How Author Joanne Is Weaving Tales from Europe with Homespun Welsh Charm. TheBIGInterview Creating a World for Children's Fiction Has Given Author Joanne Owen an Insight into the Gothic History of Eastern Europe. She Tells Kirstie McCrum Why Prague Is Her Dream Home. after Wales, of Course
* oaming the Bohemian streets of Prague, cobbles imbued with mysterious myths and people living in the shadows of sinister folk tales, is somewhere that writer Joanne Owen really heard her muse.
But the 36-year-old, pictured right, who has written two novels for young readers set in the Eastern European city, admits that there is something of the 'chicken and the egg' about her situation.
An interest in the capital of the Czech Republic drew her to visit the city, but as soon as she set foot there for the first time, she felt immediately at home - just like she feels in her native Wales.
Born and raised in Pembrokeshire, Joanne admits that her education was given to storytelling and history, two concerns which haven't left her in adulthood.
But in spite of the all-encompassing love of the splendour and atmosphere of the city of Prague, her most recent book has seen her return to the country of her birth, offering children a guide to the attractions she loved as a youngster.
Growing up in Neyland, Joanne, along with her parents, younger brother James and sister Katie, spent holidays enjoying the beauty of the Welsh surroundings.
"As a child, we didn't live immediately close to a beach, but we'd spend weekends going to any one of the hundreds of beaches around there and they still mean a lot to me.
"We used to go to Broadhaven beach a lot and Newgale as well as seaside towns like Tenby.
"I used to really love going to Pembroke Castle too.
"That's one of those places that I love to visit now as it's like revisiting your childhood.
"There are places that fire your imagination as a child, especially the castles, because I've always been really interested in history, and being surrounded by that in Pembrokeshire definitely stayed with me, and probably influenced some of what I've been doing."
Always a keen reader, Joanne tells of a childhood wrapped up in books.
"Every week when I was a child I'd go to the library and get the maximum number of books that you were allowed out and swap them every Saturday.
"I just loved reading and writing from a young age.
"At school I loved English, and languages as well as history, so all the humanities basically, but not so much science and maths.
"When I first started reading, it was fairytale collections that stayed with me, traditional Brothers Grimm fairytales.
"After that, like most kids, I really got into Enid Blyton, because there are so many of them you keep going back for more."
Her selected A-Level subjects - German, English and religious studies - also spoke to her interest in stories and all things European.
At 18 she finally left Wales to attend St John's College, Cambridge.
Of that time she says: "It was strange to go to Cambridge because I had hardly spent any time away from home and it was just so different moving from a rural part of Wales.
"If I'd gone to London, obviously it would have been a bigger immediate shock because Cambridge is still fairly small.
"But it was hard leaving home, and my family for the first time."
It was when at university, reading social and political sciences with archaeology and anthropology, that her love of history and a good story really started to come out.
"It would have been more obvious if I'd done English but I was trying to find something different.
"I wasn't really taught anthropology in school, but I loved the idea of it because it covered so many different academic areas and throws in history, social sciences, sometimes languages.
"But it wasn't the most obvious thing to do and it didn't necessarily lead to the most obvious career," she laughs.
In 1996, Joanne considered remaining at Cambridge to do her Masters, but lack of funding forced her to leave academia and instead she made her way to London. …