“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 reign 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.
Michelle Harrison is the lovely author of the 13 Treasures books, a young adult trilogy about a girl with the ability to see fairies, and her twisted family legacy. Both Smugglers read and loved 13 Treasures, and lucky UK-based Ana finished the trilogy and loved it even more. In celebration of the release of 13 Secrets, the third book in the trilogy, we have the wonderful Michelle Harrison for a guest post and a giveaway of the entire trilogy.
Please give a warm welcome to Michelle!
My two older sisters, Theresa and Janet, were a huge influence on my wish to be an author and illustrator. From an early age they read to me, and even made up stories of their own (usually starring me as the heroine)! Theresa was a gifted storyteller, and both were good at drawing, so I often got illustrations to accompany these tales. They weren’t always kind! Janet in particular was a tease, often drawing a character with a mean, warty face and presenting him as my future husband, which sometimes made me cry. But it was also Janet who came home one day and announced: ‘I’ve decided. I’m going to be an author.’ I followed the first few chapters of Down the Tomato Hole (based on some sort of game she and Theresa had played when they were small) with interest. It was never finished – she lost interest, but even so, it had sown its seeds. Being an author had not occurred to me before, but with that, it somehow became a possibility.
The books my sisters read to me were musty, yellowing hand-me-downs from the 70s, and the vast majority were by Enid Blyton. The woman gets a lot of criticism these days, and yes, her books were of her time but I remain loyal: she’s the reason I became a reader. Naughty Amelia Jane, Mallory Towers, and especially the Famous Five – I read them all. I loved the independence of the characters and the excitement of their adventures, which will be obvious to anyone who reads my work. Secret passages, anyone?
The next author to have an impact on me was Christopher Pike. I’d been through my Point Horror phase and was already writing derivative short stories. I discovered Pike at my local library. I fell in love. I was inspired. I wanted to write those kinds of stories; with killer twist endings, and a knack of making the fantastical believable. I carried on writing, attempted a novel I didn’t finish. It didn’t matter. It was practise. When I left school, I knew I wanted to be an author and illustrator, but if someone had told me I’d be writing about fairies in ten years’ time I’d have laughed in their face.
I kept diaries which, thankfully, I destroyed, and at the start of art college wrote lots of TERRIBLE poetry. The introduction to fairies came from my tutor, Iain Lowe, himself a talented artist whose work I pored over. He presented me with a book called Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. I was immediately taken with how beautiful it was, and how removed these creatures were from the glittery, sweet things we’re brought up believing in. These fairies were wild and sinister, and the accompanying folklore wove a spell of its own. My artwork instantly took on a new direction, and I began to want to write about fairies.
The idea for my main character came from my niece, Tanya. When she was two, her mother (Janet) went to see a medium who said Tanya would grow up to be psychic. Remembering this, it occurred to me that I could use it in a story, and that her ability could be to see fairies that no one else could. Those were the beginnings of The 13 Treasures.
I’m constantly inspired by what’s around me: people, places, objects. For me, the fantastical becomes possible when it’s melded with reality. Hangman’s Wood, mentioned in the 13 Treasures books, is a real place that I grew up near to, and the deneholes in the woods exist as well, though my renaming of them as ‘catacombs’ is my own. Similarly, the servants’ staircase at Elvesden Manor is inspired by an identical one in an Essex pub, which was blocked off just as it is in the story.
By now you’ve probably gathered that I’m a bit of a magpie. I think of these snippets of places and people as trinkets that I can hide away until the time comes to weave it into a story. In my personal life I’m no different; I’ve always been a knick-knacky person who would rather spend money in a flea market on an 18th century key or a jewelled frog than clothes.
My study room is just the same, crammed with ornaments and pictures, anything I find inspiring. The problem I have now it dusting it all, but sometimes I just tell myself that a bit of dust doesn’t matter. An ancient key or charm bracelet swathed in cobwebs is so much more mysterious, don’t you think?
Thank you, Michelle!
We are giving away a full set of the 13 Treasures trilogy: 13 Treasures, 13 Curses, and 13 Secrets, to ONE lucky winner. This giveaway is open to everyone, and will be open until Saturday, February 5 at 11:59PM (PST). In order to enter, leave a comment here letting us know what is your favorite fairy story (short story, novel, series, film, whatever). Good luck!