I have very cheekily managed to get Neil Trigger, author of The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange, to answer a few questions. It is always nice to get in touch with the authors themselves and ask some questions relating to their books. You can read my review of The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange here.
Neil Trigger started writing stories as a child and has written several non fiction books, The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange is his first novel. The sequel, The Mobile Monster Zoo is out now, with the third Midnight Chronicle novel out very soon. Neil lives near the south coast of Devon, is happily married with two children and has a very hungry cat!
- The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington Strange is a very addictive book indeed, what was your inspiration for the book?
I actually thought of the idea of living next door to a witch originally. When I first moved out of our one-bedroom flat when my first child was born, we moved into a road where the neighbours on either side were old aged pensioners. Perhaps my dreams warped this into the idea of living next door to a witch… I don’t really know. I have to point out that both couples were very nice people. Anyway, the idea simmered away on that littlest of flames that you get at the back of the hob. After a few years, it morphed. In a similar way to moving house the first time, by now we were in a larger place, but not in a very nice area, so we had a chance to move closer to my daughter’s school and we took it. However, my daughter was very reluctant to leave the friends she had made in the neighbourhood and so I started to write a story about moving house. That’s when Mrs Etherington came up again. I thought that if I was going to call her Mrs Etherington, then making it double-barrelled isn’t too much of a stretch. Strange is the name of my favourite literary magician – Jonathon Strange (See Suzanna Clarke’s Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell). I wrote the majority of my first book on my iPhone, whilst hiding in the toilet for some peace and quiet.
- Bethany, the leading character, is a very smart, inquisitive girl. She almost reminded me a little of Alice from Alice in Wonderland. What is it about the character of Bethany that you love so much?
I’m so pleased. Bethany is the name of my daughter and I certainly took some of her traits. My nephew is called Jake and he helped me conjure some of the features which I have significantly downplayed in The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange, but which become much more important in the sequel – The Mobile Monster Zoo. I like the familiarity of writing Bethany because I know what kind of reactions she’d have to some things.
- The book is exceptionally original, what made you come up with pink lamb posts and cheese firing dragons?
Bethany has high-frequency hearing loss, and I noticed that she mentioned “lamb posts” one day and I thought to myself “why would lambs be on posts?”. I find that a lot of these kinds of inspiration just come from asking questions and coming up with daft answers. For example, I was walking in a field one day, and came across a hazelnut which rattled. I thought “if it wasn’t a nut inside, what might be in there?”. The answer made it into the final edit. Having said that, Bethany asked me if I could add a few things like the chocolate unicorn, but I drew the line at urinating lemonade. :o)
- Growing up yourself, who were your favourite authors and have any of them influenced your writing?
I had a hugely wide spectrum as a child. I began on the Roderick the Red Pirate books – I can’t remember the names of the other colour pirates, but my mum called her car Rodney because it was red. She was never very good with names. Growing up, I was inspired by a book called Children of the Dust. The descriptions of nuclear holocaust was horrific and wonderful. I was mesmerized by the power those words had. Obviously Roald Dahl was very important, but honestly, I didn’t really discover reading until quite late. I despised things like The Remains of the Day and The Castle of Otranto, but Frankenstein and Dracula showed me different narrative styles and helped me to see things from different character’s points of view. Nowadays, I like Skullduggery Pleasant, but I tend to have very little time to read things other than books I’m publishing. The hot tip is Rich Pitman’s Jimmy Threepwood series or Katy Krump’s romantic sci-fi series, Blue Dust. Both are brilliant!
- I’ve read that you worked as a magician for many years. That must have been very exciting and a base for all your wonderful ideas. Tell us a little about that time in your life.
Well, being a magician just showed me that the technique is dull and boring, it’s all about the effect and presentation. If a card rises from the deck, you need to hide a very big, brazen technique in order for it to be magical. Flying and making things vanish is the same as good writing. It’s just as much about what not to show as what to show. The weirdest experience when working as a magician was trying to take a shower and finding a giant snake in the shower tray. Maybe that will make its way into one of my books… or… thinking about it, maybe it’s already been changed and thrown into The Mobile Monster Zoo.
- Growing up, I loved books that were part of a series; it is fantastic to see that The Midnight Chronicles is to continue. Will we see more of Bethany or will you digress and introduce new characters?
Well, The Mobile Monster Zoo came out in April, and The Wizard’s Reflection is being written now. I have planned out five books, but it’s just a case of writing them. Many of the books I’m now publishing with Ghostly Publishing are series of books rather than one-off and I feel the same way as you about them.
- Lastly, if you were to give some advice to writers who fit in to the children’s fiction genre, what would it be?
The advice I give seems stupid and obvious, but it’s the one thing that will make the biggest difference… Write! Those who do will automatically be better than those who don’t. Having said that, the more you write, the better. Think like a child. It’s NOT an insult. Children are honest and inquisitive. Sure, they make leaps of imagination to get the wrong answer, but that’s what magic is all about!
As Neil Trigger is my first author interview, I am running a great competition. For a chance to win a free copy of The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange, Simply subscribe to my Blog and fill in the form below. Please read the terms and conditions below to.
Competition closes 31st August 2012
The competition is now closed! Thank you ever so much for all the entries and i hope you look forward to following my blog and enter any future competitions. If you are the winner, please check your email, because you have just won a free copy of ‘The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange’!