About

@Erin Summerill

@Erin Summerill

When A. E. Conran (Amanda) is not writing her own children's books or working as a freelance editor, she is a children's book specialist, school book fair booktalker and children’s book club facilitator at the renowned Bay Area independent bookstore, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA. 

The Lost Celt is her first middle grade novel. A modern adventure story, it draws upon time-travel conspiracies, Roman and Celtic history and the stories of Irish warrior hero Cuchulain, but ultimately deals with the invisible effects of war on veterans and their families throughout the generations and the transcendent power of friendship.

Originally from Leicestershire, England, Amanda now lives in the Bay Area with her husband, son and daughter.

 

 A bit more about me

 

I was brought up in a small village in the Welland Valley, Leicestershire, England. I still think it's the most beautiful place in the world. I spent lots of time in my "Wellie Bobs" playing in the fields and streams around my house. I was always on the look out for fossils, agate pebbles, bits of pottery and Roman coins.

My parents, who were both teachers, took me to the library every Saturday. I vividly remember reading the Noggin the Nog books and lots of Eygptian mythology. Every year my dad would take his students to London, which seemed very exotic and far away. He'd always buy me a new picture book. My favourites were: PreepAnatoleThe Happy Lion, and Harry the Dirty Dog. My dad taught grown-ups to become teachers, and I was allowed to borrow as many books as I wanted from his college library. I loved: The Snowy DayWhistle for Willie, Where the Wild Things Are and A Frog Went a-Courting.

Visiting Bath in my favorite dress.

Visiting Bath in my favorite dress.

My dad was also an artist and an antique collector, so we visited bookshops and antique shops every Saturday, too. Holidays were always museums, stately homes (places like Downton Abbey), hikes, castles, Roman forts, lots of visits to Bath, one of my favourite towns, and cream teas. I LOVE English cream teas.

I fell in love with reading in my dad's college library. The book was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It had such an unusual title I had to read it. It was on the bottom shelf so I just pulled it out, knelt down and did not move until I finished. It was truly a magical moment, as if I had walked through the wardrobe myself. I remember the light streaming through the library windows, full of dancing dust motes, circling me as I read. 

My special books.

After that I was given 25p a week pocket money (a quarter) and I bought a book every week. I still have them. Alan Garner, Rosemary Sutcliff, Henry Treece and Roger Lancelyn Green were always reliable reads. My favorite books were: When Marnie was There, Joan Robinson, Charlotte Sometimes, Penelope Farmer, Stig of the Dump, Clive King, The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff, the Viking's Dawn trilogy, Henry Treece, The Owl Service and Elidor, Alan Garner, The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier, Children on the Oregon Trail, A. Rutgers van der Leoff and The Heroes, Charles Kingsley. 

From an early age I was convinced I was going to live in a thatched cottage, called Brookside Cottage, in the village and write children's books. But here's the strange thing. My parents bought that very house, when I was 17 or 18, while I was working in Switzerland. They had no idea about my dream, they just announced that I'd be coming home to a new house. You would think that would have been my moment to launch into my dream, but  I didn't actually write once I lived there except for some truly mortifying journals. I just didn't seem to have anything  to say, and I honestly thought I wasn't good enough to write. I thought it had to be perfect straight away. How wrong I was about that!

A mention of a lost masterpiece in my diary written when 10: The Mystery of Mickleborough School, in which horrified school children return after Christmas to find their school goalposts have disappeared! Also proof that even good friends can be annoying if they interrupt me when I'm struggling with long division or any type of math.

A mention of a lost masterpiece in my diary written when 10: The Mystery of Mickleborough School, in which horrified school children return after Christmas to find their school goalposts have disappeared! Also proof that even good friends can be annoying if they interrupt me when I'm struggling with long division or any type of math.

I studied English at Leeds University and did a masters degree on Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, but I still didn't write. I ended up working as a copy editor on magazines and then as a Human Resources consultant. I lost my dream, until I had kids of my own. 

At university with friends, Dawn, Bess, Kathy and a hideous curtain.

At university with friends, Dawn, Bess, Kathy and a hideous curtain.

At that point my wonderful husband suggested that I should think about what I really wanted to do once the kids got older. I thought back on my life. I really believe you are never as true to yourself as you are when you are 12. I knew I wanted to be a writer, and the moment I decided that, I suddenly had lots of ideas…almost too many! It was as if I had given myself permission…and permission to write badly as well. It has taken me a long time to learn that the first draft of a book is just putting metal into the fiery furnace and heating it to a blob. You have to write quickly and badly. It’s the process of cooling off, then reheating, reshaping and repeating the process where the skill really comes in. Your craft comes into play to shape your writing into your vision…or as close to it as you can get. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Sometimes writing is hard, but not writing is even harder.

 

Three Crazy things about me 

Labels of Love

As you've gathered, I've always loved books, book stores and libraries. One summer I decided that I had to turn my humble book collection into a real library. This meant that every book had to be catalogued and labelled. I bent over my ancient 1920s typewriter and started to type:

F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F           F

and type,

F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F           F

and type,

F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F           F

I had a lot of Fiction books. My cataloguing system was not very sophisticated. F for Fiction. NF for non-fiction.

F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F           F

But I thought it was going to make my library look Fantastically official and organized. Fabulous!

F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F         F           F           F           F           F           F           F          F           F

Finally, I finished the Fs. I then had to cut them all out and stick them onto the spines of my books with Scotch Tape. I started with great enthusiasm, but it seemed to take Forever.

Meanwhile, the sun was shining, the brook was trickling in the fields and my neighbor's dog was whining at our garden fence eager for a walk.

I never got to the non-fiction section. Besides, I came to the conclusion that I could never lend out my beloved books anyway, but some of my childhood books still wear those labels, just to prove they are mine.

Hammyallergy!

It's a cruel but true fact that I'm horrendously allergic to hamsters, yet I adore hamsters. I was given my first hammy when I was nine years old. Bunty was originally my friend Wendy's hamster, but Wendy also had a dog and the two animals did not get on so well! Bunty was the first of many hammies including, Miffy, Smoffy, Henry, Nelson, Little Red and Tiger. By the time I owned Tiger I was an adult, and suddenly I couldn't go near a hamster without gasping for breath, my face puffing up and my eyes going red. No more hammies for me. 

Buttons are Beautiful!

One Sunday afternoon, when I was six years old, I visited a nearby village called Hallaton with my dad. In the window display of a small antique shop was the most beautiful brooch I had ever seen. I went in to ask the price.

Inside, the owner apologized as she fetched the object from the window. "I'm afraid it's not a brooch, Dear, it's a button." I couldn't believe that something as ordinary as a button could be so extraordinary. It cost 10p (a dime), which at the time was all my pocket money, but I decided to buy it. That was my first button. I'm still collecting them.

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