Hello everybody! Today, I’m really excited to share my interview with Lindsay Littleson, the author of Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, which was released last week. Onto the post!
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Hi Lindsay, thank you so much for being here!
1. Can you describe Guardians of the Wild Unicorns in 5 words?
Courageous kids save endangered unicorns!
2. The book sees two best friends become involved in saving the last wild unicorn herd, who don`t fit with the stereotypical depiction of unicorns, which sounds like a lot of fun to read. Who are your top 3 favourite mythical creatures from books/TV/films etc?
The Psammead from Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It is my all time favourite mythical creature. He might be able to grant wishes like a traditional fairy, but he’s an ugly wee thing, with eyes on long horns and bat like ears. Best of all, he has a fabulously grumpy personality. He’s so much more interesting for being different.
I’m also very fond of loyal, heroic Buckbeak the hippogriff and would very much like to re-enact the scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry flies over the loch on Buckbeak’s back.
JRR Tolkein’s Smaug is my favourite storybook dragon, because he’s neither cute nor lovable. He’s greedy and ruthless, a proper dragon of ancient Norse legend.
3. On a similar note, do you have any favourite myths or legends that feature mythical creatures, and if so, which ones?
I recently visited the fabulous Kelpies in Falkirk and seeing these magnificent sculptures by Andy Scott renewed my interest in the spooky kelpies of Scottish legend. In the legends, kelpies are malevolent, shape-shifting water horses, who lure unwary children into lakes and rivers. The gorgeous, illustrated picture book Secret of the Kelpies by Lari Don is a lovely retelling of the Kelpies myth.
4. Lewis and Rhona (the main characters of the book) are on a school trip when they are embroiled in this adventure. Have you ever had a particularly memorable school trip experience?
My most memorable school trip happened in the 1970s. Our primary school head teacher decided we needed our horizons widened and took the Primary 6/7s on a residential trip to Salzburg in Austria. I can still remember being awestuck by the beautiful, snow covered mountains and enchanted by the trick fountains in the Hellbrunn Palace. I took my first flight, travelled in a chairlift and hopped with my friends up the North Terrace steps where the von Trapp children had practised their musical scales in the Sound of Music film. It was a brilliant experience.
Equally memorable, but not in a good way, was the school trip I embarked on long ago during my first year as a teacher. Unwisely, I took my extremely lively class of seven year olds to Blairdrummond Safari Park and somewhere between the meerkats’ enclosure and Chimp Island managed to mislay a pupil. Fortunately he was found safe and sound, watching the sealion show, but it was a scary moment.
5. All of your books to date have been set in Scotland. Did you have any particular reasons for choosing the specific Scottish locations you did to write about? Are there any other parts of the country where you`d especially like to set a book?
The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean is set on the tiny Isle of Cumbrae off the West Coast of Scotland. The setting was chosen mainly because it is one of my favourite places in the world. My mum and dad met on Cumbrae and as a family we spent many happy summers there. And there’s something magical about tiny islands, so Cumbrae was the perfect setting for a novel with a supernatural plot.
A Pattern of Secrets is set in Victorian Paisley. I was keen to write a historical novel set in my local area, as Paisley has such an interesting, rich history, particularly in textiles.
Guardians of the Wild Unicorns is set in the Highlands, but the exact area isn’t specified and the place names are fictional, as I don’t want poachers working out the unicorns’ secret location!
Every year in the summer I visit the East Neuk of Fife and would like to set a novel in one of the fishing villages on the coast, if only to give me an excuse to stay longer in such a beautiful part of Scotland.
6. What is your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I like to draw my characters, write some notes about them and figure out their names before I start writing. An exciting plot is really important, but the reader has to care about what happens to the characters, so making sure they have relatable personalities is crucial. A very silly habit of mine is to write my notes in tiny, cramped, almost illegible writing. Goodness knows why. My ancient laptop has a whole host of annoying quirks, from changing font size to switching off without warning. It likes to keep me on my toes.
7. Finally, before our quickfire round, can you say anything about what you might be working on/releasing next?
In April this year The Titanic Detective Agency is being published by Cranachan Books. Real-life passenger, 12 year old Bertha Watt from Aberdeen, is excited to be on RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage, but she quickly realises some passengers are not what they seem. Unaware that the ship is doomed, she determines to unravel the mysteries onboard. I’ve already had a sneak preview of the cover, and it looks fabulous. It has been such fun to research, although I have to admit to getting submerged in historical detail at times. It’s impossible to immerse yourself in the tragedy of the Titanic and not be desperate to find out what happened to the survivors in the months and years after the sinking.
I’m also working on an idea for a sequel to Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, because it’s hard to accept I’ll never see those fabulous, magical animals again.
Would you prefer to meet a dragon or a centaur?
A centaur is a less terrifying prospect, but the idea of meeting an evil, winged, fire-breathing dragon is a zillion times more thrilling. So 100% dragon, but I’ll bring Bilbo’s ring or Harry’s cloak with me for health and safety purposes.
Which Hogwarts house are you in?
Ravenclaw, mainly because I’m impressed by clever, witty people and get very competitive during pub quizzes.
Favourite ice cream flavour?
I love coconut because it’s such a summery flavour, but to be honest I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of the flavours available at Nardinis ice cream shop in Largs. They are all delicious.
3 random facts about you?
•When I was 12 I had the not-so-brilliant idea to run down a slide and broke my leg in three places. My leg was in plaster from thigh to toe for the entire summer holidays and yes, my parents did take me to the beach on several occasions.
•When famous actor/film star Ewan McGregor was 16 I sagely advised him against a career in acting. I’ve never given advice to anyone since, other than ‘follow your dreams’.
•The comedian Susan Calman’s dad is my mum’s cousin. That’s pretty random.
Your 3 top reads of 2018?
•Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan is the perfect book for someone like me who devoured books as a child. It helped me recapture so many memories of wonderful characters from Mrs Frisby to Arrietty and magical places from Narnia to the Dewdrop Inn. Bookworm is a truly delightful read.
•Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson is the moving and uplifting story of the growing friendship between two girls, Reema, a young Syrian refugee and Caylin, an outwardly tough Glaswegian. It’s a powerful, important story and a thrilling read.
•The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas …just brilliant.
Have you read any of Lindsay’s books, or do you plan to after reading this? What are your favourite books set in Scotland? I’d love to hear in the comments!