Emma Kennedy, English actress, writer and television presenter, was born 28th May 1967 in Corby, Northamptonshire. Emma attended Hitchin Girls’ School, and then went on to Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, where she met and worked in a comedy group called the Seven Raymonds with Richard Herring and Stewart Lee at the Oxford Revue. Despite these early years of performance, after she graduated, Emma trained as a solicitor, which she practised until 1995.
After realising that she was “bored stiff” and “not cut out to be a lawyer”, Emma went back into performance, becoming a script editor and writer for Mel Giedroyc’s double act with Sue Perkins. Since then, Emma has appeared in several TV comedies, including Goodness Gracious Me, This Morning with Richard Not Judy, Jonathan Creek, People Like Us, and The Smoking Room, as well as writing for radio and the theatre. She has also been involved in presenting The Real Holiday Show on Channel 4 (2000). In terms of her books, Emma’s first book, How To Bring Up Your Parents, was released in August 2007. Since then she has had 6 more books published, the most recent being the latest in her children’s Wilma Tenderfoot series- Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Rascal’s Revenge, published this year (2011).
Thank you for letting us interview you today. Your Wilma series is really popular, so it’s great for parents (and your child-fans!) to be able to learn a little bit more about you.
Q: Wow Emma! Our short biography barely even touches what you’ve been involved in and achieved since leaving Oxford University. How often do you have time out of your hectic schedule? And what do you do to relax?
– Spare time is a luxury at the moment. I’m writing my 8th book – another children’s book about a brother and sister called Spike and Scarlet Peanut, I’m adapting I left My Tent in San Francisco for the BBC, I’m working on Strange Hill High, a new animated series for CBBC and I’m travelling the country for my Travel Column in the Guardian. When I do get a spare moment, I like walking my dog, watching films and playing Angry Birds.
Q: In your own biography on your website (visit Emma’s site here), it doesn’t seem as though you meant to get into acting. In fact during a performance of Twelfth Night at school, you admit you “were terrible” and ended up disrupting the performance by getting your ‘drum’ (a cake tin) “caught against a large old radiator”. What did you want to be when you were younger? And are you surprised when you look back over the journey of your career?
– I genuinely didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I was a Jack of All Trades and master of none. Looking back, I don’t think that’s a bad thing as it means I’ve had lots of different life experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have had if I’d been set on one path from an early age. Part of the fun of growing older is working out precisely what you want to do. It never fails to amuse me that I was a proper lawyer. I think that’s hilarious.
Q: Obviously you’ve written the Wilma Tenderfoot series, but you’ve also written 3 adult books. How different do you find it writing for children or adults?
– I prefer writing for children because I find fiction more fun to write. Also, you can let your imagination run riot, which you can’t when writing non-fiction for adults. Also, because the Wilma books had returning characters, I developed a deep fondness for them. I cried when I finished Rascal’s Revenge! Simply because I wouldn’t be having any more adventures with those characters. Well. I might. We’ll have to see.
Q: What has been the funniest/most alarming/most bizarre response you’ve ever had about your work?
– I was once in a show called World of Beige that we were performing at the Edinburgh Festival and at the end, we had to go off and then come back on holding picture frames round our heads for the bow. We all ran off, then as we came back on again, the audience were already half way out the door. One man saw us and groaned “Oh shit. They’re back.” He got the biggest laugh of the night- we were terrible!
Q: What is your biggest weakness?
Q: Do you carry little Wilma around with you in your mind? How often do her stories unravel or pop-up in day-to-day life?
– I did when I was writing about her. Whenever I went on walks I would think about how the story should progress or what might happen to her. I had a very long dark night of the soul over that death in Rascal’s Revenge. But it was the right thing to do, and also serves as an important lesson for children. I hated doing it though.
Q: If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
– Beagles weren’t experimented on.
I could sing brilliantly.
I could have another set of hands (and a spare brain).
Q: Is there going to be another instalment of Wilma’s story? What can we expect? And when can we expect it?!
– Nope. Rascal’s Revenge completes the story arc. We might revisit Cooper island somewhere down the line but I’m working on what I hope will be a new series. So that might have me tied up for a bit.
Q: What would your advice be for any aspiring thespians and writers?
– Get out there and get on with it. And persevere. If you’re good, you’ll be discovered. Talent will always out.
Q: Last but not least, our favourite question- here at World of Books we are dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?