Alice Swan, Commissioning Editor, Faber Children's, was longlisted in this year's Branford Boase Award, set up to reward the most promising new writers and their editors, as well as to reward excellence in writing and in publishing.
The Award is made annually to the most promising book for seven year-olds and upwards by a first time novelist. Alice Swan was nominated for her work on 'Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret', which we are featuring this month on Space on the Bookshelf.
What was your favourite children’s book as a child?
Our family didn't have a television growing up so we did A LOT of reading, especially when it was winter and we couldn't go out and play all evening. I find it very hard to name a favourite book, but I do remember a summer holiday where I was obsessed with Joan Aitken and read everything she'd written.
I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is definitely up there. We read Northern Lights as a family, with my mother and father taking it in turns to read to me and my three younger brothers and sisters.
When it came to The Amber Spyglass I was too impatient to wait until story time so I devoured it myself over a few days. I remember thinking that I had read some profound work of philosophy - I was empowered by the fact that I understood the metaphor - and I couldn't wait for my dad to read it so I could discuss it with him.
We were also obsessed with audio cassettes as children as we used to go on long driving holidays around the campsites of France or Spain and it was here I discovered favourites such as The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.
What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?
Every book I edit has a place in my heart because when you work on something that closely you feel like you know every word. It's also a joy to discover classics I didn't read as a child such as Noel Langley's The Land of Green Ginger.
What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?
The books I read as a child were often my first experiences of a particular emotion or feeling. Melvin Burgess's Junk made me think I was streetwise, for example. I'm sure all young readers feel the same way - your protagonists are your heroes and they can shape your views and widen your horizons. You can find friends in books, too.
What do you love about ‘Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret’ and what makes it stand out?
I am the biggest fan of magical books and I always have been. What's so special about Archie is that you can imagine being that boy, leading a normal life, and then WHAM you suddenly discover that your family are the secret guardians of the world's magical books. That's a very exciting premise, right there.
As a reader you want to feel like you could be right there inside the book - that it could happen to you - the closer it is to the real world, the easier it is to imagine. DD Everest has an amazing talent for world building and this is a book with a lot of depth.
There are so many details to get excited about, such as the magical instruments in the Museum and the ancient practice of magical book upkeep. Archie and his cousins are very normal, grounded characters, not to mention cheeky, and they're instantly likeable. It's the sort of book that you can really immerse yourself in, escaping the real world and getting to know a more exciting one!
How many people worked on this book from arrival of manuscript to finished book on shelf?
Lots! I co-edited it with Antonia Markiet, the US editor, but besides us there is the publisher, the desk editor, the typesetter, the copyeditor and the proofreader. Not to mention the designer of the cover, the production person who arranged the printing, the marketing and publicity teams, the sales team that get it on the shelf in the first place...