We had the pleas­ure of sit­ting down with E.L Norry, the tal­en­ted author behind the cap­tiv­at­ing book “Fable­house.” In this insight­ful inter­view, Norry shares her inspir­a­tions, per­son­al exper­i­ences, and writ­ing pro­cess for this remark­able work. By blend­ing ele­ments of Arthur­i­an legend with a con­tem­por­ary set­ting, Norry brings togeth­er two worlds in a com­pel­ling way. She also delves into the import­ance of giv­ing voice to mar­gin­al­ized char­ac­ters and the sig­ni­fic­ance of the book’s set­ting. Through­out the con­ver­sa­tion, Norry reveals her hopes for read­ers, dis­cusses her approach to writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults, and even hints at upcom­ing pro­jects. Join us as we delve into the cre­at­ive mind of E.L Norry and dis­cov­er the magic behind “Fable­house.”

What inspired you to write Fable­house?
Fable­house was an ori­gin­al idea by Jas­mine Richards who runs a com­pany called Story­mix. Story­mix focus on inclus­iv­ity, with a focus on mak­ing black and brown chil­dren the her­oes. I really believe in what her com­pany is doing and was instantly intrigued by her idea.

How did your per­son­al exper­i­ences in the care sys­tem influ­ence your writ­ing of this book?
Jas­mine knew of my work and my back­ground of grow­ing up in care when she approached me for the pro­ject way back in Feb­ru­ary 2021. I wasn’t con­sciously aware of using my back­ground to write the book, but uncon­sciously lots of things came out which was then easy to see in the edits and rewrites. And also, although she showed me a pitch deck with an out­line of the story, the char­ac­ters weren’t fleshed out at all, so I had the oppor­tun­ity to add lots to this pro­ject and really make it my own.

The book com­bines ele­ments of Arthur­i­an legend with a con­tem­por­ary set­ting. What made you decide to bring these two worlds togeth­er?
Jasmine’s idea was to blend Arthur­i­an legends – there haven’t been any Black Knights in children’s stor­ies that we’re aware of – and then com­bin­ing that aspect with the real 1950s world and the his­tory of the ‘brown babies’. Those three aspects made for a com­pel­ling pro­pos­al. My back­ground meant that I fore­groun­ded my care exper­i­ences and exper­i­ences of being mixed-race as the focus. As soon as she men­tioned the chil­dren find­ing Pal, the old film ‘Whistle Down the wind’ came to mind and sev­er­al scenes imme­di­ately jumped into my mind of how I could write their rela­tion­ship. All the chil­dren are lack­ing a fath­er fig­ure – and I myself nev­er had one grow­ing up with­er – so it was easy to put the ‘ideal fath­er’ qual­it­ies onto Pal.

Can you describe your writ­ing pro­cess for Fable­house? How did you approach bal­an­cing the fantasy ele­ments with the real­ist­ic themes?
At first I was really uncom­fort­able with the fantasy ele­ments of the story. I kept assum­ing the word ‘fantasy’ meant ‘high fantasy’ — a land of Hob­bits and Orcs, a genre I had no interest in and wasn’t at all famil­i­ar with. But my edit­or, Zoe, did a won­der­ful job of reas­sur­ing me that ‘fantasy’ could be whatever I wanted it to be. Once I had the idea that the fae world was dir­ectly under­neath our one, remem­ber­ing inspir­a­tions such as Stranger Things and The Dark is Rising, it became much easi­er to cre­ate a world that might be sim­il­ar to ours but with key dif­fer­ences too. I con­sider myself to have a poor visu­al sense, so I used Pin­terest a lot for inspir­a­tion and focused on my strengths… when using the senses I like to focus on smell and sound.

Heath­er and her friends are described as her­oes who are often on the out­skirts of soci­ety. Why was it import­ant for you to give voice to these mar­gin­al­ized char­ac­ters?
I’ve per­son­ally always felt on the out­side of things, and I think, because of that, I have always had a huge heart for any­one con­sidered dif­fer­ent or an ‘out­sider’. One of my favour­ite films when I was a child was the Hunch­back of Notre Dame (the old 1939 ver­sion) and To Kill a Mock­ing­bird.

