Welcome to my blog for an After School Book Club takeover, talking to Lucy Strange, author of Our Castle By The Sea and The Secret Of Nightingale Wood.
So, I’ll hand you straight over…
We loved the vibrant characters and atmospheric setting in Our Castle By The Sea. Can you summarise it in three words?
Loyalty, a legend and a lighthouse…
Miss Cleveland has lots of great books on her bookcase, why should children choose Our Castle By The Sea?
You’ll like Our Castle by the Sea if you’d like to experience what it might have been like to live on the coast of England during the Second World War whilst enjoying the thrill of a dark and dangerous mystery.
Our Castle By The Sea and The Secret Of Nightingale Wood both have strong links to the World Wars. What is it about this period in our history that draws you to write about them?
I love writing historical fiction, partly because you are never working on a ‘blank canvas’ – you already have an exciting array of real events in place – a colourful background for your story. I think I am drawn to writing about war as the history is so powerful and people’s lives were so deeply affected. I think it can be an extraordinarily emotional imaginative journey for readers.
Your writing brings the English coast, and it’s nature, to life. If you could visit anywhere in the world to explore nature’s wonders, where would you most like to go?
My next book is set in the Lake District so that’s exactly where I want to be at the moment – surrounded by lakes and rugged fells.
Your characters are very real, we would love to meet Petra and Spooky Joe. Which book character would you most like to spend the day with and what would you do together?
I think I’d like to spend a day gardening in the Secret Garden with Mary Lennox. She is such an interesting character as she is totally unlikeable at the beginning of the story, but she learns how to be a compassionate, unselfish and nurturing person as the story goes on. She is also rebellious and disobedient – like all good heroes!
In Our Castle By The Sea, you demonstrate how fear can lead to division, prejudice and hatred. How can we help our friends to see beyond their fears to make our world a friendlier place?
I think the key is in relationships with individuals, and understanding that there is no nation in the world that is one homogenous monster: all nations are comprised of individual human beings. Perhaps the key to empathy and compassion is in being open to the differences between cultures whilst recognising that we are all fundamentally the same.
What was your favourite book as a child, and did you have a favourite author?
I loved all sorts of stories as a child. Up until the age of about ten I probably read more Enid Blyton books than anything else, then I discovered mystery stories and the brilliance of Agatha Christie. I love the sort of story that involves a puzzle to be solved along the way. I have a theory that all great books – regardless of genre – include some of the elements of a classic murder mystery or detective story: hidden clues, red herrings, plot twists, surprising characters and revelations…
And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring young authors?
Young aspiring authors will always be told that the most important thing is to read lots of good books, and this is VERY important – but I also think you should read some bad books too, so you learn the difference and develop your own sense of what works and what doesn’t work. Write when your brain is most awake. Ensure that everything you write feels honest. Daydream, stare out of windows, look at people closely and notice things that others don’t see. Be bold with language. Write something you’d actually want to read. Remember that your reader is the most important person in the world. Enjoy it.
Huge thanks to After School Book Club for coming up with great questions and to Lucy for taking the time to answer them.
About Lucy Strange…
Lucy Strange worked as an actor, singer and storyteller before becoming a secondary school English teacher. She lives in the Kent countryside with her partner James, their baby boy and a tortoiseshell cat known as the Moo. Our Castle by the Sea is Lucy’s second novel for Chicken House, following her critically acclaimed debut, The Secret of Nightingale Wood. You can connect with Lucy on Twitter @thelucystrange and on Facebook at @theLucyStrange.
Our Castle By The Sea by Lucy Strange · Published by Chicken House · 3rd January 2019 ·Paperback · £6.99 · 9+ year olds