I was lying next to my son and we were staring up at the ceiling in his bedroom. The cracks, shadows and peeling paint seemed to form land masses, islands and oceans; an entire world was taking shape above our heads.
“That’s a sea,” I said. “But it isn’t an ordinary sea, it’s a solid sea; a sea made of rocks and frozen waves. How about over there?”
“That’s a forest,” he replied.
“Oh yes. Is there anything strange about it?”
“It’s made of smoke instead of trees and giant scary spiders live there.”
“I like it…”
And that’s how the creation of the Land Beyond began, and from that came the inspiration for my book, Archie’s Mirror. By the time we’d finished our exercise in ceiling cartography, we’d also established that there was a desert of blue moon sand where it’s permanently night, a town that looked as though it had been stitched together like a patchwork quilt and a palace hidden within a range of mountains carved from ice, inside which was a terrible secret. This conversation between the two of us is replicated as a descriptive passage in the finished story and provides the reader with their first glimpse of the Land Beyond.
With the world taking shape I had to think about how I wanted to populate it. Even though it contains the fantasy staples of sorceresses, giants, monsters and knights, I wanted to put a particular spin on them to keep the reader guessing. And so the sorceress becomes an eccentric bag lady-cum-baker whose particular wisdom has to be picked out of the erratic stream of consciousness that falls from her lips. Similarly the giant is a golf-playing former thespian who you could describe as being closer to Richard Burton than Hagrid. There there’s Palindrome the monkey with two faces, a Cloud Cuckoo who has a small, bad-tempered, but essential role to play (if you ever needed to build a cloud, who else would you look to?) and then there are the Moon Wolves - real party animals!
So, in creating what I hope is a believably fantastical world and populating it with what I hope are believably fantastical characters, I had the landscape in place against which I could set Archie and his dog Max and their search for Archie’s missing father, the mysterious stage magician; Grimoire. Archie’s Mirror is written for both young and old to enjoy. It’s a story with layers, some of which are peeled away by the end of this particular tale, while others remain firmly in place to reveal their secrets in the second and third volumes of the trilogy.
In the words of the Sorceress: “This world fits together and works differently to the one you’re used to. Although, I suppose there are pockets of activity. Strange and unusual and a whole lot of…fun. I suppose those could be considered magic, if you wanted to consider them so.”