it because kids are very honest, they won’t wrap it up like a friend might and say ‘oh yeah, lovely’ so I was very relieved when they did enjoy it.”
It was motherhood that led Emily-Jane into becoming a published author.
Before that she had been a local reporter in the mid 2000s - working at the Herald and Post in Northampton and then moving on to write for the glossy magazines and freelance in public relations.
But when her first daughter was born in 2011, things changed. She suffered from postnatal depression, which forced her to take some time off work.
“I originally said I would take six weeks off - because I was so keen not to lose the work. Six weeks went by and I was still in my pyjamas, and I said ‘I might need six months’ but then I was still in my pyjamas.
“I was really in denial about it [postnatal depression] because I did not understand what it was all about. All I knew about it was what I saw on TV. It was nothing like that. It was more like really bad anxiety and I was hallucinating, I wasn't sleeping.
“I did keep getting told to go to the doctors but I was just convinced I was really tired, which was the depression talking. I just thought ‘maybe I’m just rubbish at mumming’. So I put it off for ages and then I got a really good therapist who pointed out that I was really ill and needed to do something about it.
“I had cognitive behaviour therapy in the end - for a long time and I had help from a charity called Home-Start, I volunteer for them now, because they were so good - they literally saved my life.
“I don’t think I would have left the house if it wasn’t for them persevering.
“They don’t let you slip through the net. The NHS is quite busy and it is easy to get lost in the system but Home-Start was just amazing. They even got me coming to some groups.”
Emily Jane’s second daughter came along shortly after her first and so she became a mum with two children aged under two. However as the postnatal depression improved she began to write.
“I have always written stuff down as a way of coping. I do come from a family where we will try and find something funny in any situation, so I was kind of doing that personally for myself. There was a part of me that was still sane enough to know - this is just madness, this whole parenthood thing, I mean what other world would you just be expected to do this with no sleep and walk around with puke on your shoulder and not care.
“I had another baby rather quickly - so I had two under two and that was such an extreme experience. I got to the point where I had been crying for about a year - so I just went the other way and started laughing.
“I used all the things I had been scribbling down and I wrote a blog just to get back into writing again and then that got me a book deal.
“For something that seemed like quite a dark place where everything had fallen apart, it kind of worked out well.”
That book Sleep is for the weak: How to survive when your babies won’t go the f**k to sleep was a classic for parents who were finding the role hard and not the bed of roses that was being promoted by the yummy mummy movement.
Emily-Jane is currently writing a sequel to her children’s book and is also writing a script with the dream that the adventures in Knobbly Bottom will make it to the TV screens.
You can buy her new book here or from your nearest bookshop.
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