Today I am interviewing author Alan S. Blood, and talking to him about his book “Once Upon A Castle”.
Alan S. Blood is an author who worked in Advertising and the Civil Service, in London, before qualifying as a Teacher from the University of Reading. He enjoyed a long, distinguished career in this Profession.
Alan now devotes his time to writing novels, plays and poetry and has widely travelled the world, especially undertaking research in Chile where some of his novel, ‘CRY OF THE MACHIA Suffolk Murder Mystery’ (published by ‘THE BOOK GUILD’ of Brighton) is set.
Question #1 – What is the name of your book?
Answer – ‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’
Originally published in the UK (1997) the book has beenrepublished in the USA by GMTA Publishing (August 2012).
Question #2 – Could you describe the book to me in a single sentence?
Twins Tom and Mary evacuate from London to wild Northumbria in World War 11 and discover two castles, one of which is a phantom !
Question #3 – Okay, now that you’ve stressed over that, give me the full description! Please include the book’s genre.
Uncle Toby had said that there would be castles to explore, with ghosts and things. This helps to cheer up the glum twelve-year old Lovell twins, Tom and Mary, leaving their schools and loving parents to be evacuated to wild Northumbria during World War II.
Then the adventure begins. They live with their Aunt Victoria and Uncle Leslie, meet the loveable ‘Mrs. M’, a strange dog called ‘Scamp’ and, worst, the terrible private tutor, Miss Urquart, from whom they run away to find a mysterious castle seen through an old telescope.
Now they are drawn into bizarre supernatural events of a time-warp between the war itself and ancient warfare. They encounter dark forces, as the story twists and turns, and are even rescued by the Royal Navy. Yet, this is only the beginning of more unexpected tragedies before the twins begin to escape from it all.
The Book is classified as a ‘Fantasy Novella under the ‘MYTHOS PRESS’ imprint of GMTA PUBLISHING.
Question #4 – How long have you been writing. Who or what would you say inspired you to start?
I was told I was very good at writing by an English Teacher and first started writing stories/articles for my own school newspaper (aged 14/15). Icontinued the writing of such throughout my life. My huge range of experiences has provided a reservoir of places, people, situations and ideas that I still draw upon to this day.
I am sixty seven and and a half years old and have had an amazing, highly stimulating and extremely varied life – which apart from my 25 year Teaching Career, has included many diverse jobs (not in chronological order) – ranging from builder’s/farm labourer to postman to office work – including Advertising/PR – to being PA to a Naval Commander ! I was an industrial Journalist and edited the ‘House Magazine’ of an electronics’ company involved in the early US ‘Gemini’ Space Programme. At University, I edited my College (Tabloid) newspaper ‘Tombull’. Teaching highlights include an ‘Exchange Programme’ (1983) in American Schools and organising a 2 day Industry/Education Conference (following a ‘post-graduate’ course at Cambridge University). I was amongst the first Teachers to organise ‘Work Experience’ for students on a massive scale and addressed a London Conference on this.
Question #5 – What was the driving point behind this book?
On a bitterly cold, November afternoon, I found myself stranded near Bamburgh Castle on the wild Northumberland coast whilst the local, old fashioned garage, with tall petrol pumps, repaired my broken-down car. The delicate, somewhat bright, late Autumn sunlight created an eerie, pastel coloured scene, albeit tempered by a biting breeze, yet quite magical, certainly ancient, and almost ethereal.“Vikings have landed here”, I told myself scanning the unique white beaches below the hazy castle ramparts. It was one of those strange experiences that triggered the imagination and I could see a Scandinavian longship coming ashore, dislodging horned helmeted warriors seizing the beach before storming inland to ravage the sparse Saxon populace. I could feel that there was a tale to be told !
