Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Guest Post: Ian Beck talks The Haunting of Charity Delafield!


The Haunting of Charity Delafield is now published in the UK and has such a lovely, children's classic cover look. Here's a post from Ian talking about his influences for the book. Thanks, Ian!


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Ian Beck

In a sense everything you make is part original and part the sum of many influences. In the case of The Haunting of Charity Delafield it was not perhaps the most obvious things that were brought to influence. I was not, as it might appear, intentionally referencing The Secret Garden or any of those stories where a Victorian child is imprisoned in a golden cage so to speak. The influences on Charity were at first more visual and cinematic. It was partly Edward Gorey and his hapless Victorian children that set it off. I wrote a few lines in emulation of his style, just for the fun of it, describing a young girl having her hair brushed. The choice of that particular scene was in turn I am sure influenced by the opening of Jonathan Miller’s film of Alice in Wonderland, where Alice, (Anne Marie Mallick) is having her luxurious hair brushed out by a maid. As well as the visual beauty of the scene there were the close up crackling sounds of the hair and the brush and her stiff Victorian clothes. As so often happens with little bits of ideas or individual unrelated scenes they nag at you quietly for a long time. They sit in your head and raise themselves up every now and then and demand to be developed, to be watered like a plant in a pot. Other things get added in to the mix at random and then somehow they seem to belong to that first idea too, as if they had chosen to enter that particular folder in the brain. My daughter when very young began leaving little notes for a fairy she believed was in the house. I took to leaving replies in minute handwriting for her to find. This was a nice game for a while, and I kept all the notes and typed them up and somehow they seemed also to belong to the girl having her hair brushed by the maid. So the slow process of apprehending the thing as a proper story began. I finally drew a little watercolour picture of her out in the snow, (I must have snow, I love it) in a bright red coat. After many false starts I carried on with the story gradually accumulating scenes. At one point it was going to be a picture book. Other influences came to bear on it, for instance a chance viewing at a friend’s house of the Jean Cocteau film of Beauty and The Beast, surely the greatest and most beautiful fairy tale film ever. Then that same friend later told me that a friend of hers had a cat called Mr Tompkins. This struck home straight away as the perfect name for Charity’s cat so I shamelessly stole it. So it went on until I had enough of an idea to present to my editor Annie Eaton who had always liked the image of the little girl in the red coat, I had used it as my personal Christmas card the year before. Then the real work began, and three full drafts later she was finished and was not at all the book I thought I was going to write. It was altogether darker and in the end more emotional than I had imagined. My hope is that the story is now properly child centred, those children that have read it so far certainly seem to have enjoyed it.

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