An edgy mystery with a fairy tale twist!
5th Jan 19

An edgy mystery with a fairy tale twist!

We've been chatting with Samuel J Halpin about his new book - The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods. If you like your stories edgier, with a touch of fairy tales, you'll love this!

THE PECULIAR PEGGS OF RIDDLING WOOD follows Poppy and Erasmus as they try to discover why children in the small town of Suds keep disappearing.

Look out for some dark, dark woods, some fiendish villains and a touch of magic!

We asked author SAMUEL J HALPIN to tell us more about THE PECULIAR PEGGS OF RIDDLING WOODS:

Q: What has taken you into writing for children?

A: During the day I work in comedy TV production, but it wasn't TV that set me on the writing path. It's very hard to describe, but there is something in me that has to write and conjure stories. I do it all day long. And seeing as those stories are not sensible enough for any adult book, I thought I might as well share them with the people who get me most: kids.

Q: What sparked the idea for The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Wood?

A: I wanted to write something that tangled with folklore and legend - two things I feel very strongly about. When I write I like to slice little bits of fairy tales off and stir them into my story until they are unrecognisable but still lend it a curiously familiar feeling.

Q: Do you have a favourite fairy tale?

A: Now that is a very cruel question. It's like being asked if you have a favourite family member when they're all in the room. But if you forced me to a cliff edge and told me I had to choose or risk tumbling off, I'd probably have to select Pengersec and the Witch of Fraddom. It's a Cornish fairytale about a terrible witch who is continually trying to destroy Pengersec. Eventually she's banished to float up and down on the tides in a tub and to this day still causes terrific sea storms.

Q: The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods has a mystery at its heart - children who vanish from the town of Suds - so it's quite an edgy story. Were these the kinds of books you enjoyed as a child? What were your favourite reads?

A: I loved anything that made me feel alive, and the books that mostly did that had some element of mystery or fear. I'd sink my teeth into Tolkein and Dahl quite a bit. I loved E. Nesbitt and I think people should read more. J.K. Rowling isn't bad either - have you heard of her?

Q: Did anyone help inspire Poppy's gran, who is quite a character?

A: My own dearest gran inspired large sections of the character, particularly the smaller characteristics. My gran used to tell everyone she was twenty-one and have a delicious sense of humour.

Q: There are also some great villains in the book - do you have a favourite? Which literary villain scared you the most as a child?

A: Regina Pocks - the bully in the story, because she reminds me that villains often come from a very sad place. As a kid, Cruella De Vil always made me cower in terror. But I think my favourite villain of all time remains to this day The Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl's The Witches.

Q: Was there a particular town that inspired Suds, where Poppy goes to stay with her gran for the holiday?

A: Lots of the peculiar details come from my own home town in Tasmania, but a lot of it is inspired by some of the forgotten little towns I've stumbled upon as I've explored the UK and Europe in my spare time.

Q: Where do you write and what's the best time of day for you for writing?

A: Truthfully, although it rarely ever happens, the best time for me to write is about 2am. I found this when I was a student and didn't much care for sleeping. Nowadays I try to keep more normal hours but the dead hours of the night are definitely the time when my mind is most active.

Q: What would be the hardest thing to get right in a film of the book?

A: It would be an honour for the Peculiar Peggs to have the film treatment, if only to see what someone else imagines as they read the book.

I'm guessing the hardest thing to get right would be Erasmus, simply because his character is someone who doesn't appear to care but in truth harbours (as the book says) 'the wisdom of an ancient library'....tough, huh?

Q: What are your top tips to young writers for writing a story that is scary - but not too scary?

A: Write characters that you and your readers will care for. If we don't like someone, we won't mind in the least that they are eaten by a ghoul ten minutes into the book, in fact we might even be rather thrilled about it.

Build suspense slowly, sewing it into the story one stitch at a time. And lastly, I think the most terrifying things are the ones we don't see. Have a chew on that.

Q: What is your favourite escape from writing?

A: Running. Mad I know. But I love running. Especially in the rain when it's stinging your face and you have to charge through the gloom.

Q: Where is your favourite holiday destination?

We've recently been to Georgia (the country) twice and heard wolves howling in the mountains as we were falling asleep. It was.....indescribable.

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