Swanky Seventeener Rebecca Ross recently interviewed Claire Fayers about her new book, THE VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH, a middle grade fantasy published by Henry Holt and Company / Books for Young Readers on July 5, 2016.
About the Book:
Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter. When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.
THE VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH can be ordered from Indiebound, Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and BAM!
About the Author:
Claire Fayers lives in South Wales with her husband and as many cats as she can get away with. She used to work in a science library but now writes full time. She likes skiing, kite-flying, playing the cello and dinosaurs.
She can be found online at her website www.clairefayers.com
or on twitter @clairefayers.
Rebecca: What sparked the idea for your novel? Did you know this was “the one?”
Claire: I started off with the vaguest notion that I wanted to write something fun. I made a list of everything I thought would be fun – pirates, penguins, magic – and set about putting them all into the same story. My “this is the one” moment came several years after I’d abandoned the story thinking it could never sell. I came across it when I was reading through some of my old work and I laughed at a joke I’d forgotten. It was sort of like being hit by lightning, or anyway a realisation that a) I liked this book and b) I knew what was missing from the story. What was missing was Brine’s quest to uncover her past, and once I added that everything fell into place around it.
Rebecca: How did you find your agent?
Claire: She found me. I entered the Undiscovered Voices competition run by the British branch of SCBWI, never expecting to win, but I did. Gemma Cooper was one of the judges and contacted me as soon as the longlist came out. I’d never heard of her or the Bent Agency (sorry Gemma!) but I liked her right from her first email. She’s very hands-on editorially and when we discussed ideas for rewriting the book, I knew I’d be in safe hands with her. Plus, she runs retreats and meet-ups for her authors, who are the friendliest and most supportive group of people. I’m very lucky to have her.
Rebecca: I love how the magic works in your story with the starshell and spellshapes! Did anything in particular inspire the behavior and laws of the magic?
Claire: I’m not sure where starshell came from. A mysterious and precious material which absorbs and holds magic whilst corroding anything it touches. It seemed to just arrive in my head and it felt right. Spellshapes are easy. My editor asked all these really detailed questions about my laws of magic. When we came to how people cast spells, I thought that drawing shapes in the air would be fun and, because I wanted spell-casting to sound as ordinary as possible, I called them spellshapes.
Rebecca: The names of your characters are brilliant (my favorites include Brine Seaborne, Cassie O’Pia, Tim Burre and Marfak West) and even the name of the ship is so clever. How did you come up with such unique names?
Claire: Don’t tell anyone, but Cassie O’Pia started life as a character in a role-playing game run by a friend. When she became Cassie of the Onion, I scoured the Dummies Guide to Astronomy for other names. The Onion is a miss-spelling of Orion, and Marfak West, the most perfect villain’s name, is a star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Other names, like Tim Burre, are just bad puns. I named Brine because of her connection with the sea – she was found adrift with no memory of how she got there.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite writing snack?
Popcorn. I make my own and pretend I’m at the movies while I’m writing.
Oddest job you ever had?
I spent a summer working for a place that made plastic air fresheners. My job was to sit by a machine and every 30 seconds a plastic disc came out which I looked at and put in a box.
Favorite writing place?
My home office.
Music to write by?
I need silence.
Two cats, Penelope and Tallis.
Do you write longhand or type?
Type. My handwriting is unreadable even to me.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from UGA. In the past she has worked at a Colorado dude ranch, as a school librarian, and as a live-time captionist for a college. Her debut novel, IMPASSIONED, will be out fall 2017 from HarperTeen.
All Brienna wants is to become a Passion of Knowledge by her seventeenth summer solstice. But everything changes when she accepts the patronage of a disgraced lord, who plans to dethrone the king…and he needs Brienna’s ancestral memories to do it.