To celebrate the launch of Fledgling by Lucy Hope, we are excited to share our interview with her from Anne Manson, available in the latest issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more about the inspiration behind Fledgling, a dark, gothic middle grade adventure set in the bavarian forest.
Anne: Fledgling is set in the past—a kind of surreal past. What came to you first? Setting? Character?
Lucy: The setting definitely came first, and partly came from my experience of growing up in an ancient house in North Wales. I’ve always loved the look and feel of faded grandeur, dusty bookshelves, and buildings that take on their own character due to their age, and was keen to build these things into the setting for Fledgling.
Fledgling actually began as an exercise on the MA (Bath Spa University MAWYP). Inspired by David Almond’s Skellig, I created an alternative world with a cherub instead of Almond’s angel. I decided to set it in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps as I love how the little towns there are often dominated by huge rocks, easily large enough to hold a house – and high enough for a passing cherub to find its way into! I started by writing 1200 words. And then the story just came to me—the setting, the atmosphere, the mother, the father, the hint of steam punk—over many, many sleepless nights. The characters came one by one and their voices were just there in my head, as if they already existed, so I didn’t have to try too hard to find them.
Anne: The house feels a bit like a character on its own, and also a representation of the family generations that came before Cassie, your heroine.
Lucy: Yes. When you grow up in an old house, you do feel a sense of the generations that lived there before you. My family house had chests full of unusual things and Edwardian dresses that would crumble under your fingertips as soon as you took them out. That was part of my childhood and part of my teenage years. I had a great uncle in North Wales whose mountainside house also inspired the setting for Fledgling. There was no road going to it so he used to take his own steam train along the Ffestiniog Railway to his private platform above the house. As an ex-army officer, he had a dynamite license, and managed to get permission to blow up a driveway that zigzagged up the mountainside, and that’s how we used to get to his house. Driving through its hairpin bends was quite a terrifying experience!
Anne: You’ve really piqued my curiosity about your family. Are there cherubs in your family? You have to tell us.
Lucy (laughs): I haven’t found any cherubs yet. We didn’t have neighbours growing up and I lived inside my head a lot as a result. To have had my own cherub would have been amazing!
Anne: What part of the book was hardest to write?
Lucy: I would say the middle. The strange thing about the book is, as I was writing it, I really didn’t know what was happening. I was entirely in Cassie’s shoes, wondering what was going on. Things were happening around her, but what was the root cause of it all? Because it’s written in the first person, she couldn’t see beyond that, and I couldn’t either, which was a strange situation to be in, and quite scary. What would happen if I didn’t find my way through this? But I think you have these moments when you’re writing, and you take some time away to sit and think, and you realise: Ah! That’s what’s going on. Then, all the other things you’ve written tie together, and you think, how did that happen? I’m constantly mystified by the process of writing because I’m not a plotter. I always get that feeling of having to make myself sit and write and coming away having not entirely enjoyed the process. But then you get through it, and that’s when the joy comes. And I love editing! For me, writing is a journey of discovery with some nice and some tricky surprises.
Anne: Do you have a writing routine?
Lucy: No. My writing routine normally means circling the house like a dog waiting to settle down, going to the fridge, finding a snack, having cups of tea, thinking, I just need to pop out and do that thing. So, I’m pretty awful at getting started. I would love to have more of a routine.
Anne: Have you thought about a sequel for Fledgling?
Lucy: I’d love to write one. It might sound strange, but I just love being in that world. It’s a very happy place for me to be; it feels like home. I think the setting of your first novel is a place that you hold in your heart. And I think that’s why everyone’s first novel is the book of their heart.
Lucy Hope grew up in North Wales, but now lives in the Cotswolds. After jobs ranging from designing websites to working in schools, she did a master’s degree in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Lucy loves exploring the countryside with her husband and big, shaggy dog, Bronte, or can be found trundling around the UK in her Bongo camper van, seeking out ideas for her next story. Like most writers, when she’s not actually writing, she loves eating cake (lemon drizzle or chocolate brownies in case you were wondering), sipping coffee and chatting to friends about all things books and writing.
Fledgling is published on 4th November by Nosy Crow and available at all good bookshops.
Anne Manson recently won a City Writes competition for her short story, “Bones”. She is working on her second novel, The Girl with the Hole in her Heart, a MG fantasy about a stolen pen, a lidless eye, and a mysterious Clockwork Artificer. She has published two short stories in PaperBound magazine, “Winter” and “Happy Day” and has a Masters in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University.
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