26th Jan 20


We're celebrating the next book in the Dragon in the Library series by Louie Stowell (Nosy Crow Books) with a giveaway of the first book PLUS the latest book, The Monster in the Lake!

To be entered into the free draw, email your details to:
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Discover a world where dragons really do exist, where people have magic and spells can come true... In this Q&A, author LOUIE STOWELL tells us about her series, THE DRAGON IN THE LIBRARY! The second book, THE MONSTER IN THE LAKE, has just been published by Nosy Crow Books:

Q: Apart from writing, what other kinds of work have you done?

A: I've done a few different jobs over the years. I was a cartoonist for a business magazine, I worked in advertising and marketing, then publishing. My last job was writing non-fiction books for children, and now I publish all kinds of books for young children.

But I've always written stories too, and somehow most of my stories ended up being for children. I love the idea of writing for people who know what they like and don't feel like they have to pretend to like books because that's the "hot" book. Children will just ignore anything they think is rubbish and not politely read it for their book group.

Q: Why did you decide to set this series in a library - they are traditionally Very Quiet and full of shelves...

A: I've done quite a lot of events in libraries over the years, and I definitely don't think of them as hushed places any more. One event I did involved training children to be astronauts, with lots of mess and running around and (long story) eating insects.

But even quiet libraries feel brimming with energy, humming with all those books. I wanted to explore where all that power comes from and what you can do with it. (Turns out, magic!)

Q: What did libraries mean to you as a child?

A: Libraries meant endless possibilities to me, as a child. So often when you're young, you have limited choices. You can't just go anywhere or do anything you like. But in a library, any book is available to you - and all the worlds inside them. The Dragon in the Library explores that.

Q: Why did you decide that your main character, Kit, would hate reading?

A: I felt like there were enough stories out there about bookish children, and I wanted to write something that reflected everyone else. I also wanted to write about a character in love with the physical world of childhood - with climbing trees and getting muddy, which were definitely things I loved.

Q: What kinds of books did you enjoy as a child?

I loved comics - both kids' comics like the Beano, and slightly bloodier ones like 2000AD - but also anything fantastical or funny. So, Margaret Mahy, Tolkien, Just William, Jan Mark (Hairs in the Palm of the Hand is a hilarious pair of short stories that had a huge impact on me and my writing). Oh, and Good Omens, when I was a bit older.

My love of apocalypses started earlier though: I loved anything where the world-as-we-know-it ended, whether it was an alien invasion, a plague or natural disaster. What I loved about those stories was that they gave power to the powerless, because they tore down all the usual rules. John Christopher's Empty World was great for this - it was a world where all the adults mysteriously died.

Q: During their adventures, Kit finds that she can 'step into' books. If you could do the same, which children's book would you want to visit?

A: Ooh good question. Most of the stories I liked - see above - involved bad things happening, so visiting those would be risky. I would pick somewhere safe and cosy because I'm a coward. I might go into Frank Cottrell Boyce's Cosmic, because I've always wanted to go to space. Or Narnia, as long as I picked a period when the White Witch wasn't in charge.

Q: Kit has two good friends, Josh and Alita, who are very different. What for you stands out about their friendship?

A: Some of my best friends are very different to me, with different tastes and interests, and I find that exciting. I like the idea of people being fond of each other and enjoying each other in spite of - or perhaps because of - not being identical.

Kit loves the outdoors, while the others are more indoorsy, but what holds them together is a mix of fascination and respect at their differences (how CAN Kit get so muddy, how DOES Josh keep his trainers so clean!) but also a deeper bond, that I think people who fundamentally believe the world can and should be better have for each other.

Q: There are some wonderful mythical creatures in this story - did you have a favourite to write?

A: I have to be careful here not to give any spoilers about book two, The Monster in the Lake, but I think it's probably safe to say I love writing dragons. There are so many different types of dragons out there, from the beastly to the cunning and the kind. Coming up with my own dragon mythology was a joy.

Q: And if you could bring one home with you, which one would it be?

A: Dogon. Though I already sort of have Dogon at home, as he's based on my dog, Buffy. She just doesn't breathe fire.

Q: Where do you most enjoy writing, and how does your writing day go?

A: I like writing in very bland, corporate chain cafes, because I find anywhere too interesting a distraction. I have a rotating set of playlists, I always order the same thing, and generally find the ritual helpful. I mostly write on Saturdays or Sundays, at no set time, for a couple of hours.

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: Twitter! I love the sense of community, the nonsense, the dog pics - all of it. I also share Kit's love of the outdoors. My local park is brilliant - full of birds and trees and little lakes. But exploring woods and other natural places is a big favourite.

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