This month we’re absolutely delighted to have published Looking for Emily – a hugely gripping, fast-paced mystery adventure, with brilliant twists and turns, from a fresh and exciting new voice in children’s books, Fiona Longmuir. And today we’re very excited to be sharing a guest post from Fiona!
Just like the book itself, the story of Looking for Emily starts with the discovery of a strange little museum. When my partner and I go on holiday, we like to look for the most obscure local museum we can find. In Bratislava, we visited the clock museum. It was a weird little dream of a building, all strange angles and spindly staircases, scattered ticking bouncing off elaborately wallpapered walls. I snapped a photo of it, narrow and yellow as a pat of butter, and I thought that looks like something straight out of a storybook.
I started to turn over the idea of a story set around a museum in my mind. I could picture a glossy green door, a stamped brass sign, a spiral staircase. The entire seaside town of Edge grew out of that door. At first, I was playing with the idea of a museum of lost things and that became the museum of a lost person – an ordinary little girl called Emily. When I started writing, I didn’t have much more than that. I walked in the footsteps of my main character, twelve-year-old Lily, discovering alongside her who Emily was, why she disappeared and who created the secret museum filled with her things.
Everything in the Museum of Emily is ordinary – well, almost everything! It’s all books and buttons and scribbled notes and family photographs. And that’s because I think these are the things that make us who we are. The things we surround ourselves with every day. Your favourite recipe, or poem, or t-shirt. That’s what makes up a life. Those are the real treasures.
I’ve always had a soft spot for stubborn oddball little kids, probably because I was one – and still am at heart! Lily wandered into my brain pretty much fully formed: adventurous, hot-tempered, so afraid of being disappointed that she refuses to get her hopes up, ever. I created Sam and Jay to be the kind of people and the kind of friends that Lily needed most. The three of them are so different but they really bring out the best in each other. The adventure in Looking for Emily gets pretty scary sometimes, so Lily definitely needed the support of her friends to make it through. Looking for Emily is a story about finding where you belong, and that can be a person as much as a place.
I didn’t realise how much food was in the book until other people started reading it. Almost everyone commented on it! There are chips galore, because you can’t have a seaside trip without chips. My grandad lives in a little seaside town in Scotland, so I spent most of my childhood eating chips while getting rained on and I loved every minute of it. There’s an apple pie, which Emily and her sister make from their mother’s recipe, and which is based on an apple pie I learned to bake from my great granny. There’s lasagne at Sam’s house and tea in Ms Hanan’s classroom and hot chocolate in Lily’s kitchen and hot dogs by the bonfire. I think food is one of the greatest expressions of love we have. Nothing makes me feel safer or more cared for than a really delicious meal, and I love to cook for people I love too. So many of the things I cook, I learned from my family. And when I use their recipes, it’s like I can feel their hands squeezing mine. That’s what I wanted the food in Looking for Emily to feel like.
I write exactly the kind of stories I like to read most. I’ve never been able to resist a mystery or a grand adventure, but I love books that pause for little cosy moments too. Some of my favourite books strike that balance beautifully. Books like Time Stops for No Mouse and the Pages & Co series have so many lovely, warm, gentle moments that it makes the stakes of the adventure feel even higher. You know what everyone has to lose! In Looking for Emily, you get little glimpses of the beautiful life Emily lost – the life that’s just at Lily’s fingertips if she can gather the courage to grab it.
Read the first few chapters below: