We welcome Des Dearlove (aka DD Everest), debut author of 'Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret' to Space on the Bookshelf.
We talked to him about how the magic of fantasy books that he started to love as a child has led to him creating a world where books are very, very magical indeed . . .
What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
The Hobbit! I must have been about nine when I first read it and I just loved it! I can still remember the sense of adventure it inspired in me. There’s something very special about the world that Tolkien created and the idea that small people like hobbits can have very big adventures. When I opened that book, I was Bilbo Baggins leaving home without even a pocket-handkerchief!
Other books I enjoyed were the Norse and Greek myths, which had a big influence on me, and stories about boarding schools, especially as I didn’t go to one. I devoured the Billy Bunter books.
What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?
The Lord of the Rings -- it’s the Hobbit for grown ups! It is such an epic story and so perfectly constructed.
Treasure Island is another book that I have grown to love as an adult. My dad read it to me when I was young, and as I get older it has a very special place on my bookshelf because he read it to me. I can still see him sitting at the end of my bed! That’s the power of reading to children – they never forget.
Some of the more contemporary children’s fantasy is brilliantly imagined and written as well. I love the Harry Potter books for bringing together the worlds of boarding school (Bunter) and wizards (Gandalf).
Terry Pratchet’s Discworld novels are also favourites because they can be enjoyed by children of all ages.
What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?
The audience – the fact that they are read by children! For an author it is brilliant because you have an audience whose imagination is still wide open. It allows you to become a child again. And the themes most children’s books deal with are the great themes of life: loyalty, love, trust, the battle between good and evil. What else is there?
Why did you start writing for children?
I’m not sure I ever did start writing for children, not consciously anyway. I write what appeals to me. I still love books about magic -- and unlikely heroes like Bilbo Baggins. I still yearn for worlds that are more exciting than my own. I’m very happy to be a children’s author. But I didn’t set out to write a children’s book. In fact, I am still surprised by it – and that people so young can follow my plot when some adults struggle with it.
What made you want to write this book?
I found books magical as a child because they allowed me to explore a wider world. They were like doors to exciting places and adventures. That was the inspiration for Archie's world. I just thought wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were books that contained magic that spilled out when you opened them. Or books that drew you into their stories, which is what happens to Archie.
Then I thought where would you find the most magical books in the world? And the answer was obvious: in the greatest library the world has ever seen: The Great Library of Alexandria! So the mythology behind Archie’s world became very vivid very quickly. That makes it very rich to write about and I hope gives it extra depth and interest for the reader.
What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?
I love it there are no limits to their imagination. So, for a writer, it is the biggest canvas of all. But, at the same time, children are very perceptive so they will find any flaws or holes in what you create. So, on the one hand, you are challenged to make a real leap of the imagination; and on the other, you have a great responsibility to make it as vivid and compelling as possible. That sets up a really exciting creative tension challenge that the writer has to try to rise to.
'Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret' will be published in paperback on June 4.