I haven’t ever minded being on the out­side – partly that’s to do with my back­ground in care but also, I think, because of the lack of con­nec­tion with the essen­tial parts of my iden­tity. Being moved away from my place of birth for example (Cardiff), not being placed with foster par­ents where I could explore my mixed iden­tity, or Jew­ish her­it­age. I think it is import­ant to show people, and espe­cially chil­dren, that you can choose to fit in.

Palamedes, a knight from King Arthur’s court, is a cent­ral char­ac­ter in the book. How did you go about research­ing and incor­por­at­ing Arthur­i­an legend into your story?
I read the little we know about Palamedes and filled in the gaps with my ima­gin­a­tion. Jas­mine is a big myths and legends fan so she poin­ted me in the dir­ec­tion of some inspir­a­tion too. I read stor­ies, watched film and TV. I enjoyed the Gawain and the Green Knight story so mcuh and knew it could be an amaz­ing allegory and so chose to make that the basis of the bonus chapter that’s in the book (I ima­gined Pal at court when the event happened), and I had some great books to research like Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mal­ory. It couldn’t all make it into the book!

The set­ting of Fable­house, includ­ing the ancient wood­land and stone tower, plays a sig­ni­fic­ant role in the story. How did you devel­op this set­ting and what inspired you?
Once I’d read Lucy Bland’s book, ‘Britain’s Brown babies’, I looked up Hol­nicote House and real­ised that it was now the accom­mod­a­tion attached to HF walk­ing hol­i­days! So I booked myself a 3 day walk­ing hol­i­day to Exmoor. That was fant­ast­ic. It was won­der­ful to be com­pletely immersed in the set­ting of the place. I walked miles and got to exper­i­ence the land, see cairns, Exmoor ponies and stay in the actu­al house that Fable­house was based on. I was inspired by my own exper­i­ence of leav­ing Cardiff aged ten and being fostered in a tiny vil­lage called Alder­ton about ten miles away from Wood­bridge, in Suf­folk. It was there that I spent hours going on long bike rides armed with only a pic­nic and a book, build­ing dens in woods and hav­ing ima­gin­ary friends.

The book deals with themes of friend­ship, bravery, and facing fears. What mes­sage do you hope read­ers take away from the story?
It’s funny because I nev­er set out to con­sciously ‘have a ‘mes­sage’, although the won­der­ful thing about writ­ing for chil­dren is that you can always detect hope in their stor­ies. I think the ages of 8–12 are a very rich time when you’re a child, you are learn­ing so much.

I hope the main mes­sage that chil­dren can take away from this story is that you can choose – at any time – that you are import­ant and you mat­ter and that you can influ­ence things. And also, that if you aren’t liv­ing with, or in touch with, your own fam­ily, friends can be just as spe­cial and import­ant. You can cre­ate your own fam­ily from the people who ‘get’ you.

You’ve pre­vi­ously writ­ten for chil­dren and young adults. What do you think makes a good book for these audi­ences and how do you strive to achieve that in your writ­ing?
I think it’s really import­ant to not talk down to chil­dren. Thy under­stand far more than many adults think they’re cap­able of. You also can’t, or shouldn’t, ‘preach’ to them. They may or may not pick up on cer­tain things, but it’s up to them. I nev­er set out to write for chil­dren, but the reas­on I love it so much is because I think I can very eas­ily remem­ber that peri­od in my life. That’s what makes a truly excel­lent children’s writer, I feel. A per­son who is in touch with their ‘young­er self’ and can remind the intens­ity of those emo­tions. The very best children’s fic­tion, for me, car­ries an intens­ity of emo­tion­al truth that you can’t ‘fake’ – you just feel it.

Are there any upcom­ing pro­jects you can tell us about?
I’m busy edit­ing Fable­house two at the moment which comes out next April. Apart from that, I’m really look­ing for­ward to dream­ing about my next pro­ject… I’ve had the idea for a few years but haven’t dared com­mit any­thing to paper yet, so that will be inter­est­ing… try­ing to pin that down!

Fable­house By E.L Norry is out Thursday 8th June

Pur­chase Here 

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa

Mark is a South Lon­don based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He’s also an MMA and his­tory enthu­si­ast who tries to keep his love of animé under wraps.

About Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa
Mark is a South London based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He's also an MMA and history enthusiast who tries to keep his love of anime under wraps.