South London Press Interview with Ella Risbridger
A Hither Green resident has drawn on her love of her favourite childhood story to write her debut book for children.
The Secret Detectives by Ella Risbridger is inspired by classic murder mysteries and is a prequel to the children’s classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Set on a ship, it features a somebody being thrown overboard in the middle of the night. But the captain insists that nobody is missing.
“I used the library [at the National Maritime Museum] to write the book and the staff were amazing to me. I became really obsessed with getting the timeline [right], so it fitted in with The Secret Garden. The times of the year, the sea, the shipping routes.
“I think [they] normally deal with genealogy requests about the war, so they were delighted to help with how to push a man off a ship and get away with the perfect murder!” she said.
Ella’s previous work includes Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For), which was published in 2019 to critical acclaim. It has been described as a cross between a recipe book and a self-help manual. She was also the editor of the poetry anthology Set Me On Fire: A Poem For Every Feeling.
So how different was it writing for children?
“I believe in writing for kids in the same way as for adults. The book happens to be for children because the protagonist is 11,” she said.
“When I write for kids I don’t want to patronise. I want to write big ideas for kids, like colonialism and racism. I remember being 10 and I hated being talked down to. I felt that adults didn’t understand me,” she said.
When Ella, 28, is not writing, she’s exploring London for inspiration for her next piece of work.
“My favourite thing to do is go on a bus and get off somewhere that looks interesting. That’s how we ended up where we live,” she said.
“Coming across unexpected nature is something I really love about South London. I have become obsessed about finding all the tributaries of the Ravensbourne River. The next big project is rooted in Lewisham,” she said.
The Secret Detectives by Ella Risbridger is published by Nosy Crow. Out now.
To celebrate the release, Crystal Palace’s online children’s bookshop, Rhymes For Little Minds, is offering 15% off this (or any other title) by using the code SLP15 at the checkout. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
Buy the book here.
Ella can be found here.
Nosy Crow can be found here.