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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guest post - Ian Irvine on writing children's fiction

We asked Ian to tell us what his inspirations were for writing his latest children's series 'Grim and Grimmer'

Grim and Grimmer #1
The Headless Highwayman

The Fey Queen, Emajicka, is stealing the children of Grimmery for her Collection. She bathes in their nightmares to relieve her own. There is one nightmare she wants most of all.
If Ike had stayed home that Tuesday, he would not have betrayed a princess or robbed a murderous queen. He would not have been tied to an insane imp desperate to eat his liver. He certainly would not have floated across a strange land on an impossible rescue mission, powered by exploding manure. Nor would he have tried to escape via that disastrous troll-bum door.
But can he ever escape the Nightmare Queen?
Grim and Grimmer

Ian Irvine

What were my inspirations for this series? It takes a bit of remembering. When I began writing many years ago I wasn’t interested in telling stories for children. I’d always loved epic fantasy – huge books set on vast canvases that deal with the grand themes of life and death for whole nations and worlds. That’s how I came to write my 11-book (so far) Three Worlds fantasy cycle which begins with A Shadow on the Glass and ends 2.3 million words later with The Destiny of the Dead. I’ll be writing more books in this series in a couple of years.

I dedicated several of these books to my older children, but my youngest daughter was only 12 then and I wanted to write some books for her. That’s why I began the Runcible Jones quartet seven years ago, and I enjoyed writing these books so much that I continued with the Sorcerer’s Tower series, and now Grim and Grimmer.

With Grim and Grimmer I wanted to do something different – for me anyway. I’ve never written humorous fiction before (well, not intentionally, LOL). There are a lot of great fantasies for the age group I’m writing for, 9-14, and plenty of humorous writing too, but often the humorous stories don’t have strong plots and the well-plotted stories aren’t funny. I love strong, driving fantasy plots so I thought I’d have a go at funny fantasy.

Who to be the hero, though? I wanted a kid who wasn’t a natural hero but a real duffer, a hopeless boy forced by circumstances to rise above himself and become a hero. Awkward Ike is useless at everything except drawing and making crazy contraptions, but one day, when he touches an odd-looking pen, he hears a girl cry:

They’ve killed the queen and they’re coming for me. They’re breaking the door. Help!

Ike is drawing on the wall of a shed when a door appears there. He goes through and ends up in the magical world of Wychwold, where war is raging between Feyrie and the human land of Grimmery. And where everyone seems crazy.

Ike is befriended by Lord Monty, a headless highwayman who talks through his bottom. But Ike ignores Monty’s advice and, in trying to save the princess from what he thinks is a band of robbers, accidentally betrays her to her enemy, the Fey Queen, Emajicka.

Soon Ike is a prisoner, chained to the ferocious guard-imp, Nuckl, who wants to eat Ike’s liver. He’s determined to escape and make up for his blunder, and with the help of Mellie, an overconfident thief girl whose magic often gets them into worse trouble, and Naggerly, Lord Monty’s philosophy-reading carnivorous horse, he gets away.

Ike doesn’t realise that Emajicka is hunting him. For years she has been stealing the children of Grimmery for her Collection. She bathes in their nightmares to relieve her own and she wants Ike’s nightmares most of all.

In his quest to rescue the princess and save Grimmery, and himself, Ike will have to match wits with the monstrous firewyrm, Grogire, and fight a deadly night-gaunt. He’ll float across a strange land on an impossible rescue mission in a balloon powered by exploding manure, then carry the princess and Mellie to safety via a disgusting troll-bum door. He’ll be struck blind, forced to eat maggot soup and be carried off by an enraged demon called Spleen. After one of Mellie’s failed spells, Ike will end up bobbing around the ceilings of the dwarf city with a backside the size of an airship, cruelly mocked by angry dwarves. Boy, does he suffer!

My inspiration for these books was the traditional world of children’s fantasy, with its goblins, trolls, dwarves and so forth, but I didn’t want the characters to be traditional. The wicked queen is also troubled by a terrible fear for her country. The cunning, greedy goblins of Gobbeloon have been bewitched to hopeless gamblers who will bet on anything, even Ike’s death. And Con Glomryt isn’t a brave and noble dwarf but a lying, cheating huckster.

Writing these books was the first time I really let go and indulged my own wacky side. Grim and Grimmer is the most fun I’ve ever had writing, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Book 3, The Desperate Dwarf is out now.

Book 4, The Calamitous Queen, will be published in June.

Ian Irvine is a marine scientist who has developed some of Australia’s national guidelines for the protection of the marine environment. He has also written 27 novels, including the internationally bestselling Three Worlds fantasy sequence, an eco-thriller trilogy and 12 books for children.

Ian is giving away signed books and other prizes every week on his Facebook site,

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