Magic and adventure in Rumblestar!
4th Jun 19

Magic and adventure in Rumblestar!

Visit a world of snow trolls, drizzle hags and storm ogres in the new UNMAPPED KINGDOMS series by ABI ELPHINSTONE! Here, she tells us all about her new book, RUMBLESTAR!

What if...the weather in our world was conjured magically in other worlds? This is what Casper discovers when he finds himself in Rumblestar, a very different world from the ordered life at boarding school he has just left behind...

But not all is well in Rumblestar. Its magic, which is used to make the weather, is being stolen, and this is causing havoc in their world and in ours.

Then Casper meets Utterly, a girl with a past and an inability to follow rules, and they begin an adventure to save Rumblestar and its magic - an adventure that will change both their lives.

We asked author ABI ELPHINSTONE to tell us more about RUMBLESTAR:

Q: What inspired the creation of the Unmapped Kingdoms, the magical worlds that controls the weather?

A: My last book, Sky Song, was born out of far-flung adventures in the Arctic and time spent living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia but the idea behind my new series, The Unmapped Chronicles, sprung up much closer to home. It started with a daydream, a 'what if', in my writing shed.

I thought back to all the incredible skies I'd seen on my adventures - pink sunrises, orange sunsets, rain that summoned rainbows and made waterfalls roar, and snow that built jewellery out of spider webs - and I started wondering: what if all the grown-ups have got it wrong about our skies? What if it isn't science and geography behind the weather but magic?

What if there are four secret kingdoms - Rumblestar, Crackledawn, Jungledrop and Silvercrag - filled with fantastical creatures who conjure weather for our world? Perhaps drizzle hags brew rain and snow trolls beaver away with moon syrup and cloud wisp to make snow? And so the idea for the Unmapped Kingdoms came about.

Q: How well did you know this world before you started to write the first book - and which Unmapped Kingdom book did you write first?

A: I knew how the Unmapped kingdoms had come into being: that at the beginning of time there was just an egg and out of this egg a phoenix was born. The phoenix wept seven tears which became our continents then it scattered four of its feathers which became secret, 'unmapped' kingdoms holding all the magic needed to conjure weather for our world.

I knew that each kingdom would be set in a different wild setting - sky, jungle, sea and mountains - but that the Lofty Husks (magical beings known for their unusually long life expectancy, wisdom and terrible jokes) would rule throughout.

I wrote Everdark, the prequel to The Unmapped Chronicles, first. This story is mostly set in the kingdom of Crackledawn but because it was a novella for World Book Day, I haven't fully explored that kingdom yet. I know there are sea dragons in the wildest parts of the ocean and there is a Lost City somewhere so hopefully in the third full-length book in this series, which will be set in Crackledawn, I'll be able to explore more of this kingdom then.

Q: Are you a planner or a 'jump straight in' kind of writer?

A: Very much the former! When I sit down to build a magical world my ideas are a total mess. I'm dyslexic but I've learnt over the years that that doesn't mean I can't write stories, it just means I have to be a little bit particular in how I go about planning them.

Everything about my world-building process is visual, from the adventures I go on to research my settings (I'm about to climb one of the tallest trees in Scotland as research for the rainforest setting of my next book in The Unmapped Chronicles, Jungledrop) to the maps that anchor my plots and the sketches that help flesh out my scenes.

I start every story I write by drawing a map because it is only when my characters start moving from place to place that a plot unfolds. Sometimes I sketch my fictional world directly onto an Ordinance Survey map to make sure the geography works; other times I draw onto a blank sheet of paper using memories of interesting places I've discovered.

I don't draw well, nothing is to scale and often the sprawling lines makes no sense to anyone but me.

Q: Rumblestar follows Casper - who hates adventures - and Utterly Thankless, who thrives on them. What, for you, makes a great hero?

A: The writer, Vladimir Nabokov, once said: 'The writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.' The same applies to heroes. He or she needs obstacles to overcome - both physical and mental if you're writing adventure books for kids - and as the hero encounters these obstacles, they need to change gradually and convincingly.

