Emily Kilgore has been surrounded by the magic of books all her life. As both a writer and elementary school teacher, she strives to create books that foster empathy, welcome imagination, and spark a natural curiosity. She has written for various education publications. Her previous children’s books are The Whatifs (Little Bee Books, 2020) and The IHeards (Little Bee Books, 2022). Her latest book, The Christmas Book Flood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) released earlier this month. When she's not writing or working, she enjoys traveling, running, and spending time with those she loves. Originally from Duluth, Minnesota, Emily now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and kitty. Visit Emily’s website to learn more about her and her work.
1. How do you know your idea will make a good book?
I know my idea will make a good book when I can’t stop thinking about it. For me, ideas come and go, but when it lingers, I know I have something to pay attention to!
2. Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, how do you get unstuck?
Oh yes, all the time! I actually feel like I’m in a bit of a rut right now, as I’ve been focusing on my newborn. To get unstuck, I have to consciously pay attention to kids. Since I work as an educator, this isn’t usually too hard – I just listen in on their conversations, think about what’s missing from their libraries, etc. Usually that helps the ideas start to flow!
3. To what extent is your writing inspired by your own experience, or by watching your children’s experiences?
My writing is strongly influenced by my own experiences! My debut, The Whatifs, is a perfect example of this: the book explores Cora’s endless what-if questions – many of which were questions I asked as a young child! I still battle anxiety, so I used my own experience to write the story. Similarly, The Christmas Book Flood is filled with all of my favorite wintry things, like “clouds of warm breath / tight hugs of hello / the soft crunch under boots / as they trudge through fresh snow.”
4. Where did you get the idea for your newest book? What was your inspiration?
The Christmas Book Flood was unique in that the idea came from someone else! My amazing literary agent, Adria Goetz, put out a call for someone to write about Jólabókaflóðið – the Icelandic tradition where people gift each other books on Christmas Eve and spend the night reading with loved ones while sipping hot chocolate. As soon as I saw her request, I immediately knew I wanted to tackle the project. I was living in Sweden at the time and found inspiration in the European holiday season. Then, I did a massive revision during the pandemic and focused much of the writing on things I missed, such as browsing bookstores and gathering with loved ones.
5. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?
I’ve been blown away by the positive responses The Christmas Book Flood has received! One that’s particularly memorable, though, is the starred review from Kirkus – what a dream come true! I don’t think I’ll ever forget that they called the book “marvelously enchanting.”
6. Who should read The Christmas Book Flood?
This book is for anyone who loves literature and spending time with those dear to them! It celebrates the magic of books while sprinkling in a bit of history and holiday cheer.