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Write On! Interviews: Author Mirabel Lavelle

Write On! interviews author Mirabel Lavelle

Mirabel is a grandmother, a teacher and a writer who grew up in Malta, surrounded by the folklore and fables of the Island. From a young age, she enjoyed creating her own stories to entertain younger siblings and friends.

When she was 18 she realised that her writing was captivating enough that it could be published when, unbeknown to her, her university professor showcased one of her stories in the Maltese Sunday Supplement. It felt great!

These days, Mirabel’s writing comes from experiences that have impacted the lives of loved ones.

“Writing is my medium for putting across that which my heart is bursting to scream about, such as, how it feels to be the grandparent of two boys who carry Epi-Pens.”

The recent completion of her first children’s picture book, Zeb, Jet And The Ice-Cream Calamity, has been her best achievement this year. This was topped off with The Writers’ & Artists’ publication of her article about her self publication journey. These achievements followed her invitation by Pen to Print to be on the panel at The Hay Festival to speak about her writing experiences for Write On! and Write On! Extra, in May last year.

Before embarking on her author journey, Mirabel taught English for Academic Purposes at University, where she spent two years working with Refugee Academics as an Equality and Diversity Support Officer. This saw her shortlisted for some prestigious national awards. Additionally, in 2008, she was part of the team commissioned by LSBU (London South Bank University) on behalf of CARA (the Council for At-Risk Academics) to write a manual of good practice for participating UK Universities to consult.

WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?

ML: I write because when I’m faced with an impactful situation, such as a traumatic experience, I feel an overwhelming need to turn it on its head and create something positive out of it. Hence my picture book: Zeb, Jet And the Ice-Cream Calamity. After witnessing a six-month-old healthy baby experience anaphylaxis, I had to try to tell the world that it can be mostly avoided by people being better informed.

I’m also halfway through a novel which starts on the cusp of WW2 in Malta. Both my grandmothers told me accounts of the hardships they went through, especially heartbreaking tragedy. Since then, my research has uncovered data which supports this. These tragedies affected more than half of Maltese families and I’m weaving these threads into the novel.

My writing is multilayered. I want the Maltese voice to shine through, to share with readers the essence of being Maltese: our sense of humour, our way of doing things and how we overcome and survive as a tiny nation. I’m blending my heartbreaking findings with the warm charm, craziness and culture of my people.

My mum, who is now in a home, enjoys doing bits of social research for me by speaking to residents who are in their 90s or early 100s. I want to explore the snippets of whispers about buried secrets. What degree of truth do they hold?

My writing, whether for children or adults, tackles hard-hitting subjects. It’s frank and undisguised, but balanced with elements that entertain and amuse the reader, while still being thought-provoking.

WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Zeb, Jet And the Ice-Cream Calamity?

ML: My book is an adventure story of an unlikely friendship between a fox cub and puppy dog, who go on to raise allergy safety awareness. Due to the subject matter, i.e. an allergic reaction, I decided to feature small animals children can relate to, without directly having children (as characters) in the story.

The picture book is mainly aimed at five-seven-year-olds. In short, Zeb, the adventurous fox cub, wants to find a friend to have fun with. So does Jet, the playful puppy. But Jet has a milk allergy. He must keep away from anything with milk in it. Unfortunately, the first time Zeb sees Jet, he startles him and things don’t go well. Later in the story, Zeb learns about Jet’s allergy and how to be allergy-safe aware.

It’s exquisitely illustrated by local, fine art graduate, Amelia Clark-Sutton. The setting captures the landmarks of the north eastern (ex-mining) coastal village of Whitburn.

I decided to include a catchy song to give the all-important message on how to help allergic friends stay safer around social activities involving food. Always the teacher, I couldn’t resist adding a section with exercises to encourage and help readers to find out more about allergy. After all, allergic disease is the fastest growing disease among children in this country.

WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?

ML: As a child, the magic within the stories I read inspired me to make up my own, to share. My compositions at school were very good, unlike my handwriting, for which I was routinely shamed and punished. I loved storytelling so much that I kept writing.

Nowadays, people overcoming adversity, especially children, have left an enormous impact on me. They inspire me to keep going; their courage against all sorts of cruel odds moving me to put pen to paper.

Before I write, I often walk along the coastal landscape of the north east, where I’m based. The crisp sea air, the greenery (which we never had growing up in Malta) and the majestic horses I pass along the way, help me get my thoughts in order.

WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the themes ‘Overcoming’. With that in mind, how has this theme had a direct impact on your inspiration? Are there any particular art or creative works based on this topic that spark ideas for you whenever you experience them?

ML: This is always present in some form in my writing, whether for children or adults. We need to be able to overcome and to change, so we can move forward, grow and shine.

In Zeb, Jet And The Ice-Cream Calamity, we see Jet overcoming an allergic reaction and changing as a result. He becomes confident and spreads the allergy safety message. We also see Zeb overcome his fear of humans, and saving Jet’s life. He learns about allergies and becomes an allergy safety awareness campaigner where he lives.

My Maltese-set novel is about the story of a woman growing up in Malta. The traumas of her mother and women around her leave her wanting to seek change. Her journey takes her to London as an immigrant worker, but the more profound journey happens inside her.

Rather than one artistic object, there’s a place ‘Up North’ which is an incredible work of art. Beamish Museum is a living composition, covering life from the 1820s to the 1950s. It contains a 1900s pit village and some of the earliest steam trains. I never tire of visiting, admiring the hand-made costumes, feats of British engineering and scrumptious old-fashioned sweets. This place helps me imagine what life was like in the village of Whitburn, where my picture book is set, because Whitburn was a mining village for decades.

WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

ML: Go with your gut, for sure! Look for a writing group where you feel supported. I encourage you to keep searching and writing and sharing your work. Like any athlete, flex your writing muscle often, find your voice, strengthen it, and use it confidently. Your voice is unique and precious; nurture it, because it matters.

Never stop reading. Presently, I enjoy reading children’s books as often as possible to my four grandchildren. I read every day, all kinds of genres and authors; it is my business, after all!

Finally, and very importantly, find ways to rest your brain when you’re in the thick of it. Be kind to yourself, take care of your mental health and of your body. As someone who suffers from anxiety and  who’s experienced numerous surgeries, I know what I’m talking about! You’ve got this, keep going and please seek help if/when you need to.

WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?

ML: My present project is preparing to go into schools. I’ve been putting together allergy safety workshops, which include an interactive presentation based on my picture book. This contains a different range of creative tasks to encourage children to find out more about all things allergy-related.

I have a wonderful song to accompany the sessions, as well as hand puppets of Jet and Zeb to use at various children’s centres. Working with kids is wonderful and energising. It keeps me smiling!

I look forward to submitting more articles, poems and short stories to Write On! and Write On! Extra.

WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?

ML: I love horses and I love fairy tales. I’d have a winged horse. Imagine what adventures we’d have. It would have to be technologically savvy as well. A modern-day Pegasus!

Zeb, Jet And The Ice-Cream Calamity is available to buy from Amazon or by following the links on Mirabel’s website.

You can find out more about Mirabel on her website:, on Instagram: @writebymirabel, on LinkedIn:, on Facebook:, Facebook page: Write By Mirabel and on X: @Mirabel20287342



You can read issue 20 online here and find it in libraries and other outlets. Read previous editions of our magazines here.

You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on


If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

Like any athlete, flex your writing muscle often, find your voice, strengthen it, and use it confidently.