It helps if your hero is a little bit funny as well, even if they don't realise they are, and as an author you need to name them well - like CS Lewis did with Eustace Scrubb: 'there was once a boy called Eustace Scrubb and he almost deserved it'.

Q: You include some fabulous names in your books, how long do you spend on the names to get them right, and do you have a favourite from this book?

A: Naming characters is one of my favourite parts of the writing process. Here connotations, onomatopoeia and humour matter. The first person Casper meets in Rumblestar is a rule-breaking misfit girl called Utterly Thankless (I felt her name suited her personality), there is a giant who is terribly wise and terribly tall but also terribly sleepy so he nods off before he can pass on valuable information to Casper and Utterly - his name, appropriately, is Slumbergrot (and my favourite name in the book).

There is a horrible, marsh-dwelling drizzle hag called Gertie Swamp. And there is a Ballooner (someone in Rumblestar who captains a balloon to capture all sorts of magical weather) who is famous for his flight through a patch of particularly nasty lightning - his name is Ethlered Frazzle.

Q: Was any part of Casper and Utterly's adventures in the Unmapped Kingdom particularly tricky to get the children through?

A: There were some hairy moments for Casper and Utterly along the Witch's Fingers (an enchanted river) and deep inside The Smoking Chimneys (volcanoes patrolled by storm ogres) but thanks to a few benign magical creatures and some very handy magical objects they manage to muddle through.

Q: Casper and Utterly have to face Morg and her henchmen, the Midnights, who are terrifying. What, for you, is the scariest thing about them?

A: The scariest thing about the Midnights is what pours out from their mouths when they screech...

Q: Casper and Utterly come across some wonderful magical beings and spells. If you could bring back one of them from the Unmapped Kingdom, what would it be?

A: Without doubt, I'd bring the Neverlate tree back home with me. It's a magical tree that grows excuses. So, instead of buds or leaves hanging from the branches there a small, white envelopes and each one is filled with a different excuse. It would help me enormously when missing my deadlines...

Q: And if you could visit anywhere in the Unmapped Kingdom, where would you go?

A: Shiverbark forest. There snowflakes fall the size of dinner plates and snow piles up as high as houses. There are Wild Ones in the deepest parts of the forest, too - wolves made of snow, bears who breathe stardust and reindeer with antlers so tall and grand several woodland birds can nest in them at once.

Q: Can you give us a glimpse of 'what next' for the Unmapped Kingdom, and who you plan to follow? Will your main characters always be different for each book or are we going to see more of Casper and Utterly?

A: The next book (out Spring 2020) is set in the kingdom of Jungledrop, a kingdom full of glow-in-the-dark rainforests, gobblequick trees and golden panthers. Or at least it used to be before Morg found a way in...

Each book in The Unmapped Chronicles is a standalone adventure with a different child, or children, from our world finding a way through into the secret kingdoms. That said, there are a few moments were a character from a former book may appear... The books are a bit like the Narnia books in that respect.

In Jungledrop, you have two horribly unlikely heroes from our world taking up the fight against Morg: eleven-year-old twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble who bicker and fight about everything...

Q: Have you read any recent children's books that you could recommend to our members?

A: I loved The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell and Malamander by Thomas Taylor.

Q: If you could have one magical thing on your desk that could help with your writing, what would it be?

A: If the Neverlate tree wasn't available, I'd go for a gabbledrift - a magical telephone that calls your editor when you've missed a deadline and explains in deeply reassuring tones that the manuscript, when it does finally arrive, will be worth the wait.

Q: What do you do to relax when you're not writing?

A: I have a toddler at home so there's not a great deal of time for relaxing at the moment! But if I get the chance, I like to get out to the countryside to walk. For me, walking is the simplest and most intense way of seeing the world.

Author website:
Twitter: @moontrug
Instagram: @moontrugger

RUMBLESTAR is available now from Simon & Schuster Children's Books

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