A warm welcome to my guest author, Alison Gardiner. Alison's debut YA novel, The Serpent of Eridor is now out and her second book, Alchemy, is out in August. Alison is a doctor, broadcaster and author with four children, so feels she's a full time juggler. She enjoys writing fantasy fiction for children and young adults, and enjoys every second of alone time to pursue her creative interests.
Alison is a doctor (General Practitioner) when not writing, but wears many hats, usually theoretically. She has four children who each feel they are entirely responsible for her being an author by virtue of their gracing the school run with their presence. The kids are invaluable for dialogue or concepts: it’s like having a team of in-house critics; how terrific that is. The main challenge is to find time to write, so she’s trying to get the kids to help with the environmental clutter. This is working so well that some of them occasionally put their washing into the laundry basket; it’s a start.
I asked Alison to tell us a bit more about herself
How did you get started writing?
In self-defence, using my voice as a sonic shield against rising anarchy whilst on the school runs. If I could keep the kids amused, the car space became less like a small volcano of sound erupting, reaching almost an environmentally friendly decibel level. I never quite achieved Japanese water garden level of calm, but at least I only had to contend with the sound of my own voice. It was a little like Scheherazade and the Arabian nights, as no story ended with the drop off. Some wild short stories came out until I began to tell what ultimately became The Serpent of Eridor; I got caught up in the characters, layers and depth of the story, then had to write the story down as I was itching to know what happened at the end.
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I was brought up in Jamaica which was a fabulous existence, running barefoot, swimming in the old pirates’ haven of Port Royal Harbour, drinking coconut water fresh from the tree.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Anansi the Spider Man, a character brought across from Africa, depicted as being cunning, wise; sometimes a man, at others a spider. He wasn’t entirely ethical, which made him fun (as well as the subject of most interesting discussions with my parents…sigh…)
What’s your top writing tip for new writers?
Write with passion but little or no editing for the first draft. It's easy to get caught up in points of grammar, gummed up with a scene or minor plot anomalies, destroying the most precious of writing tools, momentum. As I am absolutely the worst typist in the world (recently achieving use of two fingers on a keyboard, doubling my digital input), I rely on voice recognition software. Thus I can get the bulk of the first draft on paper at the speed of machine-gun fire; free flow is how to go.
Great tip, Alison!
Attacked by an assassin, positive that the next attack will be fatal, 14-year-old Alex Weston grabs a slim chance of survival, abandoning ship in a tropical typhoon. Shipwrecked onto the tropical island of Eridor with his hamster Skoodle, he unwittingly crosses the barrier into a world of enchantment. Alex finds that Skoodle is funny, opinionated, a reluctant hero, intermittently brave and regularly takes advice from his dead uncle.
They befriend a brilliant, ebullient monkey, a warrior bear and a sarcastic snake. Alex possesses no magic, so is armed only with bravery, loyalty, sheer cussedness and wit as he fights save his life and his friends. Alex must also wrestle with the suspicion that a few ounces of added rodent doesn't make him the strongest fighting unit on the island.
On Alex's journey, he is pursued by murderous crocodiles, engulfed by a man-eating mud swamp, attacked by wizards, a goblin band and a creature who is half lizard, half wizard, battles his way through a blizzard to a mountain with a living granite brain and wrestles with cannibalistic snakes. But all of this feels like only the warm-up when he meets his final challenge.
'Do you like hamsters?’ Skoodle asked Tariq, poking his head round the bush.
‘Absolutely; for lunch,’ replied Ikara.
‘Any friend of Ikara’s or Keeko’s is mine too,’ said Tariq, sitting down. ‘Besides, I don’t eat rodents. I’d rather have a banana.’
‘I don’t know whether to be relieved or insulted,’ replied Skoodle, wandering into the open.
‘Choose both,’ replied Keeko.
Ikara rolled her eyes up. ‘Economy of emotion not your forte, furry face?’
‘It’ll soon be dark. We’d better sort your boat out now. There could be a storm later,’ said Tariq.
‘Perfect idea,’ said Keeko, jumping on to Tariq’s back. Ikara curled herself round Tariq’s leg then, in a shimmer of green and gold, slithered up to curl round his neck and torso.
‘Piggyback?’ Tariq asked Alex.
Alex looked at the bear-snake-monkey combo. In an odd way he wanted to join them, feel the thrill of riding a bear. His fear levels were falling, but not low enough to ride. ‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘I’ll walk. It’s good for me.’
‘Taxi,’ shouted Skoodle.
Alex reached down and scooped him up.
‘Shoulder, not pocket.’
‘Like a pirate’s parrot,’ said Alex. ‘A human’s hamster.’
‘Or a rodent’s ride. Let’s keep perspective.’
As they reached the lighter, more open track, Keeko launched herself into some low-hanging trees. She threw a large knobbly orange fruit at Alex. It looked like a misshapen grapefruit. Curiously, he held it to his nose. It smelled fabulous – a cross between a
pineapple and a mango. ‘Is it safe to eat?’
Alex peeled it, passing two segments to Skoodle, who crammed both into his mouth at once.
‘Instant balloon,’ said Ikara. ‘More of a meal that way.’
Skoodle swallowed quickly, as Alex shoved him back into his pocket.
‘Joke,’ said Ikara. ‘Although not actually very funny for me. I’m starving.’ She slithered off the path, reappearing about a minute later. ‘Delicious,’ she said, voice muffled as she swallowed. ‘But it would’ve been even more terrific with a fruit garnish in its mouth.’
‘You’re winding me up,’ said Alex.
‘Snake kebab,’ Skoodle called from his pocket. ‘Reptile on toast. Serpent burger. Overgrown-worm nuggets.’
‘Insignificant fur ball: hardly even a snake snack,’ replied Ikara. ‘If I tried to eat you, I’d choke on all the acid in your heart.’
After three of Keeko’s fruits, Alex was beginning to feel full for the first time in twenty-four hours. Life didn’t seem so awful when he was neither starving nor about to vomit. They hadn’t drowned. They’d made friends with talking animals: bizarre, but great. Also, because of the tides, they’d made it to Eridor. Life could be a lot worse, he reasoned.
‘Optimism. I thought it couldn’t get worse,’ groaned Skoodle.
‘Just did, ’cause you started talking,’ said Ikara. ‘Silence is considered to be a great attribute in a rat.’
‘Hamster, ignorant worm.’
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Alison.