The Most Curious Case of the Runaway Spoon was recently released on the 25th May 2017. So, we thought that we would catch up with the author, Tony Flannagan, and ask him a few questions about his new book.
How would you describe The Most Curious Case of the Runaway Spoon and who would you say it is aimed at?
I would describe the book as a nonsensical, fantastical adventure which is more than just a fairy detective story… or something ‘akin’ to that! The book is aimed at 9-12 year old readers but I would have hoped it would also appeal to teenaged and adults readers too. Friends who kindly read the book in the early days enjoyed Amelia’s journey through Fursairyland - and not one of them guessed the ending!
What initially gave you the idea for the novel? What was your inspiration?
I wrote the book for my daughter, Frances. When she was younger, we would write her fairy letters. One day, Frances and I went into the woods and recreated the Cottingley fairy images with pictures we had copied from one of her fairy books. There is a picture of Frances with the fairies at the front of the book. Frances is now 16 years old, but she still has all her letters. We’ve never talked about the provenance of the letters, just as we’ve never had the conversation about Father Christmas. There is no need – I think you always have to believe in such things.
I have always enjoyed reading children’s novels. I come from Portsmouth and the city has an affinity with Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle held his first doctor’s practice in Southsea and I have always been a huge fan of the Holmes stories. ‘Sir Arthur’ is an important, if somewhat absent, character in the book and it was a natural reference to make. Not so ‘curiously’, the book pays homage to the Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories and the Wizard of Oz. I have always been fascinated with how people react to change and, as I wrote the book, Amelia’s rite of passage became an ever-intriguing conundrum
What was your favourite nursery rhyme as a child, and why?
I particularly like all the old nursery rhymes that came out of London, I am fascinated by the origin of rhymes and how the lyrics came about. I suppose my favourite nursery rhyme should be Hey Diddle Diddle, which is a phrase like ‘oh nonny nonny’ that appears in Shakespeare, but I really like Pop Goes the Weasel. There is something quite brilliant about the Cockney rhyming slang and the line: “Up and down the city road, in and out of the Eagle…” - it’s all about pawning your Sunday best coat (weasel and stoat) when you’ve spent all your money in the pub (the Eagle) instead of buying the family food and “That’s the way the money goes”. Like most nursery rhymes, the jolly tune has a deeper and, at times, darker meaning.
Why did you decide to write a book for children?
Children’s books always make for the best stories and I think they allow the writer to take more chances in stretching the imagination.
Your last piece of writing, The Larkspur Method - A Guide to Better Betting, was about racing. Was it difficult going from this to a children’s fiction book?
The writing experience that I gained from my freelance work as a horse racing writer was instrumental in helping me write The Runaway Spoon.
I started writing for Racing Ahead magazine after I responded to an advert seeking a wanna-be writer for the Days at the Races column. I had always fancied myself as a bit of a writer but had never done anything seriously; at least, I had never completed anything. The magazine comes out every month and the submission deadline taught me to write in a disciplined fashion, i.e. you get on with things, keep going and try not to look back too much. I ended up self-publishing three racing books and then secured a publishing contract with Raceform for The Larkspur Method, after they had initially rejected it! I still write for Racing Ahead under the pseudonym ‘Larkspur’.
There are many characters in childhood nursery rhymes. If you could be any character, who would you be and why?
I suppose I would want to be Jack be Nimble as I have never been a fast runner and I am certain that is why I never played football for Pompey!
What future plans do you have for writing?
I have started my second book: Mozzarella Bella and the English Fella. It’s set in Rome and is about an English art student and the adventures of a feral cat – again, it’s about changing environments.
What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it, and why?
I am currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is incredible. I dream of being able to write as brilliantly as that.
If you could meet any author from any time period, who would it be and why?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as he was a doctor, author, footballer, cricketer and he believed in the Cottingley Fairies! We would have a lot to talk about as we strolled along Southsea seafront.
What advice would you give to a young author looking to be published?
Read everything and write. Read some more… and then write again, and again... And remember, always believe!
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