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Blog Tour: The Magic Place

I’m so happy to be part of the blog tour for beautiful new middle grade adventure The Magic Place! Anything with a magical cat character is going to be a hit in my book, and this story is a really fun and entertaining read – it’s almost what you’d get if you crossed The Twits with A Little Princess, but of course with an added (and wonderful!) feline companion. Tomte was especially keen to get his paws on it, as you can see…

For my stop on the tour, author Chris Wormell has kindly given us a glimpse into his writing process, and, most importantly, an introduction to the friendship between our heroine Clementine and her cat, Gilbert!

The characters I began this story with are not wholly original. They are archetypes. The reader knows the territory from the moment the story begins. My villains certainly have a bit of Dahl and a bit of Dickens in them. And Clementine, my heroine, is surely a kind of Dickens inspired orphan. But none of this was very consciously done, of course. I certainly had no plan. It just sort of happened, the way stories do.

The first line had been in my head for some time:

‘In the middle of a Great Black City of smoke and soot and grime there once lived a girl called Clementine.’

I knew the story was going to be about an orphan, desperate to escape from her wicked aunt and uncle. But that was all I had, and it wasn’t until I thought about where she would escape to and why, that the story began to develop. Then another idea that had been floating around in my brain for many years suddenly jumped into my consciousness and I saw how it could be used in this story. A kind of magic moment that would be the pivotal point of the book. The cogs began to whir, and I began to plot how I might engineer this scene.

It’s the moment when Clementine, locked in her dark damp cellar at the bottom of her aunt and uncle’s house, looks into the fragment of mirror in her cold fireplace and…

‘Far away, beyond the smoke and the rooftops and the chimneys, she saw high mountains with purple heathery slopes sweeping down into a wide green valley with a silvery stream, a stream that tumbled over waterfalls and ran between woods and fields beside a winding road…

She saw the place of her dreams. She saw the Magic Place.’

A seemingly impossible moment. But there were ways it could be managed…

The mirror, the lens from Aunt Vermilia’s spectacles, the circular window in the attic and even the little grey rabbit with the long floppy ears were all devices to contrive that moment. Though of course, once I’d thought of them, each of these things expanded the story in other directions… and thus a story grows and begins to take on a life of its own.

Key to all was Gilbert the cat. He is the thread running through the story and weaving all the various elements together. And though to begin with I just needed a cat for Aunt Vermilia to kick (or try to), Gilbert quickly developed into a far more important character. He is Clementine’s only true friend – comforter, companion and confidant. But he is more than this. As I say at the beginning of the story, he is an extraordinary cat – so clever one might suspect there’s a touch of magic about him…

I hope that’s tempted you to pick up The Magic Place and meet Gilbert! As you can see, the illustrations in this book are fantastic – plus, the book opens with a multi-page sequence of illustrations of Gilbert prowling the City, which I loved, so it’s definitely one worth checking out in person. David Fickling Books were kind enough to gift me a copy for the tour, but you can order a special bookplate edition from Waterstones. And don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

4 thoughts on “Blog Tour: The Magic Place

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