“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.
Today we are pleased to host Christine Brodien-Jones, author Fantasy Middle Grade novels. To celebrate the release of The Glass Puzzle, the author is here to talk about Inspirations & Influcences – Travel and Fantasy – in her novels.
Please give it up for Christine!
Travel and Fantasy by Christine Brodien-Jones
All my novels have started with a journey of one sort or another. I’m almost as passionate about traveling as I am about writing and I’ve always kept notebooks to gather ideas on the road. Sometimes certain places will take hold of me, exerting an almost mystical influence—desert landscapes, islands, cities like Marrakech and Buenos Aires, small towns like Tenby, Wales—so it’s no surprise when these places turn up in my books.
My latest novel, The Glass Puzzle (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013), is set within the medieval walled seaside town of Tenby, Wales, notorious for its pirates, smugglers, caves and ghosts, and the maze of tunnels running beneath its cobbled streets. I’ve visited Tenby several times and it’s a haunted, seemingly mysterious place. In earlier versions of the book I used an American small-town setting, but something was missing; the setting and characters weren’t all that interesting. When I switched the location to Tenby, the story suddenly took off. My main characters came to life and new characters appeared out of nowhere, clamoring to be heard.
Twice a day you can catch the mail boat from Tenby to Caldey Island, three miles out to sea. Caldey is populated by monks who sell honey, chocolates and perfume to tourists. Legend holds that the pirate John Paul Jones met his end here, his skeletal foot found later wedged between the rocks. It wasn’t much of a leap for me to invent a second island which disappeared off the coast of Wales in 1349: I called the island Wythernsea.
When eleven-year-old Zoé and her cousin Ian find a long-lost glass puzzle in Tenby, they discover it’s a gateway to the parallel world of Wythernsea. Unfortunately the portal also allows Scravens, monsters that inhabit humans, to enter Tenby. Zoé and Ian must find an ancient runestone and the Scraven leader before Midsummer’s Day if they are to vanquish the Scravens and close the portal forever.
The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012), a fantasy/adventure, was based on an actual journey. In the summer of 1998 I traveled with my husband Peter and our two teenage sons to Morocco. While we didn’t encounter the giant scorpions described in the book, the experience was seared deep into my memory: the heat and dust, the exotic colors and smells, the frenetic pace of ancient Marrakech. Most beautiful and terrifying of all was the Sahara, where we rode camels and camped overnight in the desert. As our journey progressed, I became intrigued by the idea of how the desert changes everyone who goes there.
For Scorpions I created an alternate family—the Pyms—who make a similar journey. Zagora Pym, eleven years old, has one burning desire: to go to the Sahara and find the half-buried desert city of Zahir. When her father receives a mysterious letter from a friend who’s been missing ten years and claims to have found Zahir, Zagora gets her chance: she sets off for Morocco with her dad and her nerdy, astronomy-obsessed brother Duncan. Zagora is a combination of my favorite childhood heroines and the deeper she ventures into the desert, the braver and more determined she becomes. The desert changes not only her, but Duncan as well, along with Mina and Razziq, two Moroccan kids they meet along the way.
The Owl Keeper, a novel based in a dystopian future, combines the quiet mood of my hometown in western New York, the chaotic confusion of Buenos Aires, and the freezing darkness of New England in winter. Currently I’m working on a fantasy set in the north of Spain, in towns along an ancient medieval path called The Camino where I walked 500 hundred miles last autumn with Peter.
I write fantasy-adventures for middle-grade readers because I loved books so much at that age. Reading was always a journey to the unknown, traveling to places filled with danger, mystery and intrigue. This is the magic of books. You don’t need airline tickets or hotel reservations, you don’t even need to pack a suitcase! All you have to do is open the cover.
About the author: CHRISTINE BRODIEN-JONES is the author of three middle-grade fantasy adventure novels, The Glass Puzzle (Delacorte, July 2013), The Scorpions of Zahir (Delacorte, 2012) and The Owl Keeper (Delacorte, 2010).Booklist magazine praised her writing, saying “Brodien-Jones mixes fantasy and adventure in a way that would make Indiana Jones feel right at home.” Ms. Brodien-Jones studied writing at Emerson College in Boston and has worked as a reporter, an editor, and a teacher. She divides her time between Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Deer Isle, Maine. Learn more about her life and work and download additional free discussion guides for her novels at her website: www.cbrodien-jones.com. Visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChristineBrodienJones.
Be sure to visit the other stops on Christine Brodien-Jones’ blog tour for THE GLASS PUZZLE!
Mon, July 8: Read Now, Sleep Later
Tues, July 9: Sharpread
Wed, July 10: Once Upon a Story
Thurs, July 11: The Book Monsters
Fri, July 12: I Read Banned Books
Mon, Jul 15: Children’s Book Review
Wed, July 17: Cracking the Cover
Thurs, July 18: Mother Daughter Book Club
Fri, July 19: Hobbitsies
Courtesy of the publisher, we’re happy to offer a giveaway of all three of Christine Brodien-Jones’ middle grade fantasies – THE OWL KEEPER (2010), THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR (2012), and THE GLASS PUZZLE (new in July!). The contest is open to addresses in the USA and will run until Saturday, July 27 at 12:01am. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!