With the genesis of a story in mind, I conducted research into Northumbrian castles and was intrigued to discover there was another ruined castle along the coast. This gave me a plot basis involving two castles, one of which was real and the other a phantom ! Ideas built as I thought this was an area to where children were evacuated during World War 11. Things shaped towards an exciting novel for young adolescents involving twelve year old twins, Tom and Mary (to appeal to both sexes) who dread being sent from Southern England to Aunt Victoria’s Northumberland farm. Yet, she proves to be young, and fun, until lessons are arranged with a terrible private Tutor, Miss Urquart ! Their London Uncle Toby had said “There will be castles to explore with ghosts and things”. Teenage rebelliousness ensues as the twins escape and riotous, scary adventures involving castles, Vikings and even the Royal Navy begin !
Question #6 – How is this book different from what’s already out there? What do future readers need to know about it?
I was born just before the end of World War 11 and my childhood was full of recollections and stories about life in the War. I think the book offers a strong insight into wartime conditions based upon these first hand details, from my parents and others.
The supernatural element adds an unusual twist to the wartime reality of children’s evacuation by affording ghostly experiences through a time warp between the actual war and ancient warfare. This, combined with pre – teen rebelliousness appeals to the natural adventurousness of young readers.
The novella has been widely used in British School (National Curriculum) History projects and I have visited many schools to talk about it – resulting in receiving many appreciative letters from pupils who thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Some readers say they are saddened by the book’s relative shortness as a ‘Novella’ and would have liked it to be longer. However, the book was written and aimed at adolescents at at time when (I can confirm as anex English Teacher) that teenagers would always choose a ‘Thinner Book’ if compelled to do so in English ‘Reading’ lessons/activities.This, of course, was way before a certain J.K Rowling produced the ‘Harry Potter’ novels – which increasingly developed into books ‘as thick as house bricks’ – which changed many youngsters’ reading habits forever !
Question #7 – Who is your favorite character in the story? Or if you prefer, what is your favorite element about it?
Probably the loveable ‘Mrs. M’ –the elderly lady who helps the twins’ Aunt Victoria to run the farmhouse – and who becomes a surrogate mother to Tom and Mary as both their Aunt and real mother are too busy with the work they do to help the war effort.
My favourite element is how, plucked from the security of their expensive private schools, and (notwithstanding help from Mrs. M) they are thrust into having to largely fend for themselves in the reality of being evacuees (albeit with ‘family’) in the harshness of wartime Britain. The twins grow up rapidly and their new found freedom makes them rebel against the ghastly private Tutor who their Aunt provides. This, combined with the fascination of a mysterious ‘Castle’ elaborated upon by Mrs M, makes them escape and embark upon what becomes quite a terrifying adventure which tests both their resourcefulness and burgeoning maturity, accompanied by an equally inexplicable little dog !
Question #8 – What about you helps influence the story in a unique way?
I guess (althoughnever a’ trouble maker’)at school I was always a rebel prepared to fight for rights against injustice. Miss Urquart, the terrible private Tutor regards the Twins as ‘little children’ totally ignoring their early adolescence and treats them far worse, even, that the Teachers had done in their relativelystrict schools – where at least their age and intelligence had been respected.
As a Teacher, myself, I was always strict but fair and earned respect from my pupils – fighting for them if I thought they were being unfairly treated by other members of staff ! In reality, I wouldalso have rebelled against a ‘Miss Urquart’.
It is the evident assertion of pre-teen ‘rights’ that is a contributory factor of the book’s popularity with youngsters – shown by the feedback (both verbally and through letters) that I have previously received from youngsters.
And that about wraps up this interview. If you would like to find Alan across the web, you can check out these links;
Website & Blog – http://www.alansblood.co.uk
Audio – http://www.alansblood.co.uk/
Alan S. Blood’s FacebookPage – https://www.facebook.com/alan.blood.75
Alan S. Blood’s Twitter Feed – https://twitter.com/AlanSBlood
Alan S. Blood on Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5068714.Alan_S_Blood
Alan S. Blood on LinkedIn – http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/alan-blood/38/607/b94