AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

  • Charlie Fletcher

    Charlie Fletcher

    DRAGON SHIELD

    HODDER CHILDREN'S BOOKS

    JULY 2014

    In DRAGON SHIELD by Charlie Fletcher (published by Hodder Children's Books), there is magic afoot at the British Museum and dragons are flying over the rooftops of London! Something has brought statues to life and frozen all the real people in time. Will and Jo have until Midnight to find out what has happened and to try to overcome these magical forces.

    We asked author Charlie Fletcher to tell us more about his new series and about being an author:


    Q: How did you become a writer?

    A: I was a voracious reader as a child. I remember reading lots of comics, from Batman to Tintin. I read everything I could lay my hands on from my father's detective novels to Westerns, and children's books like Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

    After university I became a screen writer in Los Angeles for ten years, and I'm still writing for film and television. I do that for six months and then I write my books.


    Q: Like your earlier series Stoneheart, Dragon Shield feature statues that come to life - what inspired that idea?

    A: Statues have always spoken to me. I had a very literal mind as a child and I thought the Gunner statue that I featured in Stoneheart really could come alive at any moment.

    I also liked the Shackleton statue at the top of Exhibition Road. When I was a child we used to drive into London and our route always took us past that statue. I still think the idea of statues coming to life is magical.


    Q: Why have you used London as the setting for both your Stoneheart series and Dragon Shield book?

    A: London has been silting up with stories since it began and it's the most generous place in giving its stories and its history; you can't walk around London without thinking how long it's been there.

    These days we have towering skyscrapers but if you go dig down underneath London, one of the things you will find is a one-inch thick layer of red earth which is all that was left of London after the rebel queen, Boudicca, burned it down during the Roman occupation. London is very generous in sharing its stories.

    I also know London very well which makes it a good place for me to write about. When I came back to London to work after university, the best and cheapest way to keep amused was to simply walk around its streets. I saw a lot of statues and found that I remembered those rather than the names of the roads so the statues became my landmarks.

    These days I find it's easiest to 'walk through' a new book and, as I knew I wanted Dragon Shield to start at Great Ormond Street, that's where I began. From there I walked up to Coram Fields and the story went from there.


    Q: The British Museum is central to your story, what made you decide to use the museum and its statues?

    A: When I was writing Stoneheart I included a section that was based at the British Museum, but it never made it into the finished version. The museum has all these sacred objects from around the world that have this aura of magic and I loved the idea of all these magically-loaded objects sitting and looking at each other. Maybe we really have created a bit of a powder keg there....

    I had always liked the statue of the cat in the Egyptian section of the British Museum it's green and coppery and has a nose ring and it always stuck in my head as not an entirely pleasant cat, so I've used that in the story.

    The dog that comes into the story is based on the statue of a dog is in the Roman section, the Molossian Hound it is a carving of a mastiff, which is on the point of shaking itself, and it's a great sculpture.


    Q: Your characters get to meet and chat to statues in London. If you had the opportunity to talk to any of these statues, which would you choose?

    A: I like the small George statues that you can see on the Prudential building, they are one fifth the usual human size so they look a bit peculiar, and they are a kind of Ladybird book version of what a knight in armour might have looked like. There is something very funny about them and Id have liked to have met them.

    As for a real life character, I'd have loved to have met the Duke of Wellington and the Fusilier who is a minor character in Stoneheart.


    Q: In your story, time stops in central London and your human characters, Will and Jo, can go anywhere they want. If you found yourself in London and time had stopped, where would you go?

    A: I'd love to go behind the scenes of the British Museum because there is so much stuff in there that we never get to see, we only see the tip of the iceberg in the public display areas, and I'd also love to uncover the secret web of tunnels that are under London and to be able to walk through the Underground tunnels.


    Q: What can we expect to happen in the next book in the series?

    A: There will be three books in the series. In the first book we see the brother and sister Will and Jo heal the problems between themselves but now they need to turn to the problems in the rest of the world. They have to put the world to rights, especially the statues that helped to save them and which are now under a curse.

    In the second Dragon Shield adventure, called London Pride (publishing in spring 2015), things get darker, the children meet new statues and they have to figure out a plan of attack or possible solution to the problem of the statues in the British Museum.

    It is called Pride of London because Baas the cat begins to pull together all the animals in London, including the lions, and we see them streaming into the British Museum. There are masses of lion statues in London and these all gather around the British Museum, so that's the 'pride of London'.


    Q: Are there any new statues we should be looking out for?

    A: There are a few surprises coming and a very surprising statue, which is in Soho, a winged female character based on Selene, which is bedecked with stars and has wings.

    I love all the animal statutes in London. If you take a closer look at the School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, for example, you'll see they've used ticks and bugs on the ironwork outside, it is all gilded and looks amazing but I'd hate to be chased through London by these giant mosquitoes.... so of course I've included them in the next book!


    Q: If readers enjoy Dragon Shield, will they enjoy your Stoneheart series?

    A: I hope that children who love the magical layer with the statues coming to life will want to follow that world into the Stoneheart books.

    I get a lot of feedback from children who have read the Stoneheart books, visited London and then sent me back pictures of themselves standing in front of statues that I've mentioned in the books. They are going around London 'collecting' the statues I describe in the book, which is fun.


    Q: Where do you write?

    A: I write in my office in Edinburgh, looking out over the hills. I write every day except Sunday and I write from 9am to 5pm. I drink far too much coffee but I'm not distracted by the internet as I turn it off for the hours I'm meant to be writing.
    I like to relax by swimming, walking or reading.