Friday, 29 June 2012


Scribble City Central's eighteenth Fantabulous Friday comes from US teen author Julie Kagawa.  I'm suspecting that many of my UK readers might not have come across Julie's books...YET.   That's about to change, if I have anything to do with it.  Her debut novel, The Iron King, came out at the beginning of 2011, and is part of the Iron Fey series, featuring Meghan Chase (an all-American high school student), the faery Prince Ash, and the capricious Puck, along with a cat.

Not just any cat though.  A Cait Sith, or faery cat, whose line in dry wit is second to none.  We'll meet him in a minute, because his name is *loud trumpet blast* Grimalkin.  Julie's faery novels are a mix of myth, legend and a heathy dose of modern industrial techno. There is so much in the 'faery romance' genre now for young adults, but Julie's books work because of her heroine's spot-on teen 'voice', and because the injection of original ideas lifts them above the ordinary.

I've just finished reading the first in Julie's new series, Blood of Eden, which moves into the notoriously crowded world of vampire fiction.  It's...well...bloody good, seems an appropriate way to put it.  I'm impressed - and I don't impress easily.

Once again, it's an original take and I absolutely loved it.  Anyway, enough from me.  That Cat is getting impatient, and I don't want to risk being led into a maze of monster-ridden thorns.  Without further ado I shall turn you over to Julie who interviews the mystery that is:
G for Grimalkin
Cait Sith and
Guide to the Hidden Paths of Faery

JK: Hello, everyone. I'm Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron Fey series, and today I am going to talk a little about one of the characters in my book, Grimalkin the cait sith. Grimalkin is--

Grimalkin: Human, please. You might be the author, but I am sure you will get this all wrong and make a mockery of cait sith everywhere. Why don't you ask me questions, and I will do my best to explain the mysteries of myself to the dull-witted humans?

JK: Oh, won't this be a joy.

Grimalkin: Your sarcasm does you no credit, you realize.

JK: Fine. First question then: what is a cait sith?

Grimalkin: A cait sith--and that is pronounced cat shee, humans, not kate sith, please attempt to get it right--is a cat that is also Fey. Or, as you humans insist upon calling them, faeries. Many legends state that the cait sith are black with white spots on their chests, and haunt the moors and highlands of Scotland.

JK: But you're not black with a white spot. You're gray. Completely gray, and long haired. Like a big housecat.

Grimalkin: What is your point, human?

JK: Only that I forgot how infuriating you are. Next question. Grimalkin, your name has popped up in several myths and legends, particularly by Shakespeare. Where did you first make an appearance?

Grimalkin: I am certain that human minds cannot remember back that far, but I was more recently mentioned in the Bard's play, Macbeth. Of course, the silly human got it all wrong and wrote me as a female cat, and even worse, as a familiar to the witches. Can you imagine. Me, a familiar to three old humans? Please.
As for other stories, I have been in several. More recently, I escorted a clueless, half-human girl to the court of Oberon the Summer King, helped her rescue her brother from the Iron fey, and was responsible for her success in defeating the evil that was spreading through the Nevernever.

JK: You did all that by yourself, huh?

Grimalkin: Of course. Meghan Chase might have struck the final blow, but she would have been eaten by goblins long ago had I not been there.

JK: Well, that's all we have time for, I think. Grimalkin (this version of him anyway) appears in The Iron Fey series, beginning with the first book: The Iron King. You can also find him in Shakespeare's Macbeth, the Scottish highlands, and generally any place where he can make people lose their minds.

Grimalkin: Difficult to lose something that is not there to begin with, human.

JK: You are insufferable, you know that, right?

Grimalkin: I am a cat.

SCC: Julie, thank you so much for braving that truly aggravating animal for us.  It's much appreciated, and I hope lots of readers will now want to discover more. NB, people, this is ENTIRELY at your own risk.  I take no responsibility if that cat leads you all astray. 

Next Week: After Cat comes Dog, (which Grimalkin will no doubt say is as it should be). Join us next Friday for G for Grim, with Susan Price, Carnegie-winning author of The Ghost Drum. 

