The GAA holds a special place in my heart…

This week Emma Larkin, author of a new sports adventure book Twin Power – Throw In!, tells us all about the importance of GAA in her life, the inspiration for her new book and her writing process!

Could you describe Twin Power – Throw In! in five words?

Football, friendship, fun, community, teamwork.

What inspired you to write Twin Power?

I was inspired to write Twin Power as I wanted to give children a book about things that they know and love, which in this case are Gaelic football and friendship. I also wanted to show in the book the dynamic of a group of friends that consisted of boys and girls and how they interact and play football together, as equals.

Your ‘Izzy’s Magical Adventures in Sport’ series is GAA focused as well. What draws you to write about GAA?

The GAA holds a special place in my heart. When I moved to Kerry, from Cork, in my late twenties, with my husband and our young son, the GAA was the place where I first made friends and got to know people in my adopted home. The irony was that we moved to where my husband is from in North Kerry, but I ended up getting to know more people than he knew! I took our son to training in our local GAA club, St Senans, where I got to know some parents. This led to me going to the mother and toddler group in St Senans clubhouse after our next son was born, which led to me joining the ‘Mothers and Others’ football group in Finuge/St. Senans ladies football club, which led to making more friends and which also got me involved in coaching football; you’re getting the gist now, I’m sure!

I think the GAA creates a fantastic community spirit, which is vitally important to so many people. There are also some really interesting characters there. I absolutely did not base any of the characters in Twin Power on people I have met in real life, though! I was definitely inspired to write about the GAA community by the fantastic people I have met there and, especially, the amazing children in the club, where I am involved in coaching.

Who was your favourite character to write in Twin Power

That is a hard question, but I think it was Aoife. It’s between Aoife and Aidan, but I have a real fondness for Billy too. I think Aoife had the hardest challenge in Twin Power– Throw In!, so that is why I am saying Aoife. But at the same time, she was hugely supported in the story by Aidan and, to a lesser extent, Billy, so I am very fond of them also.

Leading on from that, who was your least favourite character to write? 

Ooh, an even tougher question! I think I would feel like I was betraying them if I picked a character that I didn’t like to write!! I quite enjoyed writing Annie, even if she is a bit of a stereotypical ‘baddie’. Nothing is completely black and white in Twin Power, there are shades of grey in all the characters, I didn’t want anyone to be totally ‘bad’ in it.

What is your writing process like? Do you write 9-5, evenings, weekends, or whenever inspiration strikes?

I am trying very hard to write for half an hour each day, but at the moment it’s not happening. When I have a deadline, I am quite organised and will make sure that I make the deadline with plenty of time to spare. When I was writing Twin Power, I was tipping away, doing half an hour here and there, but then I took nearly two weeks off work and really focused my attention to get it done. However, I wrote Twin Power during lockdown, when I didn’t have to bring my children to loads of activities! So, I am finding it a bit more challenging to write now, with so much on. I am going away this weekend, on a yoga retreat, and I also intend to kick-start my writing and make a resolution to keep it up for a minimum of half an hour a day when I get back. I do half an hour of yoga each day, and I try to run three times a week, so I reckon I can definitely make myself focus to do half an hour of writing.

Was your writing experience of Twin Power different to your experience writing the ‘Izzy’s Magical Adventures in Sport’ series?

Yes, very different, as it was so much longer. The Izzy books are less than 2,000 words, with lots of fantastic illustrations by the wonderful Paul Nugent which really help to bring the story alive. Twin Power, on the other hand, was almost 30,000 words, with no illustrations, so the story was relying entirely on my words. Also, a lot more writing! There was also a lot more planning, which I loved as I am quite an organised person. Before writing Twin Power, I had to spend time writing out character summaries and chapter outlines. I really enjoyed this. But then, a cool thing happened when I started writing, which never happened with my Izzy books. When I was writing Twin Power, sometimes the storyline went in a way that I hadn’t anticipated, or the flow of what the characters were saying came out in a different but infinitely better way than what I had planned. That was what I found really amazing writing Twin Power, that things can just flow in the writing that you never ever planned. It has to be one of the most amazing parts of being a writer.

What is your favourite childhood book and why?

I think it would have to be the Famous Five series. I adored them; I really did. I love mysteries and adventure. To this day, I am drawn to thrillers and adventure books. Nothing too gory, but a good old-fashioned mystery.

What is your favourite thing about reading?

It’s an escape for the mind. It is something to look forward to at the end of a day. When I am reading a good book, I will be looking forward to bedtime so that I can read, or trying to squeeze it in during the day. The beauty of it is that there are so many good books, you will never run out!

What’s your favourite thing about writing?

Similar to my answer above, it’s escapism. I love creating a whole other world and set of characters in my mind. When I was younger, if I couldn’t sleep, I would make up stories in my head and, before I knew it, I would be asleep. Then I would pick up the story the next night! Truth be told, I still do this sometimes. Although it’s rare now that I can’t get to sleep, I am perpetually tired! The only difference is that, now, I jot down my ideas the next morning.

Emma Larkin, April 2022

Twin Power– Throw In! is out now and available from your local bookshop or here