Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Author Q&A: HS Norup – author of The Missing Barbegazi.

Author Q&A: HS Norup, author of The Missing Barbegazi, talks about mountains, fairytales and Christmas traditions.

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The moutains which inspired H S Norup’s writing 
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HS Norup 

The Missing Barbegazi is one of my middle-grade hits of 2018. It is the story of a friendship between a girl and a mythical, fairylike creature which lives in the mountains. The story is about family, friendship and trust and it is set in the days shortly after Christmas. If you are looking for a magical story to read in the build-up to Christmas, I can’t reccomend this enough. 

I was delighted when author HS Norup agreed to answer some questions about her work, about the snowy landscape which inspired her setting and about fairytales in general. It is a pleasure to share her answers. Thank you Helle for your time. 

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Q: Barbegazi are mythical creatures who come out at first snowfall but are rarely sighted by humans. Did you want to write about Barbegazi, or did these creatures fit into your story?

A: When I began writing THE MISSING BARBEGAZI, I had never heard of barbegazi. I wanted to tell the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Tessa, who was desperate to win a ski race. A story set entirely in the real world without any magic or mythical creatures. But I had not written more than one chapter before Tessa met a strange furry creature in the snow. After some research, I discovered that the creature Tessa had encountered was a barbegazi. And everything about them fit perfectly into the story.

 

Q: Aside from the Barbegazi, do you have any favourite stories set in snowy landscapes? What is it you love about these stories?

A: Snow is magical! I still get excited every winter when I see the first snowflakes floating down, and there’s nothing quite like waking up to a newborn glittering world after a night of snowfall. In a novel, the dangers of snow and cold weather immediately raises the stakes. A landscape covered in snow can become a character in its own right and influence the story through the opposition or help it gives the protagonist, as is the case in THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper. Other favourite stories that are set in the snow includes: C.S. Lewis’s THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, Philip Pullman’s NORTHERN LIGHTS, Sinéad O’Hart’s THE EYE OF THE NORTH, Vashti Hardy’s BRIGHTSTORM, Piers Torday’s THERE MAY BE A CASTLE, and Katherine Rundell’s THE WOLF WILDER.

 

Q: Mountains play a huge part in your story. Why did you choose this setting?

A: I love the mountains and find them immensely fascinating—perhaps because I grew up by the sea in a flat country. From afar, the mountains present this beautiful, serene panorama, but up close they are wild and unforgiving. Add snow, and the mountains become both more beautiful and more dangerous. I have a deep respect for these dangers, especially avalanches, and they played a role in the story even before I discovered the avalanche-surfing barbegazi.

 

Q: You write about a world which is very like ours, except for the magical creatures who live in the mountains. What drew you to magical realism and how do you think fantasy elements help us to tell a story?

A: I have always loved reading magical realism and low fantasy stories. The idea that there might be magical or otherworldly creatures around us is both enticing and scary. I can’t go for a walk in the forest without secretly looking for fairies and I’m still afraid of the dark—my imagination often runs wild. I think fantasy elements can help us create story worlds that are fresh and interesting. At the same time, the presence of fantasy elements signals to the reader that this is a pretend world, which they can safely explore along with the protagonist.

 

Q: Family plays a huge part in The Missing Barbegazi. Tell us a little about how the two main characters fit into their families.

A: Tessa and Gawion are tweens (although Gawion is 154 years old) and both are part of loving families, but with very different family structures. Tessa’s parents are divorced, but she and her mum lives in the same house as her grandmother (and until recently her grandfather) and near other relatives, so she has a wide family network around her. Gawion’s family lives in complete isolations, far from other barbegazi, so they are a very close-knit family, and Gawion’s twin sister is his only friend. It’s important for the plot that they are isolated, but it’s also a situation I know well and wanted to describe. Whenever we, as a family, have moved to a new country, we have experienced 6-12 months of being each other’s only friends, and, since we left Denmark a long time ago, we have not had any family network to depend on. All family structures have positive and negative sides, and it’s important to show diversity without judgement in children’s fiction.

 

Q: Your story is set in the days after Christmas – the days when the presents have been unwrapped and the crackers have been pulled. Was there a reason you set your story after Christmas, and not during the festivities?

A: There are a couple of reasons I didn’t include the Christmas festivities, but the main reason is that it would have distracted from the story I wanted to tell. Tessa’s grandfather died shortly before Christmas, and the family is grieving, so I can’t imagine their Christmas was a jolly affair. Also, for many of the locals in a skiing resort, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, is the busiest week of the whole year. Tessa’s mum and Uncle Harry were both working over Christmas, catering to the needs of guests instead of their own families, but I’m sure Aunt Annie took good care of Tessa, Felix and Oma.

