The most exciting thing about reading the first book in a new series, especially one from a debut author, is that you know that there is more to come – more magic, more humour and even more adventure. After reading Maggie Blue and the Dark World, we had to find out more about the story and the inspiration behind it. Thankfully author Anna Goodall was kind enough to answer all our Hoagy and non-Hoagy related questions.
If you are wondering who (or what) Hoagy is, we highly recommend watching Maggie Blue and the Dark World‘s online launch event. The hour-long chat between Anna Goodall and Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a complete delight, introducing this strange and wonderful book to readers far and wide.
Follow Anna on Twitter @AGoodallAuthor.
There’s a special kind of magic about children’s books, a greater sense of possibility, danger and adventure. Did you always intend to write for children? What do you like most about it?
I started writing Maggie when a couple of collaborative projects I was working on fell through and I suddenly had a strong desire to write something all of my own. I didn’t really think about whom the book was for at first – I just started writing and I enjoyed it, far more than other things I’d tried to write. And ultimately, I think I found a lot of freedom in writing for children: both because, as you say, there is a great sense of possibility in the genre, but also, for me personally, because I finally felt like I was being myself and writing what I wanted to, rather than trying to emulate the very literary authors I most admired
What modern children’s book do you wish you had read as a child?
They’re not that modern anymore (!), but I read Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy when I was an adult. If had read them when I was 12, I’m pretty sure my mind would have been completely blown.
Where did the idea for Maggie Blue and the Dark World come from?
It’s surprisingly hard to answer that: I had just moved to a new area and I had a lot of mixed feelings about it that I think fed into the book’s sense of place. I don’t know where Maggie came from… to me she is so real, a friend, someone I love, that I just can’t recall inventing her anymore! The whole thing just seemed to flow…
The book feels very atmospheric. Did you listen to music while you were writing? Is there a song that captures the spirit of the story?
I love that question. But in reality I don’t write very well if there’s music playing. And though it is part of my writing, I think I’m more inspired by film, or at least my mind works in a cinematic way. I see scenes and sense atmospheres very visually.
A song to capture the spirit of the story…? Hmmm, very tricky. I’m not sure there’s just one, but if Maggie had theme tunes, I think one of them would be: ‘The Logical Song’ by Supertramp. It’s a really old song from the 1970s, but a classic: melancholic, dark, joyful and complex all at the same time.
Maggie is such a complex and realistic character. Although she shows immense courage and resilience, she also lacks confidence and often feels lonely and frustrated. How important was it for you to have a character who has insecurities and makes mistakes?
I can’t think of anything more important in a character – in a way, we’re all of us loved because of our duality, not in spite of it. If characters in stories (or people in real life) were perfect, or just conduits for narrative to run through, then in a way they wouldn’t exist. Story, character and emotion come from the conflicts and contradictions that are found within us. Having said that, I wish I was more like Maggie in many ways, so maybe there was a little wish-fulfilment in my writing of her character – her bravery but also because, despite her shyness and loneliness, she isn’t afraid to be herself. I truly admire that and wish I were more like her in that way
I loved the character of Hoagy, the grumpy, one-eyed talking cat. Was he always intended to be such a large part of the story? Will we find out more about his mysterious background?
Ha! I absolutely adore Hoagy. He’s based on a real cat I met who just got into my imagination, because in reality I didn’t get to know the real Hoagy very well. I’m not sure we’re going to find out more about his background, but you can be sure that he will have a big part to play in Maggie’s future adventures.
There’s a real sense of darkness and danger in the book. Did you ever have to edit or remove scenes that were too dark?
No, not at all. But I was actually surprised when people said how dark it was (!). I was just so in the world when I was writing it, and most of my favourite children’s books have a lot of darkness in them. In a sense that’s another thing that I love about children’s books – in some ways they can explore darkness and danger in a much purer and more direct way than adult fiction can.
Maggie faces some truly horrible characters in the Dark World. Which villain was the most fun to write?
Miss Cane was undoubtedly the most fun to create… and I think she’s the nastiest overall, too!
What has been the best thing a young reader has said about the book so far?
A reader from a Year 8 book group wrote a fantastic review, and said that Maggie… was a page-turner, that she had no idea what was going to happen next, and that the way I wrote helped her feel as if she was witnessing the whole thing and could form a picture in her head. I loved that.
Can you tell us anything about the sequel, Maggie Blue and the White Crow?
All I can say is that Maggie wants more than anything to cut all her ties with the Dark World and to forget that the action of the first book ever happened. But inevitably, the Dark World has others ideas… and Maggie begins to realise that her life and her past are far more intricately intertwined with this strange other world than she could ever have imagined.
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