Milton the Mighty Blog Tour – Author Interview with Emma Read

Emma Read

It is always exciting to be given the opportunity to interview an author for my blog, especially when the series that the author has written is one you advocate given the potential each book holds to help conquer one of the biggest fears young children have – Spiders. Author Emma Read has recently published the second title in her spidery series, and Milton the Megastar is utterly fantastic.

Told from the perspective of Milton the spider, this book sees him heading overseas for an adventure of a lifetime, and I got to have my very own right here on my blog talking with Emma about everything from her research for the book, the reasons behind her choice of eight legged hero, and so much more. This interview gave me goosebumps, made me smile, and inspired me – as I know it will do so for all you readers out there too!

1. How would you describe Milton The Megastar in just one sentence.

A tropical eco-adventure about family and courage, daring plans, a grumbling volcano … and spiders!

2. How important is it to promote spiders in a positive light via this series?

My mission to promote spiders as heroes is two-fold: Firstly, spiders are hugely important to our ecosystems – they are key pest-controllers and without them we’d be drowning in bugs. 

Secondly, and particularly relatable to me, is to help children (and adults!) overcome their fear. I spent most of my life almost paralysed by arachnophobia, and it’s not nice, and completely unnecessary. And reading my Milton books has already helped readers feel more brave, which is amazing!

3. What has been the most interesting fact you have learnt while researching insects for these books?

When floods threatened the Sindh region of Pakistan, spiders fled into the trees, where they spun their webs, catching an unprecedented number of mosquitos. According to New Scientist, people living nearby subsequently experienced a significant drop in the number of mosquitoes – reducing the risk of malaria, and possibly saving the lives of local residents.

Superhero spiders, indeed.

4. Do you have a favourite species of spider?

There are lots of exciting species of spider, cute spiders, secretive spiders, beautifully coloured spiders, but in fact my favourite is our humble, common, garden spider (Araneus diadematus). They are superheroes of the insect-catching world, their webs contain about 30m of silk (as long as a blue whale), which they recycle almost every day. The reason I love them is that they helped me overcome my fear of spiders – they are great for a nervous onlooker, as they sit very still for ages! 

5. Milton learns that friends are a great support network when he gets overwhelmed, what advice would you give him if he was here with us now.

Reach out on the web – pun most definitely intended! Now he’s an internet star he’s very careful not to put himself at risk when he goes online, but he does use it to videocall friends and family. Milton gets overwhelmed easily, but thanks to a new friend he knows to find quiet time for himself when he’s getting stressed. He also writes a journal where he can write whatever he likes, his feelings, things he misses or things he’d like to do in the future. His writing is terrible though – very spidery!

6. Do you have any plans to create a Non-fiction tie in to the series depicting all of the mentioned spider breeds?

This would be great! I can imagine the illustrations now, and perhaps a few footnotes and info boxes written by Milton and the gang. I’m planning on running a series of blogs on my website, all about spiders, why they’re amazing and overcoming arachnophobia – so look out for that. Perhaps they might one day find themselves gathered together in print.

7. What are you currently working on? 

I’m currently working on a couple of projects, which I can’t say too much about at the moment…Ok, I can’t say anything actually, other than there will be more books coming …! But even when I don’t have anything in the pipeline, I’m always writing, even if it’s just tinkering with old stories, or brainstorming new ideas.  

8. As we find ourselves in self isolation as a country and have more time to indulge in books, which have you had the chance to enjoy? 

To begin with I was struggling to concentrate on anything. Then I picked up a book which commanded my full attention, and it was just what I needed. The book was BLOOD MOON, by Lucy Cuthew (Walker Books). It’s not out until July, but I thoroughly recommend this hard-hitting, funny, heart-breaking book for older readers.

Once my reading mojo had returned there was no stopping me, and my favourites so far are:

Orphans of the Tide, by Struan Murray

The Middler, by Kirsty Applebaum

Crater Lake, by Jennifer Killick

I’m currently reading The Legend of Podkin One-ear, by Kieran Larwood with my children, Things in Jars, by Jess Kidd on Audible and The Summer of No Regrets, by Kate Mallinder on Kindle. And no, I can’t just read one book at a time!!

9. In the newest book in the series Milton The Megastar we see Milton heading on holiday with Zoe and having quite the adventure. Where would you like Milton to visit in the future? 

Milton is so curious and adventurous, and, I know he’d be terribly anxious about it, but I think he’d love to go to the International Space Station. To be the first spider in space would be a truly fitting journey for the teeniest superhero!

10. In all of your research for Milton The Megastar what was your favourite and why?

I loved researching Hawaii, the landscape, the food, the people – it’s such a beautiful and exciting place, with incredible diversity of species.

Of course I especially loved researching the happy-face spiders, cousins of our own false widow. Sadly, they are endangered due to habitat loss. The state of Hawaii has lost more species and has more endangered species than any other state in the U.S. Around 70% of this state’s native birds are extinct and the rest are listed as being in danger of becoming extinct.

I would like to extend my thanks to Emma Read for taking part in this Author Q&A with me, it has been such an honour to be able to put my questions to her and my thanks also to Chicken House Books for including me in this brilliant book tour. Do check out the stops before mine on the tour, details of which can be found on my blog banner.

Milton the Mighty and Milton the Megastar are published by Chicken House Books, both books are available to buy from all good booksellers priced at £6.99.

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