 

Q: Fun: Favourite cracker joke? Best Christmas jumper?

A: We have neither Christmas cracker jokes nor jumpers in Denmark, so I can’t really answer these questions, but we have other fun traditions. We celebrate on Christmas Eve. For dessert we always have Risalamande, a kind of rice pudding with almond slivers and one whole almond. Whoever finds the whole almond receives a small gift, but the fun lies in hiding the almond if you have found it or pretending to have found it if you haven’t. After dinner and before opening presents, we all dance around the Christmas tree, singing first psalms then jolly songs, usually ending with the whole family chasing each other around the house.

 

Q: Which animal would you have on the front of a Christmas card?

A: Mountain goats! We sometimes see them in the snow, springing around the steepest mountain sides, defying gravity. They’re more interesting than reindeer and deserve to be on Christmas cards.

 

Many thanks to HS Norup for taking the time to answer my questions. The Missing Barbegazi is available from Pushkin Press.

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Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Pippa Goodhart

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Author Pippa Goodhart talks about bookish characters in an amazing guest-post. 

When one of Bill’s experiments goes badly wrong, and his father loses his job, Bill sets out to make money selling fossils. He finds something amazing, something which might make him a fortune, but is the world ready for the questions raised by Bill’s discovery? 

I delighted to have Pippa Goodhart on the blog to talk about bookish characters and Bill’s thirst for knowledge. Thank-you Pippa for your time. 

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The Facts Behind the Fiction

By Pippa Goodhart

How is it that spiders know how to build complex webs, but flies don’t know to avoid those web traps?  Why is the earth layered into different kinds of soil as you dig downwards?  Why are there so many fossils of sea creatures found so very many miles from the sea?  How can there be rhino fossils in an island nation thousands of miles from Africa?  What happened to the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures which are no longer around?

My story’s main character, eleven-year-old Bill, wants to find answers to all sorts of questions.  His nurseryman father has some answers, and, like Bill, enjoys chasing those questions with ideas.  But then Bill meets young academic Robert Seeley, real-life assistant to the great Victorian professor of geology at Cambridge University, Professor Sedgwick, and the world of research into scientific and theological matters opens to him.

Bill is also trying to work out answers to the questions he has about himself and his family.

There are so many stories in which the main character is bookish in a literary way, meaning stories and poetry rather than books about how things work.  That’s perhaps not surprising when those who write books are naturally bookish and sympathetic to such interests.  But the world is full of so many different kinds of interest, and actually fiction can be a very effective way of imparting knowledge and enthusing interest in science and history and so much more.  I’ve always loved stories which give practical information about things which are new to me.  I reckon I could just about build a log cabin and tap maple trees for syrup to be boiled into molasses from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books!

I am not an expert on pre-history or fossils, but I knew the questions I wanted answers to, and I hope they are questions that readers will also want answers to.  Because those answers come in the form of fairly brief conversations within the developing personal story of Bill’s life, they are necessarily brief and, I hope, accessible.  I had advice from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge which holds the fossils used in my story, just to be sure I wasn’t getting the historical and scientific side of things wrong.

My hope is that, as well as enjoying the up personal and who-dun-it mystery sides of this book, children will also pick up Bill’s habit of really noticing and questioning the world they live in.  As Dad says,

It turns out that the biggest question of all in this story is about Bill himself.

 

The Great Sea Dragon Discovery by Pippa Goodhart out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip)

Connect with Pippa @pippagoodhart  and Catnip @catnipbooks

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic author Claire Fayers 

Mirror Magic is a middle grace fantasy about a world which is like ours, and yet unlike ours. It is about a girl called Ava who shares a connection with a Fair Folk boy. 

I am delighted to take part in the blog tour, and to welcome author Claire Fayers to my blog. 

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If William the Conqueror had Magic

Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example William the Conqueror had magic (and newspapers).

 

William the Conjuror Sets Sights on England

Inhabitants of southern England are today being urged to remain calm amid rumours that William, Duke of Normandy, is planning an invasion of the Kent coast.

Normandy is well known for its enchanted apples and it is feared that Duke William has singled out Kent as suitable land for an extension of his vast orchards.

Williams denies this. “The people of Normandy have a great fondness for Kent,” he said, speaking from his castle. “Many of us enjoy visiting in the summer months.”

Many French people have indeed been seen in Kent, measuring fields and complaining about the quality of the local cider.” Tourists or invaders? King Harold of England has so far declined to comment except to say he is aware of the situation.

 

Stamford Bridge Army ‘An Illusion’

The Norman army camped near Stamford Bridge in the north of England has proved to be a fairy illusion.

The deception was discovered too late for King Harold who had already marched all his forces north to meet the threat.

Meanwhile, a large number of tourists have arrived on the south coast from France and set up camp outside Hastings. “We are definitely not an army,” said William of Normandy, polishing his armour.

