Sunday, 25 February 2007

3: Something about names!

I always enjoy creating names for characters and places in my books. That's especially so in the Thomas Trew series! They were inspired by all sorts of things..things I saw, things I read, things that just popped into my head!

The name of the dwarf Adverse Camber, for instance. That's from a roadworks sign! We were driving along near Cardiff in Wales a few years ago, and there were lots of roadworks. Every so often, you'd come across a sign which said 'Adverse Camber'--meaning that the road had a bit of a tilt to it that might make it hard to drive. When I saw that sign, I thought, that sounds like someone's name, actually. Someone unusual...someone who enjoys driving but maybe has trouble with his car: and hey, presto, there was Adverse Camber the dwarf and his unco-operative car, Metallicus, springing up in my head!

Another time, I saw a poster about herbs at an old house we were visiting. It was rather a nice poster, with coloured pictures and the names of all kinds of herbs. Two especially caught my attention: Angelica, because as a child I used to love it when Mum bought some to decorate cakes (it's a rather nice green crystallised root) ; and Eyebright, because, well, that was such a nice name. Ah-ha, I thought, 'Angelica Eyebright'! That sounds like some magic person's name--and so, there she was!

Some other names have come from myth and legend: for instance, Pan, in the second Thomas Trew book. The name of the wicked Uncouther General, Legion Morningstar, comes from the Bible, while the name of his city, Pandemonium, comes from Greek tradition. There are also names from Celtic stories, such as the name of the selkie girl, Roanna, in the fourth Thomas Trew book; and from Norse legend, like the Klints, in the third Thomas Trew book.
And from Shakespeare--like the name for the dwellers of the sky-country of the Hidden World: the Ariels.

And quite a few have come from one of my favourite source books: the wonderful Dictionary of Fairies, by Katharine Briggs. She was an English writer with a great interest in folklore, and she wrote lots of really useful books about the stories and legends of Britain. The Dictionary of Fairies, for instance, is full of amazing stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful and scary creatures, people, monsters and traditions. By 'fairies' she means all the many sorts of inhabitants of that world within the world, which I've called the Hidden World, but other people call things like 'Narnia' or 'Elfland' or 'Fairyland' or 'Beyond the Looking-Glass' or 'Wonderland' or 'Hogwarts!' In that 'fairy' world are ogres and giants and trolls and dragons and griffins and elves and well, just about everything magical and amazing, good, bad, and just plain mischievous!

A Dictionary of Fairies also is full to bursting with terrific names, taken from traditional stories. And that's where some of my characters' names have come from: for example, Pinch and Patch, Hinkypunk Hobthrust, Old Gal, the Green Man, Peg Powler, and others...

Still other names come directly into my head without any prompting. The name of the village where Thomas goes to live, for instance-Owlchurch--comes out of my feeling that a lot of English village churches, with their square Norman towers with tufts of stone at each corner, look rather, in the distance, like square owls' heads! 'Owlchurch', I thought, yes! The other common kind of village church is the sort that has a tall pointy spire--so, 'Aspire'--which was actually suggested to me by my husband. My first thought for Aspire's name was Needlechurch--nowhere near as good a name as Aspire--thank you, David!

2: Into the Hidden World...

'There's a dwarf in the hall,' said Thomas Trew to his father, one grey London afternoon.

That's how the first Thomas Trew book begins...and that's Thomas' introduction to the magical Hidden World.
The dwarf's name is Adverse Camber, and he's with a funny little lady dressed all in rainbow colours, who's called Angelica Eyebright. There they both are, in the picture to the left--the first of the wonderful artist Ted Dewan's illustrations for the Thomas Trew series.

Angelica is the Mayor of the Hidden World village of Owlchurch, where Thomas and his father Gareth are going to live. Adverse, meanwhile, is her assistant and the proud owner of the grumpy talking car, Metallicus. It's in Metallicus that Thomas and Gareth will get to Owlchurch..

Where is the Hidden World? It's not far away, but lies just within our own world--which Hidden Worlders call 'the Obvious World.' You can reach it in all sorts of ways--on a little slip road off the motorway, as Thomas and his father do; by ship; across several border posts... The only thing is, you must be invited there in order to be welcome. People who try to force their way into the Hidden World, without an invitation, are in all kinds of trouble!

The Hidden World is the source of dreams, imagination and magic. It's divided up into several regions, where different sorts of people live. There are the Middler regions, where Owlchurch and its rival across the River Riddle, Aspire, lie. There are the rocky, mountainous Montaynard regions; the Seafolk's realms, under the ocean; the Ariel regions, in the sky. And then there's Uncouther country, in the darkness of the underground...

In the six books in the series, he visits each region of the Hidden World, learns a good deal about them, has wonderful adventures--and falls into great danger!

The six books are, in order:

Thomas Trew and the Hidden People
Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan
Thomas Trew and the Klint-King's Gold
Thomas Trew and the Selkie's Curse
Thomas Trew and the Flying Huntsman
Thomas Trew and the Island of Ghosts.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

1: Welcome to Thomas Trew and the Hidden World...

And hello to all my readers! In this blog, I'll tell you a little about the series, how it started, about its characters, and also about the Hidden World itself. I'll be very happy to answer any questions you might have--and feel free to leave comments!

The series started in a really magical way. One night, I had a dream. And in this dream, I walked down a little street and came to a doorway which had a sign above it: the Apple Tree Cafe. I walked through the doorway, down a rather dark and narrow passage-way. There was a door at the end of the passageway. This door was green, and painted on it was a picture of an apple tree with rather gnarly branches and some beautiful ripe red apples on it. I opened the painted door, and straight away, a voice whispered to me, 'We are the Hidden People.'
I woke up at that moment, and lay there thinking that I must find out who these hidden people were, and what were they doing in the Apple Tree, and what was it all about? These hidden people came from a hidden world, that was clear. But what was this hidden world, and how was it different from ours, and how might you go there?

Then I thought of a story I knew, an old Scottish story which is called Thomas the Rhymer. He's a young man who one day goes to sleep under an apple tree and then suddenly wakes up to find an amazingly beautiful lady looking at him. She's riding a white horse. Thomas says, who are you? and she tells him she's the queen of Elfland, and she's going to take him on a marvellous journey into Elfland. So he gets up behind her on his horse, and she takes him into a magical land full of wonders. He spends a long time there and has all sorts of adventures. Then at the end of several years, he wants to go home again, and off he goes--but with a special gift the Queen of Elfland has given him. It's the gift of prophecy, and back home he becomes known as 'True Thomas' because all the things he foretells actually come true..

So the hero of my series is Thomas, too. Not True Thomas, but Thomas Trew. He's a descendant of Thomas the Rymer, as I called him, and he too is specially invited into the Hidden World(though not by the Queen of Elfland, as you'll see) and has many adventures there. But Thomas doesn't live a long time ago, like that first Thomas. He lives now, in London. He's nearly 10, his mother's dead and he lives with his father Gareth in a rather grey house in a rather grey street. People think he's rather weird, even his dad, because he sees and hears things other people can't. He just knows something wonderful is going to happen one day--and sure enough, it does!