Creating Taking Wing: an interview with Clemency Crow

Clemency Crow is a teacher and children’s fantasy author whose debut novel, Taking Wing, just launched a couple weeks ago on July 12th, 2019. You can read a summary below:

Twelve-year-old Freya enjoys karate and is the only one in her class who’s trusted with a part-time job. But everything changes when she meets a boy with yellow eyes. She learns about the guardians, and how an age-old fight has prevented them from fulfilling their purpose. Freya finds new friends in the Crow tribe, but not everything in the castle is blissful. A destructive shadow lies within her and all she needs to do to release it is close her eyes. But as the guardians’ war rages on, Freya realises that, although the shadow’s power can be useful, it can’t create peace. To do that, Freya and her friends must solve the mysterious crime that began the war. Can they bring the guardians together before they destroy each other?

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What sparked the idea for Taking Wing?

CLEMENCY CROW: I love that my last name is Crow. It’s mysterious and funky, but I’ve always thought how unfair it was that crows got such a bad name in this country. The Native Americans revered crows for their intelligence and cunning. The Ancient Norse found the crow family fascinating. Odin even had two pet ravens that he was very fond of! But in this country, crows are an omen of death. Most people see a crow and they don’t see an intelligent being, but a bad beastie.

In the past, owls were also seen as a harbinger of doom. However, they are cute and cuddly so people nowadays like them. My new book, Taking Wing, redresses the balance in true British fashion: always favour the underdog.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Do you have any birds of your own? (If not, would you want to?)

CLEMENCY CROW: Sadly, I don’t have any pet birds but I would love to have one. I’ve never been that fussed about keeping parrots or budgies, but I am very taken with the idea of keeping a bird of prey. Perhaps even an owl! Just because they are the baddies in my story doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what wonderful creatures they are!

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Freya already has her first job at age twelve! What was your first job?

CLEMENCY CROW: Yes, Freya is an independent and grown up individual even at the age of twelve. My first job was at a Fish and Chip shop, much the same as Freya’s. I was an adult at the time but I worked with young kids. On a school night. It’s not exactly legal but that didn’t deter the shop owner!

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What sorts of things did you enjoy when you were Freya’s age?

CLEMENCY CROW: I wasn’t exactly a normal twelve-year0old. Truth be told, I enjoyed designing buildings. Yep, not normal at all.

This began in Year 6 when I couldn’t wait to get home from school because I had another house to design on my imaginary street.

Slightly more usual, I’ve always loved being outside and, when not designing houses, I would be found in the garden – probably in my den in the wood, or cycling around the lawns and flower beds, crashing into the firethorn and gaining scratches up my arm. You’ve not had a proper childhood without a few bruises and scratches from adventures!

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What was your favourite book back then? How about now?

CLEMENCY CROW: Absolutely definitely “The Moon of Gomrath” by Alan Garner. If you’ve not heard of it, look for it online, buy it and read it! It’s a brilliant adventure set on Alderley Edge with wizards, goblin-like critters and an evil witch. It’s fantastic.

However, I lost faith in Alan Garner when he published the grown-up sequel to this great book. It was like my childhood friends were taken from me.

Lari Don’s books then filled the gap. She writes stories about mythical creatures in Scotland and they are fab! I was lucky enough to have her visit my class in March this year, and I was so star-struck! I would recommend “First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts” by Lari Don.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Which got planned first for Taking Wing? The events of the past or the events of the present?

CLEMENCY CROW: The events of the present, but they both worked together. I knew the vague storyline of Freya meeting the tribes and being part of the adventure. I just didn’t know what that adventure would be, until I was flicking through the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles one day. This book is great for stories! It was written during Anglo-Saxon times and gives an account of what the monks perceived happened each year. It’s usually only a line or two per year but a couple of them really stand out.

The main baddy in the series (Raedwald) was a real king who, in 617 AD, did actually kill King Ethelfrith. This is exactly what happens in Chapter One. I just added the wings and feathers.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Interesting. It sounds like there’s a lot of the conflict is between the main characters, too.

CLEMENCY CROW: The main characters in Taking Wing have their own personal battles. Sometimes the battles are within themselves, sometimes with their friends. Either way, the main characters are developing throughout the entire book and their conflicts enable this.

However, Raedwald is the ‘bad guy’ in the book. His revenge and hatred have turned him into a bitter villain. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a reason to be like this. Readers may identify with him more than they think.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: How does your experience as a teacher influence your writing?

CLEMENCY CROW: I am very lucky to be a teacher. For one thing, I can keep up with the literature that kids are enjoying. Above all, however, I have the most fantastic beta readers a children’s author could wish for. I read Taking Wing to my class of P4s (without telling them I wrote it) and I got a lot of great feedback. One of my favourite memories of last year was when one boy (who at the start of the year did not enjoy reading) shouted out “this is really interesting!”

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Sounds like the type of experience all kid lit writers wish for! Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

CLEMENCY CROW: Taking Wing is the first book in a trilogy and I’d like to say that Book 2 is almost finished. In truth, however, I’ve only written 10 chapters!

Other projects include “Leo, the Railway Cat” which is a stand-alone middle grade novel which covers subjects such as mental illness. The book is planned immaculately, and I hope to start writing it when I go on holiday next week. It was planned when we were on holiday in Cumbria and I’m hoping returning there will help me get pen to paper!

Other than that, Crowvus is running their 3rd annual ghost story competition so I will be gathering in the entries and helping to judge the longlist of stories. It’s about the hardest thing I have to do.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Sounds like a lot of work. Good luck with everything, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us!

Readers, you can find and contact Clemency Crow on her website here

Direct links to Taking Wing: