A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Happy book birthday, Rhian! Can you tell us a bit more about THE BOY WHO DREW THE FUTURE (which I absolutely loved – it’s one of my favourite books of 2015!)?
Thank you, Emma! So The Boy who drew the Future, or Boy as my editor and I call it otherwise we’d be there all day typing the title, has been the hardest book to write yet. It all started with a dream, one which was recurring and wouldn’t leave me alone about a boy who drew the future. To start with it was only Noah’s story but as I wrote the book there was a presence in the background, a ghost almost, shadowing Noah’s story but from the past.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love the idea of finding out something about the future and being able to second guess, read it, see it and uncover a secret. I first went to see a fortune teller when I was 16 and haven’t really stopped thinking about ghosts, past lives, fate, destiny and the paths we take ever since. One of my favourite Robert Frost poems (along with hordes of other people) is about taking the path less travelled and I wanted to explore the choices we make and the effect they might have on our futures. I’ve recently read an excellent YA novel called When I was Me by Hilary Freeman which explores the concept of parallel universes and the decisions we make and the implications they can have on our futures.
The book brilliantly interweaves chapters from the present day (Noah) and the past (Blaze). What sort of research did you find yourself doing?
I did a lot of historical research for Blaze’s chapters, reading court reports about the real Sible Hedingham Witchcraft Case which is fascinating. I read a lot about Sible Hedingham in the late 1800s and also uncovered many stories about immigrants from France and other countries coming to England for work, as Blaze’s mother does.
For Noah’s chapters I read as much as I could find about art and Gustav Klimt in particular. I wanted to immerse his character in a visual world. I also did quite a bit of research about rivers, in particular the river Colne and watched lots of documentaries about rivers and their pasts and our connection with them. I found the RSPB website very useful, especially the feature that allows you to choose a bird and then hear it. Lots of fun…I mean important research.
Your previous novels (published by Bloomsbury under the name Rhian Tracey) are contemporary YAs – what made you decide to write a book with such a strong historical element?
I’ve always wanted to write historical fiction, it is my favourite genre and I’ve read a lot of it but have been a bit nervous about approaching it. I think when you love something so much and spend time reading outstanding examples of fiction in this genre it is quite a leap of faith to try and write something in the same field yourself. However I didn’t set out for this to be a historical novel, I stumbled across Blaze’s character one morning whilst writing and originally he was a ghost who was walking opposite Noah along the river path. I didn’t really want to rewrite the whole novel to include Blaze but was encouraged to do so whilst on a writing retreat and now I’m very glad I did and can’t imagine Boy without him and Dog.
Describe your dream writing day…
All the children are at school, the dogs are walked and I’ve eaten my breakfast so there’s nothing else to do but sit down at the computer and type. There’s classical music or some form of instrumental music on in the background, nothing with lyrics and a mug of tea on the desk next to me, accompanied by some red fizzy laces (I know, weird combo but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) and I’ve left the previous day’s writing in the middle of a sentence which means I can just carry on.
I write 1000 words before lunch, then I can stop, eat something, read something (not my own work) and then spend the afternoon editing before walking the dogs and picking up the children.
…And your actual writing day!
For the whole of the summer holidays my writing day has been non-existent. My days have started with making a picnic (yet another!), walking the dogs, taking the kids to a National Trust property or a beach or a lake or a country park where we’ll meet friends and try to tire all the kids out before coming home, unpacking the picnic whilst making tea, emptying the dishwasher, refilling the dishwasher, getting the kids into the shower, reading to them and then getting them into bed before collapsing in front of the TV with a BIG glass of wine.
The only thing I’ve managed to write this summer have been blog posts or interviews. I’m looking forward to some proper writing once they are back at school.
And finally, have you ever had any psychic or paranormal experiences of your own?
Oh, do you want me to tell you about them? You should have said!
Ok, so there’s quite a few but the one that stands out the most is when I lived in a Victorian house and had an old fireplace in my bedroom. It was bricked up which annoyed me because I do love a good fireplace, anyway I never really slept very well in this room (I later moved bedrooms) but couldn’t work out why until one night I woke up to find someone standing at the foot of my bed. It was a man. He was wearing a hat and a longish black coat but he wasn’t looking at me, he wasn’t moving, it looked like he was on pause.
I couldn’t breathe. I was lying on my back, my neck craned at an odd angle to look at him. I can remember thinking if I need to fend him off I’m going to be useless because my whole body is frozen, I wasn’t even shaking. The only thing that seemed to be working was my brain and eyesight.
He then seemed to appear by the fireplace, but I hadn’t seen him move. He was now standing in front of it completely still but with his head bowed. He felt sad. It was as if I wasn’t even in the room with him, there was no connection between us and I knew he wasn’t an intruder, or a burglar or worse. And then he was gone and after a while I could move. I reached out to turn the light on but the bulb wouldn’t work, it was brand new because I’d changed both bulbs in the bedroom the day before. After some time I managed to run to the door and pressed the switch to turn the main light on but that didn’t work either. It never happened again, or at least not that I knew of because I moved shortly after.
I’ve had more experiences but I think this interview has gone on long enough, maybe next time?
I’ll hold you to that! Thanks, Rhian – great interview, and I hope everyone loves THE BOY WHO DREW THE FUTURE as much as I do.
Rhian Ivory was found on the slushpile at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. The slightly quirky title of her first novel ‘When Isla meets Luke meets Isla’ caught the eye of a commissioning editor and 4 book deals followed writing under her maiden name, Rhian Tracey.
Rhian’s new YA novel The Boy who drew the Future will be published by Firefly Press, September 2015.
The Boy who drew the Future is about witches, the workhouse and water.
Rhian has always wanted to be a writer but was told to get a proper job, so she trained as a teacher. Rhian currently lectures in Creative Writing and Children’s literature but spends as much time as possible on her non-proper job, writing.
Rhian is Patron for Reading at Akeley Wood School, Buckinghamshire.
Rhian is also Writer in Residence for The National Trust.
Rhian is represented by Kirsty McLachlan of David Godwin Associates.
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Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, dystopian thriller ACID, is out now and was the winner of the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award. It was followed by THE FEARLESS, another stand-alone thriller for young adults, in April 2014. She lives with her husband and dog in the North East Midlands.