Monday, July 30, 2012

Larby Lodge by Gail & Paul Gallacher: Interview, Excerpt

2065 A.D.

It is 48 years since the change.

A time of great chaos and upheaval,
when millions of teenagers across the globe, developed magical powers.

Still, no-one knows why it happened.

For years a fragile peace has existed.

But now a divide is forming...

And 14 year old Eve Rivers is about to find herself caught up in the middle of the battle.

A battle fought between those who embrace the change, and those who will do
anything to stop it.

A battle that will forever alter the lives of everyone Eve holds dear.

Hi Gail and Paul! It's good to see you today and I'm excited to find out more about you both.  How did you start your writing career?       

GAIL:I loved English at school, but even though I got good grades in the subject I never felt entirely satisfied with anything I wrote. In my final year of school I became obsessed with Baz Luhrmann’s film version of Romeo and Juliet (we were studying the Shakespeare play at the time) and loved the fact that he had retold the story in such a contemporary and accessible way. This was the final motivation I needed to join an Audio Visual course at my local college.

So for three years I told stories by making films.

Once the three years was up though, I still didn’t feel satisfied. So after a few years of working full-time I decided it was time to get myself a degree. I had always loved Art at school too, and this was something I felt ready to dabble in again. So I enrolled on an Art course with what was then the University of Central England (UCE) in Birmingham and got to study in the wonderful Quaker village of Bourneville – home to a real life Chocolate Factory (it always smelt so good) owned by Cadbury. I specialised in Painting and Photography...but you guessed still wasn’t quite right. I liked what I was trying to express...but now words were the things that seemed to be missing.

It was only when I met Paul that everything clicked into place. He loved books and films too and he had written scripts as a hobby. We inspired each other and began to talk about writing our own series of Kid’s books.  

PAUL:I started by driving my parents mad with silly stories of adventures set in the wilderness that usually involved lots of monsters and bad guys. I had a thing for sharks too as Jaws really triggered my imagination when I saw it premiered on television. I tinkered throughout my youth but Larby Lodge is the first novel I have ever finished.

The third book in the series, Mitford Falls, is largely written but we decided to turn it into a sequel as it didn’t properly introduce the characters or the world. Also I finished a shark script but that was more for fun to be honest but in the future once we’ve finished the Sword and the Flame series then I might turn my attention to a horror or monster story. Maybe even try and turn my shark story into a novel but time will tell.

Tell us about your current Release!   

GAIL:Our current release is our first published book, but I wouldn’t say it is our first book. Our early ideas were so different to what Larby Lodge is now. Originally we had a complete story that was heavily influenced by Greek mythology, but by the time it was anywhere near ready we felt this sort of story had already done the rounds. So we went back to the drawing board and questioned exactly what sort of story we wanted to tell.  We wanted to write a story that would appeal to boys and girls, and would crossover between teens and adults. So we made our protagonist a strong-minded girl, who would be put through her paces with lots of action scenes. Eve is very shy and inexperienced but her family’s circumstances have meant invariably she has had to be the mature one. She uses this and her adult outlook on life to fight for what she believes in.

PAUL:Yeah I certainly wanted to push Eve through the mill from the start. The world she lives in is a spectacular one which will unfold with the sequels but also very volatile and dangerous as the Change has left many people desperately trying to make sense of what happened. This can lead to a positive outlook such as those embodied by the Paters and a negative one shared by members of the Sword and the Flame. This is one of the key themes of the series. A world left confused and without any answers.

Tell us about your next Release! 

GAIL:Our next book which should be available summer 2013, is ‘The Rise of The Youth League,’ and is part 2 in The Sword & The Flame series. For those of you that have already read Larby Lodge, you will remember the big surprise that came out about the Youth League. But how will the group fare now? This story follows Eve as she learns to deal with her new life and the ever-changing society that she is living in. There will be more from Iris and James, but for those that have commented about Irina...well let’s just say she has something up her sleeve for a later book in the series.