Friday, 22 June 2012


Scribble City Central's seventeenth Fantabulous Friday comes from award-winning children's author Linda Newbery.  It's particularly appropriate that her piece appears at the time of Midsummer - that moment when fairies dance in the green meadows and the veil between earth and otherworld is thin.
Detail from cover of 'Lob' by Linda Newbery (David Fickling Books)

When I read Linda's book, Lob, it took me back to my own childhood, where my grandmother was most definitely one who 'Saw', rather like the-Lucy-of-the-book's Grandpa Will.  She read me books like Puck of Pook's Hill (written by Kipling in her own nursery) and Juliana Ewing's Lob-lie-by-the-Fire - to her (and to me), the small folk of wood and field were as real as rainbows.  She left with me a great love of digging my fingers into good soil, and growing my own vegetables.  I hope that Linda's wonderful book will spark the same love in many of the children who read it - she's certainly eminently qualified to unravel the mystery that is

G for Green Man
The Unseen Mystery

LN:   I can’t recall when the Green Man first came into my life, because he’s always been there. He’s sneaky, adopting various guises - Robin Hood, Herne the Hunter, Jack-in-the-Green, Puck, Wodwo, John Barleycorn, Pan, Osiris. I grew up close to Epping Forest, so seeing faces in trees was part of my childhood, encouraged by fairy-tale illustrations of Arthur Rackham and, later, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen. Stories I read as a child were populated by leprechauns, pixies, piskies, elves and goblins – green man relations at the very least.

The Green Man is full of contradictions. He is masculine, but embodies female qualities of fertility and regeneration. He is pagan, predating Christianity by at least three millennia, but is to be found in many a church and cathedral, carved in stone and peering out of arches, choir-screens or roof-bosses. He may seem part of English rural tradition, but is also found in Asia and West Africa. He is timeless, but speaks particularly to our time. It’s not far-fetched to say that the Green Man has come to be an embodiment of the Gaia hypothesis propounded by James Lovelock: that the Earth can be regarded as a complex organism which regulates itself, maintaining the conditions necessary for life to flourish. (Is Gaia theory mystical nonsense? How does it fit in with natural selection? I’m sure there’s many an internet forum devoted to the debate.)

The Green Man walked into my life during a period when I was teaching the poetry of Edward Thomas for A-Level. On my drive to school along a rural A-road, I occasionally passed an old man walking – a tramp, I presumed from his appearance, though I may have been wrong about that. I began to look out for him, and to associate him with Edward Thomas’ poem Lob:

“At hawthorn-time in Wiltshire travelling
In search of something chance would never bring,
An old man’s face, by life and weather cut
And coloured – rough, brown, sweet as any nut –
A land face, sea-blue-eyed – hung in my mind
When I had left him many a mile behind.”

When the poet goes back to ask local people who the man was, he’s given a range of names and identities, and the intriguing idea that:

“Although he was seen dying at Waterloo,
Hastings, Agincourt, and Sedgmoor too, -
Lives yet.”

This old man, in his many guises, is part of the English countryside, naming its wild flowers, its copses and lanes.

My story Lob grew from there. Lob, like Edward Thomas’ old man, is a conflation of the Green Man with another figure from folklore, the friendly house-hob or Lob-lie-by-the-Fire, who does odd jobs around the place and sleeps by the fire’s embers. My Lob is a gardening specialist, helping Lucy’s Grandpa Will with weeding and planting and keeping the tools clean.

“Lob was older than anyone could know. Not as old as the hills, but much older than the trees. Not as old as life, but much older than anyone living. Not as old as death, but far, far older than anyone born.”

Lob stays with his special person, the rare person who can see him, but when that person dies (and Grandpa does die, suddenly and shockingly, in this book – I felt that the story demanded a death) he takes to the road, going wherever his feet lead him.

The typical representation of a Green Man is as a foliate head – a face made all or partly of leaves: a plant that is half man, or a man that is half tree, as if his veins contain not blood but sap. Green man faces can be benign, mischievous, angry, anguished, quizzical. Often, leaves or stems grow from the mouth, the nose and even the eyes, and some of those faces have a tortured appearance, as if the lushness of new growth is wrested out of him at some cost.

