Below is the second part of Meredith's thoughtful, generous interview with us. Here she discusses her own connection to Ella, the impact of the diary format, and much more. Keep checking back for the third and final part of the interview, coming soon! You can find part one here and part three here.
Are there any autobiographical qualities found in the Ella Diaries? We’ve all had a Peach Parker in our lives (and have possibly been a Peach Parker at some point, too!). And I’m guessing your own love of poetry as a child inspired in part Ella’s love for it as well?
Meredith Costain: Oh definitely! Ella is interested in lots of things I was as a child: music, singing, dancing, writing poetry and songs. But she’s much more confident and quirky than I ever was – and much better at dealing with problems (particularly Peach). I think that’s one of the great things about being a writer: you can finally do the things and solve the problems you mightn’t have had the ability or confidence to do in your own life. You get the chance to live vicariously through your character! :)
By including Ella’s ‘heartfelt’ poems and ditties, I was hoping to encourage readers to write their own poetry and discover the joy of language, rhythm and rhyme. I’ve tried to include lots of different styles and forms: haiku, list poems, concrete (shape) poems as well as simple doggerel (and ‘caterel’!). I found that writing poetry was a great way to express my own ‘inner-most feelings’ when I was in ‘desperating despair’ or having friend problems.
I’ve also tried to sneak some poetic devices into the text: Ella can be ‘fizzing’ with excitement or about to ‘erupt’ with anger. These descriptions are always accompanied by doodles (glasses of fizzy lemonade or erupting volcanoes) to illustrate their point. And there is a lot of alliteration. :)
Did you always imagine these stories being told in a diary format? What opportunities does this format offer you as a writer, and Ella as a character?
MC: The diary format allows you to be reflective about events — it’s a great way to express your character’s feelings and emotions. This helps to make your character more relatable, as it (hopefully!) allows readers to identify with their problems and issues.
The illustrations are a natural extension of this, expanding Ella’s thoughts on a particular worry or moment of joy. I’m not an illustrator myself, so I was extremely lucky to have been paired with the wonderful Danielle McDonald, who was able to add an extra layer to the text.
A drawback of the diary format is that there isn’t much opportunity for dialogue. To get around this I introduced mini scripts — complete with stage directions and reading notes — to report important conversations. I also created lots of tables, lists, footnotes, and graphs for various situations, to break up the standard ‘recount’ entries. These allowed me to be playful with language and ideas and were a lot of fun to write.