PAUL:Yeah many key new characters are introduced in the second story that will play a large role throughout the rest of the series. You can also expect plenty more twists and plenty of action which will be far more ambitious in scope. The battles in Larby Lodge are intentionally small so as to give us somewhere to go.

What do you think makes a good story?

GAIL:I think to tell a good story you really need to have realistic characters and an exciting plot. The reader needs to feel like they are rooting for the protagonist, they need to be able to imagine themselves in the story, and they need to be itching to find out what happens at the end of every chapter and even more so at the end of the book.

PAUL:I like a plot with drive and purpose; a sense of uncertainty which forces you to turn the pages. Many of my favourite stories are layered like a jigsaw puzzle which I find incredibly rewarding to fit together. I think J.K Rowling and Stephen King are great examples of authors who can catch you in a web of intrigue and even though it’s not a book I really admire Inception and Christopher Nolan’s sense of narrative drive and complexity.

What group did you hang out with in High School?

GAIL:I love this question. I think this speaks volumes about how your life will turn out. I hung around with the swots. Generally I got on with everyone except the popular kids, especially the popular boys who enjoyed bullying me, of course when they were on their own they wouldn’t say boo to a goose. I found that when I left school and followed my creative interests, all of my new friends had been bullied too. So there seems to be a pattern that if you’re different and motivated, you get a raw deal at school. All I can say is that it does get better when you get out into the real world and can choose who you spend time with on a daily basis. I love the group of kids in the film ‘The Faculty,’ that pretty much nails high school on the head for me. And we all felt like Aliens had taken over our school at some point.

PAUL:I hadn’t yet developed a strong sense of my own identity at school so flittered between many groups but never truly felt like I belonged in any of them. I think this is partly because my parents moved around a lot so I was only in some schools for a matter of months. When I was at college I enjoyed hanging out with the geeks and this was when my love of film, literature and role-play flourished. I have always been wary of shallowness, so making friends who were also creative was very rewarding.

Are character names important?

GAIL:They certainly are to me. I know a lot of authors use names and characteristics to thank people or at the opposite end of the scale to have a dig at people. J.K Rowling is well renowned for this. I find that we tend to use names that have a bearing on an idea. For example it is no coincidence that our main character is called Eve, or that our third book is called Mitford Falls, the Mitford name being a reference to the famous Mitford sisters, a very political and controversial family. Larby is my grandmother’s maiden name and she was a Quaker which forms part of the ethos of the Pater community in our story. I like unusual names too. I like using surnames as first names to add an air of mystery to a character; we were over the moon when we came up with the name Fenton Cardel (due to bob up in ‘Rise of the Youth League’).

PAUL:Yes they can give an insight into their psychology or purpose; sometimes though you just want a name that sounds cool. Neo in the Matrix is a great example of a name that achieves both.

Can you share a passage that captures the heart of your book?

Eve rested her towel on the riverbank and sat down. At five and a half foot tall, her feet stuck out over the edge. She was painfully aware of how much taller she was than every other fourteen year-old she knew and felt as a gangly as a bean pole, but no matter what she wore or how she styled her long auburn hair there was no disguising it. Her Mum had told her several times, that a day would come when the rest of her body would catch up, but it seemed an awful long way off.

   Bronwyn giggled and Eve made the mistake of seeking her out as she swooped towards the rippling water like a kingfisher seeking its lunch. The morning sun was blinding and Eve happily closed her eyes to it all, but her mind wouldn’t cease its torture and she daydreamed of what it would be like to see the river pass beneath; to lazily dip her toes in the warm water then soar upwards like a bird, majestic and carefree. 

   It was all so frustrating. Maybe it was time to give up and accept the fact that she was a Dud, doomed just to watch as those around her developed their skills and laughed at her behind her back. Even her best and only friend, Fran, had Awoken recently, which had put a lot more pressure on their relationship than she wanted to admit. It would certainly explain why Fran hadn’t asked to meet up during the holidays, like she normally did. She would have to make it up to her when she returned to Treglown. It wasn’t Fran’s fault.