The Green Man represents death and life, decay and regrowth, the cycle of the seasons. In the twenty-first century, with our awareness of the fragility of the planet still only recent, and our concerns for population explosions and the effects of climate change becoming more and more urgent, the Green Man is a reminder that nature is more important than we are. We’re part of the natural world, not its proprietors. The Green Man tolerates us, but isn’t bothered whether we’re around or not. He’ll be here, whatever happens to us.

SCC: Thank you, Linda, that was really evocative, and I absolutely agree with that last sentiment about the fragility of our planet.  If the Green Man deserts us, we are all lost.

Next week: The inscrutable cait sith that is G for Grimalkin, with SCC's first guest from the USA, Julie Kagawa, author of the Iron Fey YA fantasy series.  See you then! 

Friday, 15 June 2012


Scribble City Central's sixteenth Fantabulous Friday comes from Julia Golding, author of many wonderful children's books, including The Companions Quartet, a series very close to my heart because of its many mythological connections.

This will be the first Fantabulous Friday (though not the last) which deals with a 'made up' mythical creature - by which I mean a brand new one, straight from the author's mind.  I particularly like the idea of new additions to the compendium of mythical beasts and beings - and I think this particular beast would happily run by the side of the hrímþursar of Norse mythology.  I'll hand you over to Julia now, to tell you how her new creature came to be born.

F for Frost Wolf
Mischievous Snow Steed

JG: "How do you come up with your ideas?"

This is by a long chalk the most popular question asked of authors. The obvious answer is that it goes with the territory – if you had no ideas you should probably consider another job! It is also hard to answer. Sometimes I have a clear memory of how a character or plot came to me but more often it emerges from the fuzzy world of my imagination like an old fashioned film being developed in a chemical bath. But I do remember the Frost Wolf.

This character appears in the third part of The Companions Quartet, The Mines of the Minotaur. I took a different mythical creature to star in each part – sirens, gorgon, minotaur and chimera – but I needed a new one, a creature matched with an offbeat boy character called Rat. Which mythical creature would suit him?

I turned this question over in my mind for some time. The Frost Wolf only made its chilly presence felt thanks to my son, then about eight. We had fallen into the habit of playing a game of making up new mythical creatures. I would give an element –fire, water, earth, wind – or an animal – lion, lizard, dragon, bear – and he would have to complete it. So for example, I could say ‘bear’ and then he would say ‘Rain Bear’ and together we’d come up with ideas for where the creature would live, what powers it would have and what kind of behaviour it would exhibit.

Now I’ve just made up Rain Bear for this blog so let’s have a go. Hmm, I think a Rain Bear must live in Scotland, a haunting reminder of the days when real bears once lived there. It forms out of the swirls of raindrops on stormy days, striding across the glens and lochs, its teeth able to rip off treetops and overset boats with the slash of its claws. Its howl sounds like water gushing down a rocky streambed….

See how it works. Feel free to add your own details in the comment box.

Not all of our inventions passed muster (some were plain silly) but one day we produced together the idea of a Frost Wolf. Something like the Great Wolf of the Viking stories, it is formidable, large enough to ride, but also strangely delicate as it is created from frost and snow. It is one of the most threatened species thanks to global warning ruining its natural habitat. Obviously it is white furred – and very mischievous. If you catch a whiff of its breath you keel over and forget ever having seen it – useful for a creature that gets into lots of trouble! If you want to find out more, you can meet it in the book.

SCC:  Thank you for that tantalising glimpse, Julia, and for the insight into where he came from.  I'd love to hear what creatures the SCC readers come up with too, so do tell us in the comments box!

Next week: Linda Newbery delves into the origins of G for Green Man.  See you then! 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Finally! Volume Three of Atticus the Storyteller is here

I'm delighted to announce that the long-awaited third audio volume of Atticus the Storyteller's travels (the last 50 stories in full) will be out on CD and available to download tomorrow (14th June).  The marvellous Simon Russell-Beale is, once more, the voice of Atticus, and I have to say, I could listen to him all day.  Thanks to all my readers for being so very patient.

