I think anyone who regularly reads my blog or follows me on Twitter knows that I am a HUGE fan of Michelle Harrison and her magical fairie books. So it's with great levels of excitement that I say today is the publication of One Wish, Michelle's long-awaited new prequel to The Thirteen Treasures series!
You can read my review here this afternoon, but for now here's a brand new Q+A with Michelle plus details of a pretty cool competition. I don't know about you guys but I'm ridiculously happy that One Wish even exists... it has been my book wish for a while, so yay!
Thanks, as ever, to lovely Michelle for answering my questions. It's always great to have her on my blog! Don't forget to follow her on Twitter at @MHarrison13 and visit the brilliant Spinney Wicket microsite.
Wondrous Reads: Hello Michelle. Thanks for answering my questions yet again! First things first: what made you decide to return to Tanya and the fairies?
Michelle Harrison: Hi Jenny! Thanks for having me and (as always) for asking such great questions. The return to writing about Tanya and the fairies kind of happened by accident. I get so many messages from fans asking for more books in the series that I thought it might be good to write some short stories as a way of keeping readers happy – as well as myself. Having spent such a long time creating that world, the characters and their stories didn't stop after the final page and I still had a lot of ideas I wanted to explore.
I sent a proposal for a short story collection to my editor, who showed it to the rest of the children's team. I was delighted when she came back and said that they loved the ideas, but what they all unanimously wanted was . . . another Thirteen Treasures novel. I was stunned – I hadn't been expecting that at all. Given that they also wanted to publish in 2014 I also had to do some quick thinking, as none of the ideas I'd put forward were really suitable for a work of that length.
WR: How difficult was it for you to not only go back to this series, but to write a prequel as well?
MH: My main difficulty was that my publisher wanted a book that was firmly 'middle-grade'. Readers of the series will know that each book became darker, and by the end of The Thirteen Secrets the characters were aged 13-15 – slightly older than was desirable for the target readership of 10+. There was also the problem of a title; a continuation called 'The Thirteen . . . something' would have felt contrived. Going back to do a prequel seemed a better option.
This presented a new set of problems, because Tanya's friendships with Fabian and Red develop throughout the first book, so it wasn't really possible for them to be part of a prequel. Red in particular is very popular with readers, so to continue the series without her felt like a huge risk. A few fans have been pretty disgruntled when they found out she's not in it, but I hope they'll forgive me when they meet the new characters in One Wish!
WR: Do you have more books planned in this series, or is that really it for Tanya and Oberon?
MH: There's nothing else planned . . . but I can't say for sure I won't return to writing about those characters. There are plenty of scenarios rattling around in my head. At the very least I'd like to write some of those short stories I mentioned earlier.
WR: Is Turpin your new favourite fairie? She's mine! (Sorry, tea caddy brownie!) Also, can you describe her for anyone who hasn't yet read the book?
MH: Yes, she is definitely my new favourite. I had such fun writing about her. I think the reason for that is, apart from being incredibly cheeky and loyal, she's the most fully-formed fairy character I've written. Most of the fairies in my books have pretty small parts, but we get to see much more of Turpin: what makes her tick and what ticks her off. She's a compulsive thief – almost to the point where she doesn't even know she's doing it, let alone care – rude, and vain. But her love and loyalty towards Ratty makes up for all that, and is a much bigger part of the plot than I initially intended.
WR: What are your thoughts on the One Wish cover? Did you have any hand in the design process?
MH: It was quite a shock to me at first. It's so different to the original covers – which I loved – that at first I wasn't sure about it. I tend to favour more traditional illustration so this modern look was very unexpected. But actually, it's grown on me, and I think as a set with the revamped trilogy covers, they are really striking. They're very current and fresh and they've had a great response so far. I think young readers will find them appealing. As far as input goes, I was shown the various stages of the artwork as it progressed and my agent and I asked for a few small tweaks, but it's rare for authors to get much say in their covers.
WR: Spinney Wicket, Tickey End... what's your secret to coming up with these magical place names?
MH: I'm observant. I love making up place names – it's one of my favourite things about being a writer. I'm always on the lookout for exciting names in real life, because there are so many, and I'm forever making notes when I'm out and about. Some are adaptations: for instance Tickey End is a barely tweaked version of a place called Lickey End, which sounds whimsical in itself. Other names, such as Hangman's Wood, I've lifted directly.
I have no idea where Spinney Wicket came from. To be perfectly honest it was the first thing that popped into my head when I needed a name for a town. I used it as a placeholder, intending to change it to something better at a later stage, but then I became attached to it. I did have a fleeting doubt when I looked at the book during the editing stage, because I wasn't sure it made any sense. In fact, 'spinney' means a small area of bushes or trees, and 'wicket' (apart from in cricket) can be a gate or a doorway, which lends itself to the idea of entering other worlds.
WR: What's next for you, book-wise? Are you working on anything new?
MH: At the moment I'm still figuring out what to write next, but it's looking like another book very much in the same vein as One Wish. I've got a germ of an idea which I'm fleshing out for my agent and editor, but I haven't done any actual writing since my son, Jack, was born in December. We also recently moved house and are staying with family until we find somewhere new, so it's extra difficult to find a routine when you're not in your own home. It'll be tough balancing a writing career with being a parent, but I'll work it out somehow! I'm looking forward to getting back to it again.
WR: Finally, please tell us your three favourite fictional fairies. You can include your own fantastic creations!
MH: Turpin is my first choice, for all the reasons I've described above.
My second choice is the 'hobthrust', a type of household fairy found in Brian Froud's Good Faeries, Bad Faeries. The hobthrust is responsible for all kinds of wardrobe malfunctions, including tucking skirts into knickers, laddering tights and stockings, undoing buttons and shoelaces, and pulling down zips. We've all run into this mischievous creature at some point!
Finally, there's my other favourite Jenny – Jenny Greenteeth, a figure in English folklore. She's a water hag known for dragging the elderly or children into lakes or rivers and drowning them. She crops up in many novels, with variations of her name such as Ginny Greenteeth, Jeannie Greenteeth or Wicked Jenny, in different parts of England. She's described as green-skinned with sharp teeth, and was probably invented to keep children away from dangerous waters. She's the inspiration behind a similar character – Nessie Needleteeth – in One Wish.
Day 4 of Michelle Harrison’s Fairy Quest
To celebrate the publication of Michelle Harrison’s magical new novel, One Wish, Simon and Schuster Children’s has set up its very own fairy quest. To be in with a chance of winning a Thirteen Treasures goodie bag, all you have to do is visit each of the five blogs in the banner below over the course of this week.
Each blog will have one question associated with its content. Take the first letter from the answer of each of those questions to reveal the identity of a character in One Wish. For example…
If the answers each day were Red, Oak, Whisper, Apple and Night, the final answer would be ROWAN.
When you have the name of the character, please send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header FAIRY QUEST. Entries will close at midnight on Wednesday 11th June.
My question for Day 4 of the Fairy Quest is: Who is Michelle’s new favourite fairie?