Thursday, 27 June 2013


Tilda recently asked DFB authors the following question: From either your own work or a favourite book… Can you tell us a little about how introducing one unusual element or idea has transformed an everyday situation; creating a new story, character and/or world for you to explore?  Or perhaps the way you as a writer/artist have approached a particular character, story or world has made it unusual, transformed it?

And here is my response:

I wrapped the tooth in some leaves and pushed it right to the bottom of my rucksack. I couldn’t wait to show everyone at school. It was undeniable proof that I’d wrestled a croc and lived to tell the tale!
But then, as I looked around to get my bearings, I began to wonder if I’d ever be going to school again. Because I could see immediately that EVERYTHING had changed!
The waterfall had tumbled me down over three hundred metres of sheer cliff, and there was no way I could climb back up. And I couldn’t see any paths leading away from the lake either. It was surrounded by trees that grew in a tangle right up to the water’s edge. Trees so tall and thick and vine-covered that they looked suspiciously like a jungle. A dark, steamy jungle!

This is the moment Charlie Small finds himself marooned in a new and dangerous world and realises that things are not as they should be – although finding that giant crocodile in his local stream might have given him a clue! I don’t know what caused this transformation. Perhaps it was the storm in the night that had flooded the wasteland behind his home, or the bolt of lightning that passed right through his body and fizzed away down the stream, but something had taken Charlie away from his home, his mum and dad and everything he knew. Charlie was right, everything had changed, and his amazing four hundred year adventure was about to begin.
Stories that contain transformations, secret worlds and hidden places always appealed to me as a child. I loved the idea that countries or worlds such as Narnia could exist somewhere. Reading about Rupert Bear crawling along a tunnel inside a hollow tree trunk to discover a world of imps or miniature dragons or crazy professors, enthralled me, and these changes and new worlds are important in the stories I write now.
Ride The Black Horse, a very old picture book of mine, was all about a child’s fear of the night and how that fear transformed him into a minion of a dark magician who stole children from their rooms and locked them in his vast, gloomy castle.
 Only by overcoming his fear could the child defeat the shape-shifting magician, free the stolen children of the night and make his way back home. 

 As for a character that transforms a story, in Charlie’s case it is undoubtedly the introduction of the Steam-powered Rhinoceros. Not so much for its role in the book, as the rhino makes a relatively brief appearance, but because I then had to find a backstory for this mechanical wonder. This led to the creation of Jakeman the inventor, who became the main reason that Charlie ended up in his strange world in the first place. The introduction of Jakeman led to the creation of a host of other inventions, especially the wonderful Mechanimals that help Charlie in so many of his adventures. It’s amazing that the introduction of a relatively minor character can have such a huge effect on a series of stories, stories that are still continuing and developing in the wonderful comic, The Phoenix.

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