Archive for October, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

There’s a set of questions doing the rounds of authors’ blogs at the moment – the idea being that one author asks five other authors (authors whose work they like, and who they think might be The Next Big Thing) to answer the same questions the next week.
I was delighted to be asked by Roy Gill last week (here are his answers, about his fabby new book The Daemon Parallel) and you can find the authors I’m passing the torch onto at the bottom of the blog.
Here are the questions:
What is the title of your next book?
It’s called Maze Running. Its full name is Maze Running And Other Magical Missions, because it’s part of a series which began with First Aid For Fairies And Other Fabled Beasts, so each subsequent book has a long and unwieldy title. But the book answers to Maze Running when you’re shouting it in for its tea!
• Where did the idea come from for the book?
It grew out of a quest I nearly wrote for Wolf Notes, the second book in the series, but which didn’t quite fit with that story. It was about Helen (my human heroine) and Lee (an untrustworthy faery warrior) going on a quest to find a token with magical healing properties. Then I thought – why not END the series with this quest, because the books are about a vet’s daughter who uses scientific and veterinary healing techniques to heal magical creatures. So I wondered – what if one of Helen’s friends is magically injured, so her rational human first aid won’t work, and they need to find magic to heal magic? Then the single quest turned into three simultaneous quests, as all of Helen’s friends desperately quest for the one object which will save their friend, but which might also – just to add to the tension – help the usual lurking baddie to take over the world. So a quest which wasn’t right for one book, ended up inspiring an entirely new book.
• What genre does your book fit into?
Scottish fantasy adventure, for 8 – 12 yr olds (if that’s a genre!)
• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is the question which worried me most when I agreed to do this blog post!
I’ve always loved the covers of these books, because the silhouettes of the centaur, the selkie, the faery etc, leave the readers lots of space to imagine the characters, to create their own unique film running in their head as they read. But if I picked a few actors’ names out of the air, and attached them to these characters, suddenly readers would see those famous faces imposed on the characters in their heads. And I think that would alter the relationship between the reader and the story. So, I’m not committing myself to this one!
• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Searching Scotland for the magic to save your friend, and the courage to stop those who would use your quest to control the world, all by sunset on the Spring Equinox.
• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by the wonderful Fraser Ross Associates and these novels are published by the equally wonderful Floris Books.
• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Just over six months, which is half as long as most of the novels in the series, because the story was so clear in my head when I started, and also because I really know the characters well by now.
• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I wouldn’t dare compare anything I write to the books I love the most … but I know what I’m aiming for. I love the mix of myth and modern in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus books, and as a child I loved the Chrestomanci books by Diana Wynne Jones, which are amazing at creating worlds which are almost, but not quite, like our own.
• Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The readers who loved the other books in First Aid for Fairies series. And who – it turns out – are quite upset that Maze Running is the final book in the series. Sorry!
• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The real Scottish locations. I’ve used real places which have legends and magic attached to them, like the Eildon hills, the Sutors of Cromarty and the king-making hillfort of Dunadd. But if mythical geography isn’t your thing there are also some kickass baddies in Maze Running: minotaurs, dragons, uruisks and some very creepy women in red.

Here (in no particular order) are five other writers and illustrators I’d like to introduce you to, who are going to answer the same questions NEXT week, so please check back and see what they say about The Next Big Thing:

Lynne Rickards, who writes very funny and touching picture books, mostly about penguins and puffins! (She’s also a great artist herself, so her blog is always beautiful.)

Cate James, who is a wonderful illustrator of picture books, and also has the great responsibility of being the illustrator of my first collection of myths and legends (all my favourite Scottish stories) which comes out next year.

Joan Lennon, who writes the clever Slightly Jones Mysteries, and who kindly let me sit in on one of her school visits when I was an ‘about to be published author’ almost 5 years ago.

Helen Grant, who writes extremely spooky, action-packed teenage novels set mostly in Germany, which have a very fairy tale feel. But not the fluffy pink fairy tales, the deep dark forest Grimm fairy tales (which I much prefer.)

Caroline Dunford, who is a prolific writer of non-fiction, crime novels and plays, and still manages to be a huge support and source of advice for other writers too. She also has the most incredibly cool Twitter name: @verdandiweaves

And of course, if you want to read other writers’ answers NOW, you could go back to Roy’s blog, read his fascinating answers about his excellent book the Daemon Parallel and also investigate what the four other writers he tagged last week, are putting up this week. (I hope we all give different answers…)

Archive for October, 2012

Unexpected Bears

I visited Traquair Maze again last week, filming an interview about Maze Running. I’ve been to the maze several times now, the first couple of times to research the novel, then another couple of times for press and publicity things (research is far more fun!) But this time, something had changed.
We came round the corner of the lovely old house, lugging cameras and tripods and copies of the book, and we walked into a
A bear. Just standing there. Ignoring us.
It took a minute to realise that it was a statue of a bear. There were two of them: one bear near the corner of the maze by the house, the other bear near the entrance of the maze. And they were obviously permanent residents – there was even a sign saying ‘do not lean on the bears.’ It’s probably ok to feed them, or tell them stories, though!
They were lovely bears. But they annoyed me, because they weren’t there when I researched the book! So when I described Helen running round the maze, or Sapphire landing between the house and the maze, I didn’t mention any bears. And now someone reading the book who knows the maze, or someone who visits the maze after reading the book, might say: ‘How came Helen never saw those big bears?’ or ‘Why didn’t that writer research the maze properly before she wrote this book?’
I did research it! And if the bears had been there when I first visited, Helen would undoubtedly have used them in some clever way to defeat the Master.
But the bears weren’t there last year. So they didn’t make it into the book, and now the book is already out of date, even though it was only published a couple of months ago.
Does it matter? Is it just one of the risks of using real life places, that they don’t stay the same? It’s happened to me before though…
When I first visited Dunvegan Castle to case the joint for the break-in during Wolf Notes, there was a ‘prisoner moaning’ sound effect in the dungeons which sounded like a monster howling, so I put that in my book. When I went back to do an event about Wolf Notes, they had changed their sound track and the moan wasn’t there any more. (So I read a different bit that day!)
These changes in a location can make me feel like the world is moving my goalposts without telling me. And every time it happens, I think, ‘oh no, I should never revisit locations!’
I never regret using real locations, though, because I want the fabled beasts to have their adventures in the same Scotland we live in!
But sometimes these new discoveries at locations can enhance the book, in a way which is almost magical.
I researched Smoo Cave for Storm Singing in the winter, so there were no boat tours to the inner caves (that didn’t affect my research, because all the action happened in the outer cave and the first cave, which you can see from the viewing platform.)
I went back the next summer, to read the quest in the cave to a group of kids in the cave, and I went on the boat trip too. When the tour guide dropped bread in the water of the dark cave, where I had imagined a giant eel snapping at Helen’s feet, suddenly the water was alive with fish, snapping at the bread. That was a spooky and shocking realisation that what I had imagined – predators under the water – wasn’t very far from the truth!
Locations change, of course they do. That’s bound to happen if I use real life places. Sometime they change in a way which makes my research a wee bit out of date, and sometimes they change in ways which make the adventures seem even more true!
And I didn’t really get too annoyed about unexpected bears. Especially when they were happy for me to read Maze Running to them…

Reading Maze Running to a Bear

Unexpected bear, at Traquair