Lari’s Writing blog

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…)

6 Responses to “The Next Big Thing!”

  1.  Roy Gill Says:

    Great stuff, Lari! Loved reading your answers.

    Attaching specific images to particular characters is always tricky, I guess because readers – and writers – have such individual perceptions of the novels we engage with and create. I’m not sure the images I see portrayed visually have ever overwritten my own internal image – maybe I’m just stubborn like that?

    It probably helped when it came to my blog post that one of the actors I nominated – Phyllida Law as Grandma Ives – swam into mind during the writing process. That doesn’t usually happen for me – but I know some authors like to “cast” their books as a sort of aide-mémoire!

    Looking forward to following up on your recommendations. Oddly enough, I just bought Helen Grant’s “The Glass Demon” the other week!

  2.  Lari Don Says:

    I’ve never “cast” anyone as characters in my novels, just like I’ve never used anyone I know as a template. It’s like the major characters turn up in my head fully formed, as unique individuals, and I’d be loath to lose that to a list of actors who just happened to have almost the right look. Not that I’m saying no to any (non-existent)major film deals, obviously… just that I don’t want to do it as a parlour game! Thought provoking question though!

  3.  Emma Pass Says:

    Great answers, Lori! I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds it hard to imagine actors as their characters. My characters are so completely themselves, I can’t picture them as anyone else! And I think your title is wonderful. :)

  4.  Lari Don Says:

    My title is about a million words longer and more tongue twistery than your very sharp title, Emma! And I’m also glad to find another author who doesn’t want to define their books in terms of films!

  5.  Joan Lennon Says:

    Thanks for tagging me, Lari – and as you saw, I pretty much weaselled out of the film-casting question! I think I often see scenes cinematically as I’m going along but without casting my characters as somebody else – blimey, I have enough trouble with book illustrations!

  6.  Lari Don Says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed being The Next Big Thing, and I agree about a writer’s right to weasel out of awkward questions like that. I see scenes as I write too, but weirdly, often from INSIDE the character’s head, so I see what’s going on round them, but I don’t see them, if that makes sense. And I didn’t want to attach faces to my characters that I would regret later! (In fact, as you see – I can’t even attach a face to comments on my own blog…)

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Lari Don - Children's Author
I’m children’s writer, and I write this blog mainly for children – readers, young writers, school classes, book groups etc, who want to understand how a writer writes. Everyone else welcome too though! And please do comment if you have any questions, or want me to blog about anything specific.