Alex English

ECHO QUICKTHORN AND THE GREAT BEYOND is the first book in the brilliant SKY PIRATES series by ALEX ENGLISH!

This is a fabulous fantasy story that takes Echo, her pet lizard Gilbert and best friend Horace on an adventure where they discover new cities and islands, strange creatures - and danger - as they hunt for Echo's lost mother.


Q: Is Sky Pirates the kind of book you would have enjoyed as a child?

A: Yes, absolutely! I loved adventures and fantasy stories - anything that let me escape in to an exhilarating new world. I was a keen reader and loved The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series by Joan Aiken and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

Q: In one sentence - what is Sky Pirates about?

A: Eleven-year-old Echo and her pet lizard, Gilbert set out on an incredible airship adventure to find her missing mother.

Q: What sparked the idea for Sky Pirates, and a girl who longs for adventure?

A: I love to travel the world - I've lived in Hong Kong and Paris, dodged hippos while canoeing the Zambezi and sledded dogs in Finland, amongst other adventures!

I'm naturally itchy-footed, so I suppose I took a bit of myself and exaggerated it in to something fantastical.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your main characters, Echo and Horace?

A: Echo has grown up as a ward of the king in Lockfort, after being abandoned as a baby. She's brave, but sometimes doesn't think before she acts. Prince Horace is the only other child that Echo knows, he's cautious and bit of a scaredy cat (or pudding heart, as Echo likes to call him), but can be braver than he thinks. They often annoy each other but they become great friends.

Q: Gilbert is Echo's pet lizard - why did you decide on a lizard for a pet?

A: I don't really know! Gilbert just sort of arrived in my story and he seemed so cool that I let him stay. Stories are mysterious things sometimes.

Q: How did you grow the world in the story? Did you sketch out a map of the places to help find your way around?

A: Yes, I did sketch out a map to help keep me organised, although I made up a lot of the world as I went along so it kept changing.

My top tip for creating a fantasy world is not to wait until your world is perfect to start writing a story, just get going and discover it along with your character.

Q: Of all the places you describe in the novel, which one would you most like to visit?

A: I'd love to visit the Violet Isles and feed the giant butterflies.

Q: There are some fabulous gadgets in the novel - which one would you like to bring home with you?

A: I think it would have to be Smokesister, Abena's mechanical dragon.

Q: In the story, Echo desperately wants to be able to explore and have adventures. What would have been your top three career choices as a child?

A: I did always want to be an author as a child, but failing that I would have loved to be an explorer or naturalist.

Being an author has turned out to be the perfect excuse to have lots of adventures in the name of research.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write, and what does your writing day go like?

A: I usually write at my kitchen table, or out and about at a cafe in Paris, where I live. I write during the day while my children are at school and I do most of my drafting in the morning when I'm fresh, while drinking a huge cup of tea.

Q: What would your dream writer's shed be?

A: I would love to have a writer's shed, or perhaps a treehouse like Doctor Beetlestone!

Q: What are you working on now - will we be seeing more of Echo, Gilbert and Horace?

A: You certainly will! I am currently working on Echo's second adventure in the Sky Pirates series.

Q: Do you read middle grade fiction - any recommendations for our members?

A: I absolutely love middle grade fiction. Recently I've enjoyed The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook, The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke and Malamander by Thomas Taylor.

Q: What's your favourite escape from your desk?

A: Travel is my favourite escape, whether that's heading in to the city to an amazing art gallery or going for a quiet wander in the woods. A change of scenery helps refresh my brain and I often get some new ideas too.
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