My weekend was TOTALLY absorbed by Our Castle by the Sea – this is a fabulous middle grade adventure novel, with stunning writing and plenty of twists and turns. What a delight that Lucy Strange, (who also wrote the magnificent The Secret of Nightingale Wood), was able to pop into My Book Corner to answer our infamous questions…
Tell us about you in 25 words or less.
I’m a tea-drinking, deep-thinking, hill-climbing, word-rhyming, English-teaching, high-reaching, fire-lighting, story-writing bookworm.
Our Castle by the Sea, your second middle grade novel, has just hit the shelves, how did it come to be?
Our Castle was originally inspired by an Eric Ravilious painting of the view from the lantern room of the Belle Tout lighthouse near Eastbourne. I knew straight away that it was going to be a wartime story and I started my research. When I found out about the treatment of ‘enemy aliens’ in this country and the Second World War internment camps, I felt that it was a story that needed to be told – an aspect of the war that many younger readers would not know about. I was keen to explore the feelings of anger and fear that so many British people would have experienced at this time – terrified of a Nazi invasion – and what that meant for people such as Mutti – my protagonist’s mother, who happens to be German.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I usually write in bed or on the sofa, nice and snug and warm, with a good, hot cup of Earl Grey tea steaming beside me. I tend to do my best writing first thing in the morning, but since I had Baby Strange last year, I have to take my writing time wherever and whenever I can get it!
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
I’ve got a bit of catching up to do with my reading from last year – I can’t wait to start Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Way Past Winter, and Katherine Rundell’s Into the Jungle. I want to re-read Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca as it is part of the inspiration for something I’m working on now, and I’m hugely looking forward to getting started on The Midnight Hour by Laura Trinder and Benjamin Read.
What’s your worst habit?
Trying to do too many things at once. As I’m answering your questions I’m also attempting to drink a cup of tea and eat a cinnamon whirl. Seriously though, I’m terrible for over-committing myself. I blame my optimistic, excitable nature – I want to do ALL THE THINGS.
The strangest question you’ve even been asked?
A ten-year-old at a school I visited once asked me what my royalty percentage was. On hearing the answer, he suggested I should probably try to get a better deal and offered to negotiate my next contract for me – a future entrepreneur in the world of publishing I think!
Your favourite word(s)?
Oh I can’t possibly choose a favourite word – it changes every day! At the moment, I’m very much enjoying the words ‘baboon,’ and ‘Chihuahua,’ as they make my baby laugh.
What are your top tips for budding children’s writers?
Apart from the obvious (read VORACIOUSLY!), I would advise young readers to write bravely. Be bold with language choices, and honest too – avoid clichés and predictable phrases. Be thorough and respect your reader – remember that it’s all about them and their experience of your story. You do need to plan, and you do need to edit!
Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)
Well… It’s set in the Lake District at the turn of the century and it’s a bit more gothic than my last two books. And that’s all you’re getting for now… Unless… What sort of cake??
Did we forget anything?
If you like wartime stories, adventure stories or stories about daughters turned to stone and mythical sea-dragons, you’ll love Our Castle by the Sea!
Thank you for having me! x
Just for fun
Tea or coffee? Tea. Always.
Seaside or countryside? Argh – a tough one. I love being near the sea, and it was wonderful spending so much time there while I was researching and writing my new book, but I’ve just moved to a cosy cottage in the countryside, so I’ll probably go with that.
Paper books or e-books? Paper books.
Cake or chocolate? Both please. But if you’re going to twist my arm, I’ll go with dark mint chocolate. Thank you very much.
Write or type? Write notes, type stories.
Poetry or prose? Prose.
Hot or cold? Hot cup of tea by a hot log fire on a cold, cold day.
OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA by Lucy Strange out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and follow Lucy Strange on twitter @theLucyStrange