Photo credit: Josiah Shoup
Describe your latest book.
My latest book is Snow and Rose
, an illustrated fairy tale retelling. I am an insatiable reader and collector of fairy tales, and my story is built on the bones of my all-time favorite Grimm’s story, "Snow-White and Rose-Red." It is a story reckoning with loss, the tale of an enchanted wood, of two brave girls and a boy named Ivo, of a wounded bear, and of what it means to know and to believe.
The book is written for middle grade readers, but I hope (as I think everyone does) that it’s really for anybody, if it’s the right story at the right time.
And my latest picture book, The Littlest Family’s Big Day
, is just coming out as a board book! It’s the sweetest format, and it feels like it was made to be a little book. I love seeing things small-ified.
What was your favorite book as a child?
My favorite books when I was small were probably Matilda
and Little Women
(because of Jo, of course.)
When did you know you were a writer?
Well, this is a little bit different for me because I still consider myself an artist and illustrator first. But I’ve always had a narrative mind, always loved language and books and the private worlds that exist while your eyes dart over lines of ink.
What does your writing workspace look like?
Charitably, it looks like a museum of misfit things, with a computer and my painting supplies kind of shoved in there. I’ve always loved the feeling of being in a little nook, surrounded by things I love. I couldn’t have it any other way.
What do you care about more than most people around you?
It’s probably a dead toss-up between the two.
The first because I can’t imagine a life without wondering, without searching, without falling in love with something fascinating that you didn’t know about the day before — the minute before — over and over.
The second because there is very little I find more disarming than someone without pretense, without falsity. I’ve always loved the heart-on-the-sleeve ones.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Oh, this is easy: Angela Carter
I always jump at any chance to do this, because she was brilliant and funny and a surrealist acrobat who should be more widely read. I say that, but then, I know she’s not for everybody. I just know I love her in a way that feels like an arrow to the heart.
The Bloody Chamber
(short stories): her most famous book, not coincidentally obscenely rich and dangerous and beautiful.
: her last novel, and I do think her best.
Also, this is cheating, but Shirley Jackson
! Everyone read Shirley Jackson! And not just The Lottery
Also, still cheating/being greedy, but can I recommend the illustrator Julie Morstad
? For over 10 years, she has been making some of the most delicate and beautiful illustrations, both in children’s books and elsewhere.
Besides your personal library, do you have any beloved collections?
I collect pretty dresses and weird little treasures (mostly old or from nature) that form inadvertent collections.
Like wind-up toys, or small plastic tigers — why do I need them?
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
I’ve always thought Girl Anachronism
might be good (I don’t think it needs a subtitle).*
It fits: I was a photography major just as analog photography became obsolete, I worked at a music store just as physical music was vanishing, and at a video store I loved just as Netflix eclipsed it… you get the idea.
Thankfully, all the doomsaying about physical books hasn’t come to pass, due in large part to incredible, holy places like Powell’s, which (maudlin as it sounds) really are much more than stores. They are keepers of truth and of make-believe, both in equal measure. The keepers of a fundamental goodness found in a place that is quiet and comfortable and safe, where everything is in service to communicating ideas, to telling you stories, and playing host to imagination and thought.
*It's also the title of a Dresden Dolls song.
Offer a favorite sentence from another writer.
This one really got me the other day, from Anaïs Nin
“I suffer from a hunger for the marvelous.”
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
Well, I feel like most of those things aren’t shameful, really… and there is little I love more than hanging out with some nerd friends and singing "Nine to Five."
What is your favorite place?
Far: London. The V&A, old brick, cozy worn wood, sweaters, geraniums in window gardens, dark corners, grey streets, ubiquitous tea, old Penguin paperbacks…
Near: My garden. Roses, ferns, foxgloves, moss, dahlias, wild untamed things, and as many kinds of poppies as I can grow.
Top Five Books of All Time
There are all deeply personal choices, not the most formally brilliant novels, nor the most significant books I read in English class at school. They are not the Best Books of All Time, they’re just the Best to Me. All of these, with the exception of Alice
(which feels it was always with me) are books that found me at just the right time, which we know is its own kind of magic.
by Katherine Dunn
I stumbled on it and read it insatiably in 24 hours the year I turned 23. I reread it nearly 10 years later and its cruel and beautiful grip was just as strong.
My Mother’s House and Sido
I have to include a Colette, and while my initial instinct was the first few Claudine novels, this pair of hazy, embroidered, subjective memoirs is, to me, her masterpiece.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
This was one of those books that prompted that particular kind of indignation that happens when you find something strangely late and it is so perfect for you — that Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me About This feeling. It prompted a year of reading an exhaustive list of everything of Shirley’s that was remotely available to me, and I am just so glad to have met her.
The Bloody Chamber
by Angela Carter
Like I said, it shot me like an arrow and I’ve never been the same.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
This is depressingly obvious, but must be included, because no single world has shaped me as profoundly as the strangeness and wonder of this dream of a book.
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Emily Winfield Martin
is a collector and lover of fairy tales, and the original Grimm’s tale of Snow White and Rose Red enchanted and haunted her all her life. She is a painter of real and imaginary things, and the author and illustrator of such books as Dream Animals
and The Wonderful Things You Will Be
. Emily lives among the giant trees of Portland, Oregon, and if you need her, you might look in the heart of the woods. Visit her online at emilywinfieldmartin.com. Snow and Rose
and The Littlest Family's Big Day
are her most recent books.