Today on the blog I’m delighted to be joining in with the blog tour for Amy Sparkes debut middle grade adventure, ‘The House at the Edge of Magic.’ When pickpocket Nine steals an unusual house shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, little does she know she has set a wild and mysterious game in process. As she knocks on the door something completely unusual and magical happens that changes her life in the most unexpected of ways. Inside this higgledy-piggledy house she meets the most strange and eccentric creatures and finds herself caught up in their quest to break a terrible curse. Expect chaos, carnage and bundles of charm in this truly wonderful story that bowled me over with it’s wild imagination and quirky characters. It totally enchanted me and stole a little piece of my heart, leaving me with a warm glow inside. I think we all need a sprinkle of Amy’s magical storytelling in our lives right now.
To celebrate the release of, ‘The House at the Edge of Magic,’ I have a special guest post from Amy on writing her characters in this wonderful story.
Meet The Characters – Amy Sparkes
Until ‘The House At The Edge of Magic’, I had put off writing middle-grade despite having a million ideas. With an increasing handful of children and already enough writing work on my plate, I didn’t feel I could really give it the time it deserved, so I stuck with more bite-sized writing of picture books, chapters books and magazine articles.
The title of the book had tantalisingly arrived in one go, complete, a few years ago. I knew it was a story I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to write it yet. I started with a few notes about the concept and the characters, with the promise to myself to write it properly ‘one day’. At that point the main characters were twins, and it was set in the modern day. I even wrote the first three chapters where they discovered the House. However, I put the story to one side.
After the birth of my sixth child, I finally admitted there really was never going to be a good time to write a novel, so I might as well get on with it. I revisited my notes. The characters inside the House were already there from the earlier, contemporary version. Having waited years for me to write them, they were practically ready to burst onto the page. Flabberghast the Wizard had always been Flabberghast the Wizard, eccentric, highly-strung and fond of hopscotch. Eric the Troll had always been Eric the troll, too. My eldest son was and still is very into Scandinavian trolls and was annoyed how ‘trolls’ in children’s fiction were so often portrayed as baddies. So, I had created Eric, a troll who is probably the most gorgeous, wholesome character I think I’ve ever written, with a penchant for feather dusters and boiled sweets.
The only one who changed slightly was Dr Spoon. He was originally Agent Spoon, but my editor suggested changing him to something else. The idea of him being a scientist/professor/other-things-which-are-too-secret-to-disclose-right-now came quickly and my fingers were soon wiggling with excitement at the plot possibilities of this change. But his personality and voice stayed the same. Just a slight, definitely shady shift of profession. (I’m sure I heard him grumbling because he’d been called out).
But I still had the issue of the discovery of the House. That marvellous, magical discovery. My current, contemporary set up just didn’t feel right. It was ok, but it felt a little hollow. It didn’t sing to me. I scrapped the modern day setting and took it back 150 years. From that moment, the world felt darker, more mysterious, more shadowy and more fun. The twins and their modern dilemma instantly disappeared (sorry, guys Another time). Which left me, along with the residents of the House, eagerly awaiting to see who was going to find this magical House and knock on the door…
And then along came Nine. As soon as the setting changed, she marched in, somewhat impatiently, as if she’d been in the wings all this time, folding her arms and rolling her eyes, and waiting for her moment to arrive. The outside-the-House world then developed around this broken little pickpocket, and I started to ask her questions to reach through her tough exterior and see into her heart. There were secrets and sadness and so much hurt, but such resilience and determination in her soul. I knew she was ready for the House. Even if the House was possibly not quite ready for her!
The joy of having a book which straddles two worlds was that I got to create two villains: one in the real world, and one within the magical world. I’m not going to say too much because… spoilers. But, as anyone who knows me knows, I am wild about villains, so to create two was a dream. And I love these two villains dearly. Their voices were always so clear to me, bringing both humour and darkness. My core characters were created.
What followed was a wild and unpredictable romp through my imagination. I planned very little, not only because I’m a very spontaneous person (and probably every editor’s nightmare), but also because that went hand-in-hand with the unpredictable chaos of the House itself. If a character opened a door in there, I didn’t plan what was behind it. I discovered the answer at the same time as the character did, off the top of my head. That first, glorious draft was absolutely exhilarating and really connected me with the nature of the House. The characters were the anchor – the ‘constant’ in the waves of playful unpredictability. I knew who they were, what they wanted, and what they needed. And that guided the story throughout.
This book is only the start of their journey. This world is only starting to reveal itself to me. There is so much more to come. And I can’t wait to discover more of these characters’ secrets, learn more about their pasts, and see how they grow and change as more marvellous, magical adventures come their way.
Thanks to Amy for this really insightful guest post, I love hearing from author’s how their stories have developed from their initial thoughts to what finally appears on the pages.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts…
Thank you to Rebecca and Walker Books for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and for sending me a gifted copy of this magical story. ‘The House at the Edge of Magic,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.