I started out working as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. I managed, somehow, to get commissioned to go travelling for a year, and came home with the beginnings of a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became Backpack, a thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and I have since written eleven more novels published in the UK and around the world. I live in Cornwall with my partner Craig and our children.
I was incredibly shy as a child. I was always observing at school, and only spoke up if I absolutely had to. I wish I could go back and tell my young self that no one would laugh at me if I spoke (probably).
My superpower is curing hiccups. I wish it was invisibility.
I listen to conversations everywhere I go and often write them down. Then I find the notes and it takes me ages to remember what on earth it’s all about.
I once had two ladies sitting behind me on a train, talking incessantly. I was hammering away at my laptop, writing the end of Flora Banks, and it all went quiet when, I realised, they were reading over my shoulder. Then one of them loudly whispered to the other: ‘I don’t think it’s going to be winning the Booker prize’.
I wake up early to write before anyone else in my house is up and wants my attention. If you’re awake before you want to be, you might as well be writing a book.
I love travelling. I would spend all my time and money on travelling if I could. One of Flora Banks’s rules for life is ‘don’t go to Svalbard in winter’. I wrote that in the book so many times that in the end I had to go. I now think you should go to the Arctic in winter: it’s wonderful.
My partner Craig writes children’s books. We often spend working days writing side by side, and we consult each other all the time, about everything.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been obsessed with the music of Leonard Cohen. He smiled at me in 2010, which was nice.
I’m currently writing my third YA book, which is set in India and is about a girl who has to leave her remote Utopian community when everyone catches a monkey plague.
If I can’t sleep (and I often can’t), I have discovered that nothing at all sends me to sleep apart from ‘Chill with Bob Ross’ on Netflix. It’s like a general anaesthetic to me, but in a good way. I can feel wide awake, watch a few seconds of Bob Ross, and the next thing I know it’s morning and the laptop’s still open on the bed.
Flora's resourcefulness is overcoming her disability, along with her determination to gain some measure of autonomy from overprotective parents, makes her a strong and appealing character. In her YA debut, Emily Barr does a TERRIFIC job portraying how disorienting life must be for someone who can't remember what she does for more than two or three hours at a time. Life is always a mystery, yet Flora persists.
Cumulatively, Flora wins us with her spirit and bravery—a bravery deepened by her intense, amnesia-induced naiveté and dogged commitment to her one memory. Barr's tale mingles Oliver Sacks-like scientific curiosity with Arctic adventure and YA novel in a way that's EQUALLY UNSETTLING, WINSOME, AND TERRIFYING.
A REMARKABLE odyssey of an atypical unreliable narrator... Barr has crafted an enthralling story reminiscent of the film Memento, placing readers in the position of Flora's memory. ...A deftly, compassionately written mystery.