Halloween is a time of frights and treats, tricks and magic, guises and remembrance – All Saints’ Day Eve. A fitting time to indulge in a little fantasy and fun. Karen Foxlee’s latest mid grade novel, A Most Magical Girl combines all of these things and will have primary aged readers biting their nails in delicious anticipation. Utterly charming, frightful in places and marvellously magic in others, this is an adventure both girls and boys will find spell binding.
Annabel Grey is a proper little lady of the Victorian times. She devoutly attempts to follow the sermons delivered by Miss Finch’s Little Blue Book, a bible of Victorian social etiquette and expectations but her good intentions derail after she is sent to live with her two aunts in London. They are Shoreditch witches and apart from being Annabel’s new guardians, unlock a heritage Annabel had no idea about, her ability to perform magic.
However, Annabel has no time to dispute their proclamations because her unusual abilities allow her to foresee a terrible future for London and all who dwell there. Mr Angel, evil warlock of the underworld has built a sinister device to use with his black magic to destroy all of the good magic in the world and those who practise it. Only a most magical girl can stop him.
Foxlee’s use of language is bewitching. Annabel’s adventure is fast paced and divinely otherworldly both in spirit and in setting. I thoroughly adored flying along on her desperate quest with Kitty and her strong-willed broomstick. I’m sure children will find A Most Magical Girl just as enchanting.
Today Karen joins us at the draft table to reveal the magical places A Most Magical Girl sprung from.
Welcome Karen! Tell us a bit about kids, authors and story ideas…
The Big Leap
I love to tell my young audiences that kids and authors are pretty much the same when it comes story ideas. They always look dubious at first. Authors surely have a special library of previously unused ideas I can see them thinking. It’s locked away somewhere at the top of a turret beside their quills and their perfect first drafts.
“It’s true,” I assure them. “You tell me where you get your ideas from and we’ll see if we’re the same.”
Their hands shoot up: from life experiences, from dreams, from things you see! From things you read, things that happened a long time ago, from things you hope for, from television! Story ideas start from things you overhear, from facts, from songs, from comic books, from movies, from computer games, from mixing your own life with the life of book characters that you love! From day-dreaming!
I always love hearing that one. It validates all my hours spent lying quietly day-dreaming. “Oh my goodness,” I cry, ticking off each one. ‘How weird! My ideas come from all these places too! They come from everywhere!”
Authors let ideas come, we day-dream, we are open to them. We store them away in our brain machine never knowing when we might need them. We put an idea from a year ago with an idea from today. We percolate ideas. We write them down without knowing what they mean.
But, I tell them, there’s also another way that authors and kids are the same when it comes to story ideas. Their dubious expressions return. I clamber up onto a table. Now they start to look down-right worried.
A Most Magical Girl came about as a combination of several ideas I explain.
- From an experience (a visit to a museum many years before)
- From a life-long love of history and from reading lots books with historical settings
- From a love of magic and heaps of little ideas about how magic works
- A good old-fashioned daydream.
I was lying on my sofa thinking about a museum I’d visited a decade before. This museum was in London and it contained a recreated Victorian era street, where I wandered for hours. Years later, on my sofa, I closed my eyes and day-dreamed a carriage arriving on that street. I imagined a girl stepping down. She was pretty and a bit posh and also, I knew as I watched her, the owner of a secret. She stood before a shop window and read the words printed there. Miss E & H Vine’s Magic Shop. Wow, I thought. Magic. I love Magic. This seems good. What’s going to happen here?
“What do you think authors do when they have some ideas that excite them?” I ask from my table top perch. “What do you do?”
A chorus of replies: Just start! Just start writing! Just start even if you don’t know the answer!
“Do you just LEAP into the story?” I ask.
“Yes!” they shout, because they really want to see an author jump off a table.
And so, because it is the absolute truth about authors and ideas and how they really are not much different to children, I LEAP!
Fastastical, thanks Karen.
Allen & Unwin September 2016