Monday, 4 July 2022

Lindsay Littleson - Author Interview (Q&A) - The Rewilders - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #29



Today it's a pleasure to welcome Scottish author Lindsay Littleson to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. This interview is very much overdue so it's time to catch up with the author's recent book THE REWILDERS; a thrilling adventure story. The book was a finalist in our recent book cover wars which was very exciting. We hope you enjoy our interview by finding out more about Lindsay's books and her writing career. You can support the author by reading one of her fantastic fantasy adventures. You can buy HERE. 

  1. The Rewilders is your latest book to be published by Cranachan Books (March 2022). How would you summarise the story in a new synopsis to grab the readers' attention? 

The Rewilders takes readers on an exciting adventure to the stunning Highlands. Esme and Callum are on a quest to rewild a young lynx, but their journey is fraught with danger; including a raging river, angry farmers and a pack of menacing wolves. 


  1. Esme is one of the main characters in the book, how do you make your characters believable and stand out from the plot?


For me, creating believable characters is the most important part of writing a novel, because even if the plot’s adventure-packed, if readers don’t care what happens to the characters it’s impossible to create suspense and tension. Readers need to know what makes a character tick, and why they behave as they do, but that understanding should develop and deepen as the story progresses and we find out more about them. 


From bad-tempered Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden to bossy, dramatic Bertha in The Titanic Detective Agency, flawed characters are always more interesting. Lewis in Guardians of the Wild Unicorns can be grumpy and intolerant, but he is courageous, and he is a loyal friend.  Perfection’s dull, and isn’t remotely believable!


Although Esme in The Rewilders might not be immediately likeable, there are reasons behind her behaviour, and hopefully readers will understand, or even relate to, different aspects: her feelings of anxiety when her mother leaves, her fear of stepping out of her comfort zone, perhaps even the fact that she is best friends with a bully because she’s afraid of the consequences of stepping away from the friendship. 

 

At school, Esme has been siding with her friend Isobel, even when she knows very well that Isobel’s behaviour is frequently unkind. During the journey across the moors to rewild the lynx,  Esme has the time and space to consider the effect bullying has on others and she realises she has to make changes and find the courage to become the person she wants to be. 

  1. Did the Highland landscape inspire any part of the story? 

The Highland moors and Scotland’s ancient temperate rainforests are both the setting of and the inspiration behind The Rewilders. The Highlands are glorious, but the terrible truth is that over the years, the landscape has been damaged and degraded and is now in desperate need of repair and regeneration. The message in the Rewilders is primarily about the urgent need to protect and repair our precious wild environments, as much for our own sake as nature’s. 

Only fragments of internationally important Scotland’s temperate rainforests remain, and discovering about them inspired this description in The Rewilders

With its craggy rocks and gushing waterfalls, this place felt other-worldly—like a fantasy film set—a magical forest of wood elves and unicorns. But it wasn’t magical, it was real; a living reminder of Scotland’s past. Weak autumn sunlight slanted through the mainly deciduous trees, a mixture of birch, ash, hazel and a few ancient, gnarled oaks. Their bark was crusted with rust-orange lichen, their leaves turning scarlet and gold. Spongy moss carpeted the soggy ground and furred the tree branches. 



  1. Do you think being a Scottish author that local heritage is important to portray in children's stories? 

Obviously, Scottish authors should feel free to write the stories they are passionate about, and I don’t feel restricted to writing stories set in Scotland, as The Titanic Detective Agency proves! But I do believe it’s important that children are aware of their local history. I spent many years as a teacher in the Paisley area, and the main reason for writing my Victorian novel, A Pattern of Secrets was to give local children information about their town’s incredible textile heritage, within an adventure story about 12-year-old Jim who escapes from the Abbey Poorhouse and has to attempt to save his little brother from the same fate, by retrieving a lost family heirloom.

While The Rewilders is set in Scotland and focuses on the topical issue of rewilding large predators, such as lynx and wolves, to the Highlands,  the novel’s main message is a global one. It’s vital that we all do our part in protecting and restoring our planet’s natural environments and in caring for our precious, vulnerable wildlife. 

  1. What kind of books did you enjoy reading as a child? 

The Borrowers series was a revelation. The novels have a gloomy, melancholy air, very different from the upbeat adventure stories of Enid Blyton, all of which I’d already devoured, and I loved Arrietty’s courage and desire for adventure. The Hobbit, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and the Narnia books were all fantasy favourites too. But I also enjoyed character-driven stories about children to whom I could relate in some way, like Kate Ruggles in The Family From One End Street, surrounded by siblings and desperate for a place to read in peace. 

  1. You have a number of successful books that have been published, at what point do you decide to commit to writing a story to the very end or choose to abandon it?

When I first began writing I produced quite a few stories that should have been abandoned at an earlier stage and which eventually ended up in a drawer. Gradually, I realised the way I worked needed to change. More planning at the initial stages was essential, to try and reduce wasted time. So now, when an idea first emerges, I doodle my characters and annotate the drawings; describing each character’s physical appearance and personality traits, both negative and positive. Then I might draw a map of the setting or create a family tree. If I’m feeling really keen to tell this story and in love with my characters, then I’ll begin writing rough chapter outlines and hopefully from those, I’ll be able to produce a workable first draft. But obviously there are no guarantees!

  1. What feelings do you have when you walk into a place filled with books? 

Libraries always make me feel nostalgic. I remember so clearly visiting our local library with my mum every week. She would have a little wheeled trolley with her, because she’d borrow so many heavy hardbacks, one from each section of the library, that we couldn’t carry them home. I’d skip into the children’s section, fingers crossed that there would be something new, something I hadn’t yet read. 

When I enter a second-hand bookshop, I breathe in the slightly musty smell, and feel a thrill of anticipation and a buzz of excitement, because I’m on a treasure hunt. My latest treasure is a battered copy of Selfridge’s Household Encyclopaedia from 1929, which earnestly explains that appendicitis is caused by swallowing fruit pips or toothbrush bristles and has some excellent advice on the etiquette around visiting cards.

  1. What question would you have loved for me to have asked you and why? 

I would have loved you to ask me what I am working on at the moment, because my brain is currently buzzing with ideas for A Spy’s Guide to Europe, the teaching resource I’m creating to accompany my new MS, Euro Spies. The novel is about three school children on a whirlwind trip around Europe, who are catapulted into a world of art, espionage and terrible danger. Euro Spies features fiendish clues, all hidden on famous European landmarks, and lots of hard-to-crack codes. The novel was an absolute joy to write and it’s coming out in April 2023. 


Website:http://www.lindsaylittleson.co.uk/books/

Twitter:https://twitter.com/ljlittleson



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