Children's Fiction, Interview, Middle Grade Fiction, Uncategorized

INTERVIEW: Imogen White

 

– Author Summary –

Imogen White won her place in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2014 Anthology with the opening to The Rose Muddle Mysteries. Imogen loves using elements of local history in her books, and favours adventure stories based in towns and cities.

Her stories are full of friendship, dark magic, colourful characters and twisty-turny plots – that keep readers hooked until the last page. For ages 9+.

Imogen lives in St Leonards-on-Sea with her husband, children, crazy ginger cat and even crazier dog.

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– The Interview –

SK: Thanks for agreeing to do an interview for Storgy Kids. We really enjoyed following the adventures of Rose, Rui and Bahula in the first two books of The Rose Muddle Mysteries.

Could you tell us a little about the series?

Iw: The series is set in Edwardian times, and follows workhouse girl, Rose Muddle, as she inherits an amber pendant that contains extraordinary powers.

With her friend, Rui Singh and his monkey, Bahula, they solve mysteries with ancient origins. But dark enemies are following them – intent on getting Rose’s pendant and using its powers to unleash something truly terrible!

 

SK:  You base your books in specific places and a time in history. So far we’ve seen Hove and Jaipur, and it looks like we’re off to Russia in the next book. Are places and history important to your storytelling?

IW: Yes, I think most authors would agree that the setting in a book becomes like a character in its own right. I love researching local history and I try to put real events and places in all my stories – wherever they are set. It certainly makes me feel more connected to the story and place.

(Disclaimer: Plus, I put in a load of mad-cap, made-up stuff too!)

 

SK: There is a whole magical world you have built for these novels, which Rose and Rui are starting to explore. What were the things that inspired this magic, its objects and the idea of geomancy?

IW: For me, I love the idea that secrets to our past are hidden all over the landscape. These can be easier to spot in the countryside – like Stonehenge! But, often, our towns and cities were built upon places that were important to the people of our past – our ancestors. And, if you start looking, there are lots of clues waiting to be unearthed.

I discovered that a huge Bronze Age burial mound once stood right in the middle of Hove, and when it was removed by the Victorians to build houses, they found the Amber Cup nestled amongst the bones and other grave goods. A truly beautiful object that’s over 3,500 years old!

amber cup

Hove’s Amber Cup: (Picture credit: Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

I thought it was amazing – that Hove had this incredible ancient past – but no-one seemed to know about it! So, I wrote a book:

This little cup features in the first of the Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Amber Pendant.

I wrote a blog about how it inspired me. You can read it here.

 

SK: Sherlock Holmes influences Rui a great deal in the novels. Was Sherlock a big influence on you as a kid or even now?

IW: I must confess, I didn’t read Sherlock Holmes as a kid, (I have all the Sherlock Holmes books now!) but, I watched all those black and white films – fabulous!

I actually have quite a collection of Victorian supernatural short stories these days. I love the language in the books and they are brimming with mystery and magic – and clue solving, obviously!

28 RoseMuddle The Amber Pendant

SK: What can you tell us anything about the next instalment of the Rose Muddle Mysteries?

IW: Not yet! I’ll keep you posted…

 

SK: You live in Hove and have travailed to India where your books are set. Do you plan to travel to research the next book?

IW: I always visit the places where my books are set. I travelled to Jaipur to research book two of The Rose Muddle Mysteries, The Secret Ruby. It was AMAZING! It was full of incredible temple complexes, chaos and monkeys! The people were so kind too.

I visited many of the places described in The Secret Ruby: The Museums, The City palace, The Bazaars, The Jantar Mantar and the awe-inspiring Galtaji – and the monkey temple set into the mountains. Breath-taking. Best of all – there were monkeys everywhere – Goodness, I love monkeys – but these were SO naughty!

 

SK: Is there something about detective stories and mysteries that makes you want to write them?

IW: I honestly think it’s the only type of book I could write. I like the complexity – I spend weeks meticulously plotting each story. I love to throw in a few red-herrings along the way. My aim is to keep the readers guessing until the very end. Fingers crossed!

22 RoseMuddle2

SK: If books had parents, who are The Rose Muddle Mysteries‘ mum and dad (or extended family too)?

IW: Ha! I love this question.

Ummm. I think Velma Dinkley from Scooby-Doo has got a lot to answer for… she can be the mother. Father wise, I think that might have to be left unknown – a secret to be unearthed… but, he wears a top hat…

 

SK: Think of these as rapid-fire questions, but you can take your time answering them too.

IW: Go for it!

 

SK: What is your earliest memory of loving reading?

IW: I struggled to read as a kid, because I’m dyslexic – but I listened to story tapes. I still have the really creepy one of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales somewhere. I loved that! It definitely contributed to my love of storytelling. (Eek – that wasn’t a very rapid answer was it!)

 

SK: Being dyslexic, did that make reading and writing very hard at school? What was it like?