   It seemed even her head-of-year was worried. Mrs Johnson tried to hide it under a veil of curiosity but Eve wasn’t fooled. Their Dad had made it quite clear at a recent parent evening that he was delighted with Bronwyn’s progress. “A right little Sky Lantern she’s turning out to be,” he had said. The very next day Eve had been called to the office. Mrs Johnson asked all sorts of questions that ultimately led back to the same thing; had Eve experienced any strange occurrences that could point to her Awakening?  

   After a long silence Eve shook her head. She had considered making something up but what was the point? She was managing to hold back the tears but it was obvious she was upset because Mrs Johnson told her not to worry herself. She began to spin off a story about being a late developer herself and how all the other children in her class had Awoken first. Apparently it had been far worse in those unenlightened days when the Awakening was still a new phenomenon.

   ‘Magic can take many forms,’ Mrs Johnson continued, leaning in sympathetically. ‘Your sister obviously takes after your father but what of your mother?’

   ‘She was telekinetic but her powers have worn off now. She was very powerful though.’

   ‘Oh she’s faded,’ Mrs Johnson chuckled. ‘Obviously singing takes it out of you.’ Eve wasn’t sure whether Mrs Johnson’s comment was meant to be patronising or just a simple joke. But either way it served to wind her up. ‘Why don’t you practice moving things? I’m sure it won’t be long before something happens. Don’t worry Eve your Awakening will come soon.’

   Eve nodded but she had already decided to ignore her advice. There was no point. Eve was going to fly like her sister and that was that.  

   ‘Come on,’ Bronwyn shouted from the water, breaking Eve’s reverie.

   ‘I’m working on my tan.’

   ‘You’re boring.’

   Yeah and so is swimming compared to flying, Eve thought before shouting out ‘you’re annoying,’ in reply.

   Bronwyn stuck her tongue out impishly and Eve gave her the finger. They both giggled.
   Eve gazed beyond the river. Old willow trees lined the far bank and on the other side of the wood, just visible between the dangling branches, stood a moss-covered wall which bordered their estate and cut it off completely from the main road. The run-down collection of bricks had once exerted a powerful hold over Eve’s imagination. Inspiring thoughts of magical borders, faraway lands and princesses in castles; always in distress of course, because that was how Eve felt most of the time. Her parents’ celebrity lifestyle ensuring she was denied the one thing she craved above all else: A normal life.

    A terrible scream interrupted Eve’s thoughts and sent her bolt upright just in time to see a large splash.
Laurie: Oh My Gosh!! Loved that excerpt!

PAUL:This is a passage from chapter two but it covers a lot of themes and issues which Eve has to come to terms with during the story. Her jealousy and concern around the Awakening, which is when a teenager’s magical abilities become apparent and, just as importantly, how those powers will manifest themselves, in her sister’s case flight, but it also touches on the tensions between Eve and her father. Without giving too much away there are many forces at play which affect the dynamics of the Rivers’ family, and these drive much of the narrative of Larby Lodge and beyond.

GAIL:Like Paul said this is a really pivotal point in the story, and definately where it switches into something more sinister. Family tensions are really bubbling to the surface at this point and this is something every child can relate to in some form or other. Jealousy and insecurity will always be defining emotions and this is why readers connect with Eve and the rocky road she has to navigate.

Do you have a website or a blog?

GAIL:Social networking is something we’re heavily working on at the moment. I know the importance of bloggers – they really do get independent books the profile that they need and deserve. I was lucky enough to do an event with Amanda Hocking and she was adamant that it was the bloggers that had got her where she is today. So I would just like to thank all of those people out there that do take the time to read these features, or write reviews for Amazon etc. Authors really do appreciate every single one of you. Just one little nice comment can give an author the encouragement they need when they’re having a tough day. If you would like to make our day, please:

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Gail and Paul Gallacher
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