Author of the hugely entertaining 'The Great Fox Illusion' answers my questions on the book, his writing and teases for sequels.
My review of the book is here.
1) What inspired you to write 'The Great Fox Illusion'?
I’ve always loved mystery books where you can try and solve the puzzles alongside the characters, and then I thought it would be fun if the puzzles were magic tricks. The whole point of a trick is to hide the secret method. Wouldn’t it be great to try and work out how they’re done?
2) Describe the story in three words.
Wonka meets Dynamo.
3) Why can stories be like magic tricks?
A story has a very similar flow, rhythm and structure to a good magic performance. A trick often starts with a premise – an everyday object or setting. Then it surprises you with a vanish or a transformation. Finally, it ends with a crescendo, or by returning everything to normal. A good story follows a very similar pattern. Thinking about that made me want to write a story about magic that was itself a kind of trick.
4) What was the process like writing your debut? Did it come easily? How much did you learn about the magic craft of storytelling?
I learnt an awful lot. The idea came easily, and I wrote the first draft in a couple of months, but the process of finding an agent, and then working with that agent, and then working with an editor has taught me a great deal. I finished the book at the start of the first lockdown and sent it off to some agents and didn’t expect anyone to be interested. I was very shocked and happy when Kirsty at MGC signed me. I didn’t think I could do this, but I’m now about to start writing the third book in the series. So, you just try and stop me! (NOTE: if you're planning on using either lethal force or legal action to try and stop me, please get in touch first. We can probably come to an arrangement. Thank you.)
5) How much research did you need to do?
I spent a lot of time watching magic tricks on YouTube and then hours reading blogs where people tried to work out how the tricks were done. It was such an interesting process, and I learnt a lot about an overlooked art form that involves a tremendous amount of ingenuity. It was fascinating.
6) Which children's author do you most admire and why?
There are so many great middle-grade books around at the moment, but to narrow it down… I really enjoy the writing of Christopher Edge, Thomas Taylor and Darren Simpson. Their books are brimming with interesting ideas that capture my imagination.
7) Which job is the hardest that you have done: caravan park attendant, paperboy, software engineer or writer?
Ha! Well, in most jobs I’ve done you are part of a team, but one of the challenges with writing is that you’re on your own with that blank page. It’s all down to you. There are no safety nets. When it all goes horribly wrong you only have yourself to blame. But the flip side of that is that it is all down to you. You have total creative freedom, and that makes it the most fun job in the world!
8) What are you writing now? Can you tease any clues about your second book?
The Great Fox Illusion is the first in a three-book series. I’ve written the first draft of the second book, and I’m working through edits on this at the moment, and then I need to start writing the third. What can I tell you about where the story goes next? Well, The Great Fox Illusion ends with Flick and Charlie thrown into the world of magicians and illusionists and they’ve made some enemies along the way. Let’s just say, in the second book that the sheer magnitude of what they’re up against becomes apparent – they’ve got the attention of some scary and ruthless people. The Great Fox Illusion ends with them opening a door and stepping through it into a new and dangerous world where they come up against the true power of the Bell System.