IW: It was strange for me, because both my older sisters were very academic, and I remember thinking I would be just the same. They both took to reading and writing very easily. But, when my time came, it was obvious it was not going to be like that for me at all!

I remember feeling very frustrated, because my ideas and thought processes were all there – I just couldn’t express them correctly in the written word! And, I found reading incredibly hard.

dyslexia

SK: That’s really interesting. Even though reading and writing were harder for you, what do you think still drew you towards writing as a passion?

IM: Imagination was the key thing for me here. I would constantly create stories, poems and decorate them beautifully. I loved all this – it’s just that everything would be spelt wrong and back to front.

I remember thinking how ridiculously people spelt things – I couldn’t understand why words couldn’t just be spelt how they sounded! And, as for grammar – that was, (and still is,) very much a dark art to me! Although, through the thousands of hours I pour into my writing, I am improving – slowly.

As my schooling progressed, I would score very highly for content – but get next to nothing for spelling and punctuation. Which dragged my overall scores right down.

I found this poem a while back, that I wrote about war, aged 9:

Rising in the bloodshot sky, came the sun ready to cry.

For underneath its bloodshot rays, were soldiers fighting in a tangled maze.

Surrounding the battle field, dead trees acted as an evil shield.

And, all around… the sound, of human cry…as brave men dropped… all to die…

I know it’s a bit macabre! But still, not bad! The spelling was utterly shocking! The ‘soldiers’ were ‘shoulders’, ‘rays’ was ‘raise’, and so on. (By the way, spell check still had to correct these words when I typed this up just now!)

Eventually, at the age of twelve, (I think?) A brilliant English teacher, (we all have at least one!) – became my champion. She took the time to explore what the problem was, and I was found to be dyslexic.

I remember being relieved at the time, but then, shortly afterwards, the English teacher left the school, and without her I was just left with the title…

Back then, little was known about dyslexia. The teachers seemed to give up on me, thinking I was a lost cause – and so I gave up on myself a little too. I messed around basically.

Despite my love of English – in all its forms, I decided I would be better off studying art – where there would be less writing. Which looking back was a real shame. I just didn’t have the confidence.

Throughout my adult life I have tried to keep my dyslexia a secret – fearing it would be frowned upon and hold me back.

One thing I think many dyslexic people will relate to, is becoming incredibly ingenious at finding ways to cover it up. It’s a real skill actually.

It’s been really fantastic getting published, and finally being able to come clean. (Usborne have been wonderful.) I think it is very important to share this now. As the dyslexia itself didn’t stop me getting published – but my self-confidence could well have done.

 

SK: Does being dyslexic add anything to your writing or the way you write?

IM: I now listen to all my work in audio, which means I can pick up on some spelling mistakes and repeated words/sentences. It’s a real help.

I like to think that being dyslexic helps my writing. I picture things very clearly in my mind and have been told I use interesting ways to describe things.

Many dyslexic people are hugely creative. It may be something to do with that ingenuity at covering up the problem all the time. It makes you think more expansively about how to get around snags, I think.

Put it this way – I certainly wouldn’t want NOT to be dyslexic!

 

SK: That was brilliant. Thanks for sharing that with us.

We’d like to bring us back to ideas about reading and writing. If you could have written any other children’s novel what would it be and why?

IM: Giant Under the Snow by John Gordon. It’s creepy. It’s got a burial mound. It’s got a feisty female lead. And, it’s my favourite children’s book of all time. Despite being written in the 1960s, it still feels relevant. (Even if the teachers are chuffing away on pipes on the school trip!) Definitely a huge inspiration behind the series.

Giant under the snow

SK: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever been asked at a school reading?

IM: I was handing out sweets and a little boy put his hand up and asked, “what if someone is allergic to those.”

…I don’t hand out sweets anymore.

 

SK: What inspired you to start writing?

IW: The cup! The amber cup!

 

SK: What’s the best bit about writing a book?

IW: Getting lost in it. Being outside time.

 

SK: What’s the worst bit about writing a book?

IW: Getting lost in it. Being outside time. Not getting other things done!

 

SK: If you were stranded on a space station with two other authors, who would they be and why?

IW: I’d pick my author friends Siobhan Rowden and Tamsin Winter – because, I think we’d have a giggle. Anyone mega-famous would just be awkward. I’d probably hide.

SK: If you could give those writers one piece of homework, what would it be?

IW: Homework is boring. Write for the fun of it.

SK: To finish off, if you could have a message put in every ten-year old’s school diary, what would it be?

IW: Think big. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

SK: Thanks for taking the time to do this wonderful interview. Is there anything else you like to finish with?

IW: Thanks so much for having me visit STORGY Kids! It’s been great fun.

Oh, and folks can catch up with my news on

Twitter: @imo0030 , Instagram: @imogenwhitebooks Facebook: @ImogenWhite or, check out my website: www.mystertverse.wordpress.com

I’d love to hear from you!

We reviewed The Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Amber Pendant here.

Also we reviewed The Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Secret Ruby here.

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