Just click on the links below to buy or download Atticus the Storyteller Volume 3 
Buy Audio CD

Friday, 8 June 2012


Scribble City Central's fifteenth Fantabulous Friday has a great many Fs in it, courtesy of the Crabbit Old Bat herself, the lovely and inimitable Nicola Morgan.  It must be Fate....  Talking of which, this is what I said about Wasted - Nicola's last novel:
"It's a book I wish I'd written myself. Jess and Jack's story is set firmly in the modern day world, but there are ancient echoes within it, echoes which have everything to do with Destiny and Fate and all those things we inhabitants of the 21st century are meant to dismiss as hokum and bunkum, fit only for the feeble-minded and charlatans." 

Since I wrote those words, Wasted has been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, won the Scottish Children’s Book Award, the Coventry “Read it or Else” award and the RED award, been runner-up and Highly Commended in the North East Book Award,  and been shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, Southern Schools, Stockport and Salford awards. Has that got anything to do with the Fates?  I'd say not - it's down to Nicola's writing talent and fabulous storytelling skills.  But the Fates are funny creatures - they turn up in all sorts of unexpected places, so who knows?  Anyway, it's clearly my destiny to hand you over to Nicola now to enlighten you on:
F for Fates
Mistresses of Possibility

NM: For me, the Fates epitomise the difference between rationalism and superstition. Believing in them is dangerous. I don’t like them but I find myself drawn to them and I am obsessed by the need to reassure everyone that they do not exist. 

They are (not) three women, generally robed in white, haggard and grumpy, and spinning. Spinning your life story in advance. 

Where are they from? They appear in many mythologies but the Greek ones are the ones I know. They are generally called the Moirai. They are Clotho, the spinner; Lachesis, the one who decides about lots - I mean lots as in portions or lottery, not as in lots of money; and Atropos, “without turning,” or “inevitable”. And she’s the really dangerous one to believe in, because the only thing inevitable is death and the only thing inevitable about death is that it will happen, but not when or where or how. 

They are sometimes confused with the much nastier Furies, whose job it is to punish you for doing all the things you couldn’t avoid doing because the Fates had decided that you would do them. 

My last novel, Wasted, never mentions the Fates but their absence is crucial to the book’s philosophy. Wasted is about whether lives have aspects of inevitability, parts that can be foretold. Whether they could be different. This is most explicit in the scene with Fantastic Farantella the Famous Fairgound Fortune-Teller – Your future foretold for a fiver – She can see it coming! Farantella is a charlatan, but even she begins to believe there might be something in her words. And what happens next seeks to pick holes in the claims of fortune-tellers and all those taken in by them. 

I first came across the Fates during my childhood when I devoured all stories Greek and Roman. Back then, I didn’t argue about their existence. I even quite liked the idea that my life was set out in advance, as long as it was a long and good and healthy life of course, and, being young, I assumed it would be. But when I got to university and started to study philosophy, including metaphysics, I became quite grumpy about how in thrall we are to Fate. “What will be will be,” etcetera. Well, no actually, not until it is. Of course, there are things we can’t avoid, but not because they are laid down in advance. Causal determinism works only in one direction: forwards. You only have to look at the Oedipus story to know that. (Something else at the heart of Wasted, and explicitly so.) So in Wasted Jess and Jack learn that “everything is possible until it isn’t.” 

Most frighteningly, the existence of fate negates free will and if we don’t believe in some free will there’s no point in anything. The trouble is, there’s newish neuroscientific evidence that we may have less free will than we think. The unconscious brain has been shown to act sometimes more than a second before the conscious brain gives the command. Which is freaky. 

But that’s still not fate. We are dominated by many forces, but everything is still possible until it isn’t. You’d better believe it….

SCC: I wouldn't dare do anything else, Nicola.  Thank you so much, especially for that neuroscientific evidence, which is indeed freaky! 

