I recently received a review copy of Rich Pitman’s debut children’s novel ‘Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness’ and i absolutely loved it! You can’t not when you read the tagline ‘Even Heroes do bad things!’ You can read the review here if you missed it.
To celebrate the official paperback release of his book (18th October 2012 Ghostly Publishing) i asked Rich some questions and picked his brain about his Jimmy Threepwood series.
Rich Pitman was born in Newport in 1980. Having attended Hartridge High School he then attended the University of Wales, Swansea attaining a 2:1 in Recreation Management. Once finished, he then completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (P.G.C.E Cert Ed) at the University Of Wales, Newport before attending various secondary schools as a supply teacher.
In 2002, aged 22, Rich joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary based in the Forest of Dean and shortly after gained promotion to the rank of Sergeant. During his time in the Police Rich has undertaken many roles and is fully qualified to the rank of Inspector.In 2010 Rich completed an MSc in Police, Policy and Leadership from the University of Portsmouth receiving a Merit.
One afternoon in 2011 Rich came up with the idea for the children’s fantasy series Jimmy Threepwood. The first Jimmy Threepwood book of five, entitled the Veil of Darkness follows the perilous story of an eleven year old boy taken to a world of magic and evil and trained to one day fulfil his destiny and destroy the world. This book is set for release on the 18th October 2012 and will be followed by Jimmy Threepwood and the Elixir of Light.
Rich is currently a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator and hopes to use his skills and knowledge to help local children develop the tools to provide the future generations of story writers.
Here is the interview, i hope you enjoy it!
- Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness is your debut novel aged at children twelve and upwards. Tell us a little bit about Jimmy and the predicament he finds himself in.
With Jimmy Threepwood I wanted to explore characters destined to be villains. I have seen a lot of films and it got me thinking about why villains were always evil and what makes them want to destroy the world.
So, I came up with the idea of Jimmy and I imagined him being unloved by his parents, living in a dull boring house with no colour, modern games consoles and forbidden to have friends or toys. I wanted to show Jimmy’s feelings of how he was bored and longed for more and one day it happened.
Near his 11th birthday strange things start happening to him, such as a crow chasing him to school, laughing as he did so. The extent of his power is slowly revealed when the school bully jumps on his only friend, Will Potts and with but a mere touch the bully sees a glimpse of Jimmy’s destiny, a look into his very soul.
Jimmy meets his three companions, all of whom have a sinister edge and a dark past, but it is very apparent that Jimmy is different. Jimmy has a clear element of good about him and his evil teachers find the ultimate way to drive that out of him.
- It must have been really exciting when you found out that you had been offered a publishing deal? Where did you find out and how did you celebrate?
This is very cliché but it was by pure chance that this happened. I was due to be in work but had booked a few days off even though my wife hadn’t. On the second day I stayed up late and was doing some work on Twitter when I saw a tweet from Ghostly Publishing. I seized my chance and asked if I could send them my Synopsis and first few chapters. A few hours later I received a reply to say they were very interested.
The following few days my wife and I went to visit Oxford and this gave Ghostly Publishing the chance to read the whole book. This was very nerve racking as although they liked the idea and first few chapters I wasn’t sure what they would think of the rest.
Then came the email to say they loved it and wanted to take on the series. I was delighted and quickly celebrated by a lovely meal and a glass of Champagne.
- Jimmy is pretty much the opposite of most children’s novels in such the way as Jimmy is tasked with destroying the world rather than being the hero and saving the world. What was your reasoning for that? What sparked off this original idea?
In virtually every story there is a villain. But I just asked myself one day, ‘why are they always bad?’ I don’t want to destroy the world…but people always do. So I had a long think about it and linked it to their childhood, their upbringing and an event which must have happened. So I created four characters and came up with their pasts and the reasons for their darkness.
In Jimmy’s case you find out his mother has made a pact with the Gatekeeper so she could live for a few years longer. However, the truth behind the pact is revealed later in the story, the truth of what really happened to turn Jimmy’s mother Marjorie into the woman in the beginning of the story.
In the later books, in particular book three, Jimmy Threepwood and the Echoes of the Past you learn about the beginning of time. The history of the Elders, who the Gatekeeper really is and what happened to him. It will also explain why the mighty beast Tyranacus was created and why there is a need to destroy the world.
- I felt that Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness had exactly the right balance of emotion, plot and action to make a great book. It definitely has the potential to capture the imagination of many children. Which came naturally to you, the detail involved in writing (building up character etc) or the action scenes?
In a strange way I would say both. I’m not really sure where the detail came from. I close my eyes and think about the characters surroundings and put myself there. So if I were walking through a black forest what would happen? What would I feel like what are the smells in the air.
But, I love the action scenes, that’s my favourite bit about writing. Sometimes I struggle with the story progression and jump to the fight scenes to get me enthused. I have had to take out some fight scenes in the second book as there were too many.
