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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Interview with Emily Raabe, author of Lost Children of the Far Islands

Emily Raabe, author of The Lost Children of the Far Islands, visits The Hiding Spot today! While she's only virtually visiting this blog, she's in a real life tour across the country right now. To see if she's coming anywhere near you, check out her blog! To learn more about her MG debut, her favorite word (which needs no explanation), and her forthcoming projects, read on!

About the Author

Emily Raabe grew up with her two sisters and two brothers in Vermont, building forts, reading books, and making up imaginary worlds.

She received her undergraduate degree in Vermont and graduate degrees in England, California, and New York City, where she now lives in with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Lola.

She writes poetry for adults and novels for kids and teaches writing to art students. She loves books of all kinds, but especially ones involving magic, animals, mysteries, and the occasional French bulldog.

Lost Children of the Far Islands follows three siblings who find out that they have magical heritage and are able to shift into animals. Was there any meaning or special motivation behind your decision to have three main characters?
Well, I tend to think in three’s, probably because I have two sisters (one of whom is my twin!) I also wanted different readers to be able to relate to one of the characters in the book. So if you are a total bookworm, you might relate to Leo. If you are a great swimmer, or if you have a little sister who you adore and who drives you crazy, you might relate to Gus. And if you are very clever but very naughty as well you will relate to Ila!

One of my favorite aspects of your novel is description from the characters’ perspectives when they are in animal form. How did you write these parts of the novel; did they require much research?

They did, and thank you for noticing! I started with images of the animals; piles and piles of photos in order to understand how the animals look and so how the might move through the world. Then, the research. I LOVE research – it’s a great way to get out of writing! A few years ago, before I began this book, I read a great book called “Running With The Fox” by David W. Macdonald. This book is AMAZING – I’ve only seen it used, so grab it if you see it - I love it so much that I actually have two copies. The book was about raising, studying, and living with foxes in England, and it got me hooked. I also read a bunch of other stuff about foxes, and then all the material about seals. I loved all the ‘seal facts’ I found – things like…Oh wait, you’ll have to read the book to find out! Let me just say that seals are quite amazing creatures. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 

Well, interesting that you should ask…with “Lost Children,” I outlined NOTHING – I was so intimidated by the thought of writing an entire novel that I really couldn’t think of the big picture. Instead, I wrote it like this:

                 1.      Set alarm for 6

                 2.      Make cup of coffee

                 3.      Get back in bed

                 4.      Write one scene

                 5.      Get back out of bed and get dressed for work

I was working at that point for a theatre downtown, so I could only really write for an hour or so each morning. I chipped away at it, and like anything, it became a habit, one that I really missed if I skipped a day. So I built the book that way. But what a price I paid! Since I did not outline the book, there were all sorts of nasty messes down the line with plot holes, improbable situations, non-matching magical rules; even extra characters.

To edit the book, I took it off to Ireland, where my husband’s family has a house. He was working on a film downstairs, and I was editing (and weeping and gnashing my teeth) upstairs. It was very, very painful. Luckily, I have an amazing editor (Michelle Frey at Random House) who pushed me and comforted me and then pushed me again, and we got through it. But it was tough.

The book I’m working on right now, which involves Vermont and time travel and polio and ghosts, is SUPER-OUTLINED. I’ll let you know how that goes. I also have the sequel to “Lost Children” 80% of the way outlined, with about 150 pages written. So that one feels like it will be ½ outlined ½ seat-of-pants. 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration? 

1.      Waitress (I was terrible at this)

2.      Nanny (I was good at this, except for cooking)

3.      Telephone salesperson for high optic microscopic lenses (lasted 2 days)

4.      Assistant to a very difficult artist who shall remain unnamed (lasted 1 week)

5.      Temp for BMG Music (lasted 1.5 weeks)

6.      Barista (I made REALLY good coffee and I’m proud of it)

7.      Teacher (still do this & love it)

As far as shaping writing – YES! Writers are spies, and every job I’ve had has given me tons of material. As far as inspiration, teaching writing and/or literature is a great way to get inspired – every time I teach Annie Dillard’s essay on seeing, for example, I get re-inspired to pay attention and to write it all down.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 

Banana-telephone, used as one word.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 

Narnia, Hogwarts, The SandlefordWarren, Nimh, Middle-Earth, Cittagazze, Thisby, Earthsea, Inkworld, Landover, Panem, Shannara, and the Penderwicks’ garden. And, my bed. I LOVE reading in bed.

What can readers look forward to next?

Lots! Right now my husband and I are on tour, visiting Indie Bookstores from Boulder, Colorado to Burlington, Vermont. I’m signing books, interviewing bookstore folk, and blogging about it at, where you can follow the entire trip.

Writing-wise, I’m moving between two books right now – the sequel to “Lost Children,” which features Ila and a new character and is mostly set in Ireland, and a new book about a girl is who unwillingly transplanted to her mother's childhood home in Vermont, where her life is forever changed by a ghost who looks exactly like her and hides a terrible secret.


  1. I get intimidated and overwhelmed thinking of writing an entire novel, too. I try to break it down into scenes but somehow they still get away from me. I do like the idea of breaking it down to make it simpler, though. This book sounds really fascinating. I am adding it to my TBR list!

  2. Great interview! I love the sound of this book. I love the question about Emily Raabe's past jobs. So funny!

  3. Hi Aimee! I adored your book - it's such a "warm" read. Thank you for the kind words about The Hiding Spot; they made me smile.


  4. It was really great. The shifting into animals element was like a way cooler take on Animorphs (which, to be honest, creeped me out as a kid).

  5. I seriously cannot imagine writing a book. I get overwhelmed just writing review sometimes! I hope you end up reading (and loving) this one, Becca!

  6. Now you have made my day, Sara. Thank you!

    The best part of having my book out in the world is hearing from parents that their little ones want it read night after night. I love knowing that it is becoming a part of their families' expressions of care.


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