 

Harold Defeated at Hastings

Harold is dead. Long live King William of England.

After a fierce battle of arms and magic, King Harold has been defeated at Hastings. Harold, who was tricked into taking his army north, conjured a fairy road to travel back, but the journey exhausted his men and by the time they reached the Norman invaders, they were relying on magical energy potions.

Because of this, Harold insisted on keeping his magic mirror with him in the thick of battle. This proved his undoing when a stray arrow pierced the glass and Harold lost control of the Unworld. Witnesses report thick mist flowing from the broken mirror across the field of battle, turning the grass foul shades of orange and purple. Harold led a final, desperate charge at William’s mirror, but the Norman archers were ready and the king died under a hail of arrows.

 

Huge thanks to Claire Fayers for your wonderful post and to Karen Bultiauw for organising the blog tour. Mirror Magic is available from 14th June.

 

 

 

Guest Post

YA Shot Guest Post: Patrice Lawrence

yashotbanner.jpgYA Shot

YA Shot is a day-long festival held in Uxbridge, London. The money raised is used to fund author events throughout the year in schools and libraries. YA Shot aims to foster a love of reading and writing, and to help young people aspire to careers in the arts. 

 

Patrice Lawrence

Patrice Lawrence Author Image.jpgI am excited to welcome Patrice Lawrence as part of the YA Shot blog tour. Patrice Lawrence debuted with Orangeboy in 2016. It is the story of Marlon, a boy who finds it increasingly difficult not to get drawn into a world of gangs and crime. The book was a phenomenal success, winning the YA Book Prize and the Waterstones Children’s book prize. 

Lawrence followed with Indigo Donut, the story of a young woman searching for her own identity when everyone around her knows the story of how her Dad murdered her mother. Both novels deal with themes of identity and inheritance. This guest post is about the theme of family legacy. Huge thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. 

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From father to daughter and everything in between – Patrice Lawrence 

I have no photographs of my father. My parents split up before I was born and my father, Patrick Edward Singh, died in his 40s. I had spent time with him, as a child and as an adult. He was a great reader, anything from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ to the collected works of the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. He was also a musician. I remember his basement flat in Brighton being full of guitars and I knew that he had fronted a band called Eddie and the Black Princes. He loved the provocative wordplay. (The original medieval Black Prince was Edward, son of Edward 111, probably given the name because of his black armour.)

As I grow older, people remark on my resemblance to my mother. I look like her. I have her family name. I share her love of books, art and cake-making. She introduced me to early Depeche Mode, UB40’s brilliant first album and New Order. She has bought my YA books and shipped them off to the family in Trinidad. She has made sure that the booksellers in Haywards Heath Waterstones know that I am local.

Both Marlon in ‘Orangeboy’ and Indigo in ‘Indigo Donut’ are tied to family legacy. Marlon’s connection to his dead father, Jess, is through music and sci fi. He has inherited his father’s vinyl collection of funk and soul. He is named after the actor who played Superman’s dad in the 1978 film. His feelings are punctuated with music and he often articulates his world with the help of Star Trek and The Matrix.

Marlon, like the other two pairs of brothers in ‘Orangeboy’, has inherited loss and revenge. What happens to him is exciting but destructive. It is also viewed through the prism of ‘race’ – how far will he let the past shape the present and his identity as a young, black man in today’s society?

Indigo believes that she has inherited anger. Her father killed her mother and what’s inside him is inside her. It is like a wild animal, roaring up when provoked. She is frightened to let anyone get close. And what else has she inherited? She stares at photos of her mother, trying to trace their resemblance. She can barely remember living with anyone who is related to her. She is not sure how to go forward because she doesn’t understand her past.

It is only when I exceeded the age my father was when he died that I started considering his legacy to me. My father in everything except blood is my stepdad. He has been in my life since I was four and has always called me his daughter. We spent last Christmas together watching Steve McQueen films trying to list the death dates of The Magnificent Seven actors in chronological order. We recalled the joy of holidays spent in his native homeland. I don’t need another father.

But –

Like my characters, like so many young people, I still can’t help asking – ‘who am I?’ Does my hair, my face, my body shape bear any trace of my father’s side? When Bailey, in ‘Indigo Donut’, became a rock god with a room full of guitars, was I thinking about my father? Or my daughter? Did my father’s guitar dudeness bypass me and hit my daughter full force?

Last year, I saw that a retired nurse, one of my parents’ peers had written a history of the Victorian psychiatric hospital where they had worked. I ordered the book out of curiosity. I opened a page at random and there was a photo of my father. Resplendent in a quiff, he was playing his guitar.

 

Many thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. Check out more info about YA Shot and book your tickets here.