Over Christmas, I received a letter marked with a lion’s head stamp. The letter had been signed ‘Word Sorceress’. Author, Sue Bentley sent a mysterious letter to Reader Recommends. She had also enclosed photos of: a lion, a wardrobe, three children and a winter scene. This children’s author lives in a dark, fantasy forest, and often wears very glamorous Dr Marten boots. I was suspicious that the door to Sue’s writing room looks like the wardrobe leading to Narnia. Intrigued, I wanted to visit Sue’s writing world to find out more.
I passed my handbag to Sue, and she placed a classic tale inside. Snowfall concealed my handbag, but I followed the footprints into Sue’s magical world. On my adventure into Narnia, I hoped to discover how she came to write children’s books and young adult fantasy fiction.
You will need to tread ‘on the edge of darkness’ as you read Sue’s words.
Midwinter and Magic
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe captivated me from the moment I read it, aged about ten. Always winter but never Christmas, talking animals, a wicked witch, a fight against good and evil, a Lion personifying all things brave and true. Wow! You can write about things other than the everyday? It doesn’t have to be a school setting or a pony club drama? This was pure magic and it spoke directly to me. In that moment I became an author – if only in my mind.
Years later I began writing books for adults, collecting a drawer full of publishers’ rejections slips. It took longer to learn how to write quality fiction that I expected. Meanwhile my agent thought I’d be good at writing for children. This didn’t prove an easier option, as I’d foolishly imagined, but I stuck at it. She was proved right. My books for younger children have been translated into over 20 languages and continue to sell worldwide. Not surprisingly they often feature magical animals and fairies.
My enduring love of snow and winter also stems from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The shapes of trees sketched against a snow-clouded sky. The fresh linen smell of icy air. Wonderful. I enjoy reading books set in winter as well as writing them, while looking out of my workroom window onto a bleak landscape.
I’ve just finished reading The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – set during snow-bound mid-winter and teeming with English Folkore. There was a readathon on Twitter, over this mid-winter and up to Twelfth Night. Reading the book in like-minded company was a wonderful and totally magical event, which has prompted lots of ideas for future novels.
After around 70 titles for children, I’m again writing for adults. In We Other, my recent fantasy novel, one of the most important events takes place in snowbound mid-winter. We Other could be described as an adult fairy tale. It’s darker and more complex than anything I’ve ever written, with many twists and turns. It’s territory I’m enjoying. I plan to stay there for a while! If it snows tonight, all the better…
More about Sue…
I would like to introduce you to an author who is supportive, full of fun and has a magical presence. Author, Sue Bentley, adds sparkle and magic to children’s books and young fantasy, with her unique perspective. Using her wand, she explores another world and adds glittering enchantment.
Indeed, she has sprinkled her enchanting magical vision on over 70 children’s stories. But she does venture into the darkness with her young adult fiction. We Other was her first venture into young adult fiction.
Sue Bentley is fascinated by English Folklore, the extraordinary in the everyday and the darkness that hovers at the edges of the light.
Recently, Sue has been missing, as she has been penning her second novel for young adults. The title of her second novel is Second Skin. Apparently, Aledra, the main character, belongs to a conquering race of shape-shifters, who are hated by the native people. The new novel is very different to We Other, but it is sure to charm the readers.
The collaboration on this blog post commenced when Sue agreed to add a book into my Reader Recommends gallery. I have invited all readers to share the book which inspired their reading journey. Readers can send me a photo of the inspirational book, in their handbag, with twenty words.
Louis Armstrong says it best – ‘the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night’ You can’t have one without the other.
I always enjoyed ‘real’ fairy tales – not the sanitised Disney versions. For example, in some versions of Cinderella – the ugly sisters snip off their toes to be able to cram their feet into the glass slipper.
I was that kid in a class of pink tutus who was dressed as a vampire bat. I never wanted high-heeled dancing shoes, I wanted sturdy boots to go tramping around forests looking for the shapes of goblins in the trees.
As for characters – Goody, Goody is all very well, but it can get boring. We all love the ‘bad’ characters who do doubtful things – they’re much more fun to write about.