- In the book, the four main children all have the gift to turn into an animal form. If you were one of the chosen four, what animal would you like to be able to turn into?
There is a reason for the four characters. In Jimmy’s case he is a Phoenix. In my plan this is a bird of goodness, power. But the others are all creatures of evil or darkness and this is significant to the later books.
I asked this very question in a primary school and I had some great ideas such as a donkey with a tortoise shell, a bird with a tortoise shell and a half man, half spider.
I would love to be some form of cat. Their agility and speed make them the perfect hunters and gentle, loving nature makes them the perfect pet.
- Have you always felt that writing for children suits you better? What is it that drew you to write for children?
I am very interested in Sci-Fi and my first book I ever tried to write was a futuristic Sci-Fi book.
But when I had the idea for Jimmy Threepwood it just had to be a children’s/young adult book. The creatures are from fantasy and myth and I hope it will get the children’s minds racing.
- As a child you must have had your favourite books? What were they?
Sadly, I never read books growing up and it’s my one regret. I grew up in the age of Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox and I was glued to the games, but I believe this has helped my writing immensely. I write about what I see as the story plays out in my head like a film or game. Then I put myself into the world. Adventure games such as Zelda or even Fallout helped shape my writing style.
My other love is films. I see as many films as I can in the cinema and have an unlimited pass. I love the stories where there is a twist or a fantastic imaginative ending and I have tried too follow these principles in my story.
- Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness is, if you don’t mind me saying, a little dark. Were you cautious to tone any parts down to fit your target audience?
It is very dark, but I think that is why it is different. I don’t think the book is scary for children but looking at sinister people I needed to show that they do have the potential to destroy the world.
The second book and to some extent the end of the first introduces an army of light and the second book follows their good adventures where they are helping people and desperate to restore Drahcir to his youthful self. This will provide a stronger balance between good and evil but through the story the key question is whether Jimmy is in fact actually bad.
In terms of toning it down, the book is pretty much the original story. I sent it to a few people but no changes were ever made to the settings and in the majority of cases they asked that it wasn’t changed.
- If you had any advice for writers out there planning or currently writing for children, what would you advise?
Never give up. Write the story, leave it a month and read it again. You will see it from a new perspective and can make changes and make it better.
My biggest fear was showing it to people through fear of ridicule. I didn’t even want to show it to my wife. I put Jimmy on a site called authonomy and the community there really helped with how to write, advice on the layout and character evolvement. As a beginner this really is the place to start and try and take on board what people say.
I did find it hard and someone would say one thing and another would say the opposite, so in the end you have to have a version which you are happy with. Remember it’s your book, your story. If you’re not happy with it, how can you sell it to others.
- Tell us a little about what it was like promoting your book? Your BBC interview for example and your recent school visit; were the children terrifying or did you handle it all very well?
I used to be a secondary supply teacher so I had some experience at that. I had never been to a primary school so I was a little worried about my content, would it be the right age? Was I going to be talking under their skill level or above it but I think it went really well. I gave them lots of involvement and ideas but the real winner was giving the two classes the chance to shape the future of the book.
I asked the two classes to design me a villain; his/her history, their powers everything. I promised that the best one/two would be in the fourth book giving them the credit. They were really excited about that and I’m back there on the 16th to collect the work.
BBC Radio was very scary but the staff were excellent. Jamie Owen was the host and he led me along and really helped sell the story.
It did feel very surreal when you turn up and you have your own parking space with your name on. I was really proud that day and it was posted all over Twitter.
- You left the book with a strong cliffhangar. Jimmy wants revenge and we want to see what happens next. The next book in the series is called Jimmy Threepwood and the Elixir of Light, what secret little bits are you allowed to give us and where do you see the series progressing in the future?
The second book, Jimmy Threepwood and the Elixir of Light starts just after we leave the first. The Gatekeeper is furious that he has been used and blamed for the death of Bill Threepwood. He then casts someone back into the world from his unearthy prison to cause havoc. This opens the back story of Lyreco’s past and the ruby stone around his neck.
Due to the four children constantly using evil/dark magic it starts affecting their skin which is ageing and turning grey. To heal themselves they must search for the Palletine flower, also known as the Elixir of Light. But the Army of Light need the cure to save Drahcir.
In the book a shadowy figure has found a way to control Talula and takes her away and the wonders of SepuraCastle revealed.
I have added new locations such as a cloud highway and even a boat the size of the Titanic is driven through the streets.
The Elixir of Light has been written for quite a while and is to be released a few months after Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Darkness.
What a great honest interview! Thanks Rich. Why not check out the book trailer for ‘Jimmy Threepwood’ out below. If you are interested in the book you can purchase it from Amazon. It would also make a perfect Christmas gift.