Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Author Interview with Abi Elphinstone - The Dreamsnatcher
Tell us a little bit about your debut book, The Dreamsnatcher.
THE DREAMSNATCHER follows the story of twelve-year-old Romany gypsy, Moll. As an orphan she’s always felt like an outsider in Oak's camp but when a recurring nightmare – the one with the drums and the rattles and the masks – lures her away from her wagon into the Deepwood, she discovers just how much of an outsider she is. The Dreamsnatcher has taken her dreams and now he wants her life… And together with a wildcat called Gryff, Moll must fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s curse and save the old magic rooted in the Oracle Bones.
Give us an insight into the main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
In the book, Moll tells another character that she’s ‘nippy and meddling’ and that sums her up pretty well. She’s energetic and adventurous but hopelessly headstrong and impatient and she almost always says the wrong thing at the wrong time. On the surface she’s brave and strong (there aren’t many twelve-year-olds who can fire a catapult like she does) but she finds it hard to let people in – so it’s just as well she’s got a wildcat by her side to see her right. What makes her special? By Chapter 3 she’s already catapulted someone in the head.
Is this book part of a series?
Yes, THE DREAMSNATCHER is the first book in a trilogy, and the sequel, SOUL SPLINTER, comes out in 2016.
If you had to write the book again, would you change anything?
Right now I can’t think of any specific things I would change – but I’m sure that when I’ve written a few more books I’ll think ‘Wow, that chapter of my debut was so clunky and WHAT was I thinking making that character do that?!’ I’m looking forward to (hopefully) getting better as a writer as the years go on but with my debut I gave the best I have right now – and that’s all that really matters.
Where do your ideas come from?
THE DREAMSNATCHER is, in many ways, like an extension of my childhood (minus the witchdoctors and the tree ghouls). I grew up in the wilds of Scotland, where weekends were spent scrambling over the moors, building dens in the woods and jumping into icy rivers. I didn’t have to create Moll’s outdoor world; it grew out of my own. Then I filled it with characters I wanted to write about – gypsies, witchdoctors, wildcats, fortunetellers... I watched one of the last ‘real’ Romany gypsies, Peter Ingram, ‘play the bones’ and carve wooden flowers, I studied wildcats prowling, eating and sleeping in the New Forest Wildlife Park and I travelled to Zanzibar, in Africa, to research sinister witchdoctor masks. But lots of my ideas crop up in everyday life; I pinched a character name from a cocktail list the other day and I developed a plot point from a lyric in the musical, Into The Woods!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
After reading English at university, I moved to London to work in a PR firm. I was, without doubt, the most terrible PR girl imaginable (I just didn’t care about promoting luxury food and drink products to the uber rich) and one day I work up, quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Africa. Out in Tanzania, I began thinking back to my childhood adventures and the books I’d read and loved then. Before long, I was scribbling down ideas for my own story half way up a baobab tree…
Which books have influenced your life the most?
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
Skellig by David Almond
The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Can you share a little bit of information about your current work with us?
I’ve just finished a first draft of the sequel, SOUL SPLINTER (I was so nervous when emailing it to my editor that I gave myself hiccups!). In this book, the gypsies are outlawed from the forest and have to hide out in a secret cove by the sea. Moll’s got codes to crack, riddles to unravel, smugglers to sneak past and mer creatures to contend with now... It’ll be a while before I hear back from my editor so over the next few weeks I’ll start thinking about the third book (set up in the Scottish highlands) and my next series, about an Inuit called Eska and a grizzly bear cub.
What advice would you give to up and coming writers?
One of my favourite quotes is by Leonardo Da Vinci, who said: ‘Rarely do people of accomplishment sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.’ And I believe that if you want to write a book, you’ve got to make it happen. Go on adventures, explore, travel, climb trees you’re not supposed to – because that’s where the stories are. Be humble enough to take criticism on your writing but be determined enough to bounce back from it. DON’T GIVE UP. I had 96 rejections on previous books (the stories were, admittedly, pretty pants) but as my Mum always says, ‘If you don’t fail, you’re just not trying hard enough.’
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Ummmmmmm. I jumped 4metres 97centimetres in long-jump when I was fourteen. I’ve always been really proud of that. I like jumping. Starjumping is my favourite.