Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's All Thanks To Those Dinosaurs…

This might sound strange, but if it wasn’t for films – or should I say, one film in particular – I might never have realised I wanted to be a writer at-all.

When I was a kid, and people asked me what I was going to do when I was older, I’d immediately tell them I wanted to be a musician. Although I enjoyed writing, it was something I did for fun: the odd poem here and there; perhaps a few more pages than everyone else when we were asked to write a story for school. My life was taken up with piano lessons and junior orchestra (I also played the oboe), practise every day after school, concerts, and exams.

Then, during a summer holiday when I was thirteen years old, a film was released that was hailed as revolutionary for its special effects. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. In fact, it is still, as I write this, in the top twenty highest-grossing films of all time.

It was Stephen Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK.


The film's about a theme park on a tropical island populated by real live dinosaurs, cloned from fossil DNA, which get loose after an act of sabotage and terrorise a group of visitors invited to the island by the park’s rich, eccentric owner. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about it; about this abandoned island off the coast of Central America which was still overrun by dinosaurs, and what it might look like in ten or twenty years time. I decided to write a story about it. And a few days later, with notebook pages filling rapidly, realisation hit. I was going to be a writer.

In that instant, everything I thought I knew about where my life was going to go took a new direction. I knew, in a way I’d never known before, what I was going to be. And it was all thanks to those dinosaurs.

These days, I’m still inspired by films. I love anything with a great story – the genre doesn’t matter. My stories always run through my head like movies as I’m writing them, so the more I watch, the better I’m able to ‘see’ the scenes I’m trying to construct and how they should play out. And although I don’t watch a lot of TV, I absolutely love Shane Meadows’s THIS IS ENGLAND 86. It’s so heartbreaking. So real.

I guess if had to pick favourites, though, it would be the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. I’m obsessed with their work, especially LAPUTA, CASTLE IN THE SKY and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. The imaginative scope of these films is simply breathtaking. I reckon if you’re a writer, and Miyazaki makes a film of one of your books, you’ve really made it!

Emma Pass grew up at an environmental studies centre near London, went to art school in Cornwall and now lives in the north-east midlands with her artist husband, where she has a day job at her local library. She's also minion to The Hound, a retired racing greyhound with whom she appears to have signed a contract in her own blood agreeing to attend to his every need – even if those needs include getting up at 3am to remake his bed because he's scratched it up so much he can't get back in it. 

Emma is represented by Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books and her YA dystopian thriller ACID is out from Random House Children's Books in early 2013. You can find her blog here, and catch her procrastinating on Twitter here.


  1. I, too, love films and I'm inspired by them (good ones, natch) just as much as I'm inspired by good books. It is, of course, because I love a great story, no matter what form it takes. As for Studio Ghibli? I haven't seen a lot of their films, but Spirited Away is a brilliant, trippy, freak-out. I love it.

  2. I will never forget that I saw Jurassic Park when it first came out at the drive-in. My friend and I were huddled together in the front seat of my 1978 Buick LeSabre, screaming our heads off. When my husband recently bought the new blu-ray of Jurassic Park, we watched the scene where they see the dinosaurs for the first time. It's still so incredibly effective all these years (and leap-years in technology) later. I love that it inspired you so strongly!

  3. Emma, I feel the same way about Jurassic Park! There is something about that book/movie that is so gripping. I always use it as my example of a great story hook when talking to new writers. A bunch of Michael Crichton's books are equally gripping and his fake science is so convincing! He actually made me believe time travel was possible in TIMELINE.

  4. Hi Emma, lovely to hear about how Jurassic Park turned things around for you. It wasn't a film that I watched at the time. With the exception of 'Close Encounters' I'm not really a sci-fi film person. I love fantasy stuff though, 'Lord of the Rings', 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', 'Spiderwick' etc, and these definitely have an influence on me. But, like you, I also like 'real' stuff. Films like 'Quadrophenia' and 'Brassed Off' have exactly the quality that I would like to bring across in an adult novel... one day!