NEXT WEEK: Julia Golding talks about creating her own mythical creature, F for Frost Wolf.  See you then! 

Friday, 1 June 2012


Scribble City Central's fourteenth Fantabulous Friday comes from Herbie Brennan, author of the New York Times bestelling The Faerie Wars Chronicles.  Herbie was kind enough to take part in my last series - The Mythic Friday Interviews - and you can read that post in full HERE.

Since then, the last book in Herbie's quintet has come out - The Faeman Quest.  I don't want to put up any spoilers, but suffice to say that things have moved on a generation, and the appalling Lord Hairstreak is up to yet more nefarious tricks.  It's inventive, imaginative - and, as always with Herbie, just a damn good story - probably my favourite of all of them.  Since Herbie is clearly an expert on Fairies/Faeries/the Fae/the Good Folk/the Little People, I wanted to delve a bit further, and take advantage of his wisdom on the subject.  What I was not expecting was the extraordinary true story which follows.  There are more things in heaven and earth....
Herbie Brennan

F is for Faerie
Good Folk of the Wild Places

HB: Faerie.

Note the spelling. Note also that I’m writing this to a brief:

What is it?

What does it look like?

Where it is from?

Where and when did you first come across it?

Those sort of questions; not at all as easy to answer as you would imagine.

What is it? I don’t know.

What does it look like? When I was a child, it was a little figure, inches tall, equipped with wings, that flitted through fields of flowers and spelled its name fairy. When I encountered Shakespeare, it turned into a much bigger and more menacing being, minus wings for the most part, a creature of the forest, but really from another world. It spelled its name faerie. When I read Irish mythology, I discovered it came in several shapes and sizes — leprechauns, sidhe, God alone knows what else. All were so dangerous we called them the ‘Good Folk’ so they wouldn’t get annoyed with us.

Where is it from? Fairyland, I suppose — presumably a parallel reality as postulated in the doctrines of relativity theory and quantum physics.

Where and when did you first come across it? Ah, now things get interesting. About thirteen years ago, I awoke in the night to find a creature standing at the bottom of my bed. It was somewhere between six and seven feet tall, humanoid in form. For some reason I did not feel afraid.

I got out of bed to discover the entire outside wall of my bedroom had become transparent, allowing me to see across a vast sweep of countryside. The creature carried me above hedges and fields and set me down in Castleruddery Stone Circle, a megalithic monument a few miles from my home. I knew the circle well — I once wrote a book on Irish megalithic sites — but now it had a feature I had never seen before: two entrances set in the ground close by one another, each with steps leading downwards.

I took the nearest stairway and found myself in a different world, populated by tall, slender, silver-skinned people I thought of instantly as the sidhe. They were very cold, very distant and they frightened me. I retraced my steps hurriedly and tried the second entrance.

That world was inhabited by the Little People and they were utterly, absolutely delightful — cheerful and merry as children, none standing higher than my waist. I played with them until the entity that carried me here decided to carry me home again.

My wife was awake when I walked back into the bedroom. “I’ve just had the most extraordinary experience,” I said.

“Was it anything to do with that thing at the bottom of the bed?” she asked.

There were a couple more questions in the brief:

What draws you to it? The answer to that one is sort of obvious, wouldn’t you say?

What have you done to make it particularly yours? I wrote Faerie Wars. Or at least I sat at the computer and listened while the thing at the bottom of the bed dictated it to me.

My wife, darling that she is, commissioned a sculpture of the figure which now stands in a liminal space at the bottom of our garden. You can see a picture at

SCC: I have to admit to being a little...well, probably envious is the right word...of your experience with the thing at the bottom of the bed, Herbie.  My own contact with fairyland is confined to one extremely clear childhood memory of a very small brown person in the hollow of a tree root.  Nothing since, but I live in hope. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, and the sculpture is beautiful.  

Next week: Nicola Morgan, Crabbit Old Bat takes on the Fates.  Be afraid.  In fact, be VERY afraid. 

Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Before the First Snow kit by Lorie Davison