Today, we end our children´s authors cycle with Alex Marchant. I do hope you all enjoy it.
-What inspired you to become an author of children’s/young adult books?
I think it’s because that’s pretty much who I am. In chronological time I may be rather older (I’ll leave you guessing on just how much), but in my head I’m still somewhere between 12 and 16 –depending on the day and my mood. I wrote throughout my childhood and teenage years, and I must have assumed my writing would grow up with me. Around my middle twenties it occurred to me that both I and it were pretty much stuck about 10 years before my actual age, and that was who I still wanted to write my stories for.
-Do you consider it more difficult than other genres? (If so why?)
It’s really the only one I’ve ever known, so I have nothing to compare it with. Having said that, each of my novels – or at least those I’ve shared with readers – have been enjoyed by people of many ages, from 10 up to readers even in their mid-80s, so perhaps ‘my genre’ is really that catch-all notion of ‘cross-over’.
-Have you created a special character? Can you introduce this character to us?
A few days ago I would have said, ‘Step forward, Matthew Wansford’ – the leading protagonist of my first published book ‘The Order of the White Boar’ – a low-born merchant’s son from York in the service of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who is taken under the Duke’s wing, saves the life of his son and mixes with royalty, but never completely shakes off his considerable self-doubt.
But at this precise moment, having just finished final edits for the sequel, ‘The King’s Man’, I’m going to have to say his good friend Alys Langdown, described in my latest favourite review, from 12-year-old Ellen, as a girl ‘who is strong-willed, a tom-boy and definitely not a stereotype’. A ward of the Queen, betrothed at 12 to a man of 19 whom she heartily dislikes, prepared to do what’s expected of her once she comes of age, but determined to be her own person nevertheless. And who, at the very end of this second book (in this final draft, not the first), suddenly did something that came as a complete surprise to me. Something that sets up a very interesting situation for the next book. I love it when my characters surprise me! Matthew does it on occasion, Duke (later King) Richard did it continually – but this was a first for Alys. I suspect it may not be the last time.
-Which of your books did you enjoy writing most and why?
I have to admit that ‘The Order of the White Boar’ and its sequel ‘The King’s Man’ were originally written as a single book, being split into two when I realized it was far too long for my target readership – and yes, it’s the one I’ve enjoyed writing most. I loved spending time with all the characters (even the ‘villain’, Hugh, though in a different way), and everything flowed so well. I suspect it was partly the preparation I put in beforehand, and partly that, being historical fiction, the structure of the story was already there – I simply had to weave my own characters and their tales round the actual historical events. I’ve learned a great deal doing it, which I can take back and use to rework and improve my previous books, which evolved in very different ways.
-For what age group would you recommend your books?
See above! Maybe 9 to 99 as one reader said. I tend to say confident readers of 10+, while aiming fairly squarely at 12 year olds. Having said that, ‘The King’s Man’ is a rather darker book than ‘The Order of the White Boar’, which adult readers who already know something of the history of the period may be expecting. As one of my alpha readers said, younger readers may find they’re ‘growing up’ with Matthew and his friends, who are after all around 15 at the end of it.
-Is there a particular author that has inspired you in your journey as a writer?
No one who knows me well, or has seen any of my blog posts, will be surprised when I say, without hesitation, Susan Cooper. I came across ‘The Dark is Rising’ when I was just the perfect age, 11 – the age its leading character Will Stanton is when he awakes on his birthday morning to find he’s not an ordinary boy after all (not unlike another young wizardy boy who’s been catapulted to global stardom in more recent years). I revisit it most years on the days up to Christmas (most recently as part of the international Dark is Rising Readathon and the #DarkIsReading twitter discussion) as it so vividly evokes childhood Christmases for me. The whole sequence is also firmly rooted in the British landscape, something that I’ve found to be very important in my own writing. Others of Ms Cooper’s books – particularly the fantastic ‘King of Shadows’ – have also been a great influence.
-What can we expect from you in 2018?
This is the year that the second of my two books telling the story of the last years of King Richard III will be published – in just a few weeks’ time. ‘The Order of the White Boar’ set the scene – showing his domestic life at Middleham Castle with his wife and son, and at court with his brother, King Edward IV and his family, all through Matthew’s eyes. ‘The King’s Man’ opens at a crucial turning point in both Richard’s and Matthew’s lives – when nothing will ever be the same again for either of them.
My main aim in writing the books has always been to bring the real Richard III to young people before they’re exposed to the grotesque villain of Shakespeare’s play – based as the latter is on a century of lies and Tudor propaganda about the King. I was inspired to do it by the discovery of his grave in Leicester in 2012, after a number of years prevaricating about writing about him. I hope to start a programme of school visits to bring his story to students, while also working on the third book in the sequence – and finding out just what Alys will get up to next!
My Amazon link is