I have always loved castles, mythology, magic and storytelling. All of these came together for me ten years ago when I visited a castle in Wales with friends. Castell Coch looks like something from a fairytale. As I explored, I wondered what it would be like to inherit a place like that. Above the fireplace in one of the rooms was a carving of The Fates. I stood watching them for ages, imagining them coming to life and telling me my destiny. On the long drive back from Cardiff to the North East, a story began to take shape, Alfie Bloom, the boy who inherited a castle.
As I work full time as a lecturer in Games Development it took me seven years to finish Alfie’s story, grabbing weekends and holidays here and there in which to write. I was surprised at how memories of my own childhood came flooding back as I was writing. Growing up, I spent quite a few holidays on my Granny’s farm in Ireland with my brothers and cousins. We loved finding and exploring mysterious places, and Galway is full of them. It was such an exciting change from our townie lives back in England. Memories of those summers influenced the story and characters, especially Alfie’s relationship with his cousins and his experience of moving from city to countryside.
Alfie’s Granny Merryweather is modelled very much on my Granny Dempsey who had the best stories about magical happenings that she swore were absolutely true. There was the haunted lis (ringfort) at the entrance to her farm, an iron age stone behind the house that cracked open before her eyes to release a white hare, the neighbour that was buried with all her jewellery, only jump out of the coffin and live another ten years when her family dug her up to take the gold. Every time I pecked Granny on the cheek, she carefully took the kiss and stored in the tin on top of the kitchen cabinet –– she told me she used them to pay the Fair Folk to look after the farm. Her stories encouraged me to see magic everywhere, and I’d like to think that comes through in my writing.
My experience with the games and animation industries was another unexpected influence. As I described Alfie’s castle, I thought about how it would work in terms of level design, and what gameplay could emerge from elements of the story. I visualised the more dramatic scenes through video cameras in my mind’s eye and found myself trying to figure out how to implement the visual effects. I think my day job will always be a backseat driver in my work.
My writing is quite traditional and today many agents and publishers seem to be looking for more true to life stories, or something gritty. As a child I loved Enid Blyton, E Nesbit, Roald Dahl and C S Lewis’s books for their adventure, magic and quirkiness. With Alfie Bloom I wanted to create a world for people to escape into that would evoke a sense of wonder, rather than mirroring their everyday lives. I consider myself very lucky to have found an agent and publisher that share my vision and I can’t wait to see where Alfie goes from here.
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