On the 2nd April 2020 the third instalment of the Clifftoppers series by Fleur Hitchcock was published by Nosy Crow, and just like the two books that precede it in the series there is an amazing adventure story awaiting readers. With four fantastic children determined to solve a mystery that awaits them on Thorn Island, and surrounded by the most idyllic landscapes and scenery this is the perfect read for those looking to escape to the great outdoors.
I recently got together with Fleur (via the wonders of email and twitter) to ask her questions relating to the series and this latest publication specifically, and am honoured to have the finished Q&A here on my blog, especially as Fleur is the author of these modern day classics – and many other titles too – and held in such high esteem by all that have been fortunate enough to lose themselves amongst the pages of her books. What follows is honestly a huge highlight of my blogging ‘career’, my Q&A with author Fleur Hitchcock.
1) How would you describe the Clifftoppers series in just one sentence?
Carefree adventures for contemporary children.
2) The books give off vibes of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and are undoubtedly modern day classics, how does it feel to be compared to such an iconic children’s author? Did Enid inspire this series?
Thank you for saying that – I’m touched! I know that the Famous Five occupy a precious place in lots of hearts – but oddly enough, not mine. I didn’t have them as a child, and for no particular reason, my children didn’t have them either. So when I embarked on the Clifftoppers books in 2016 – I was faced with the dilemma – should I read a Famous Five book? In the end, I decided not to. It was the editorial team at Nosy Crow who were keenest on the series being similar, but not the same as, the great Enid. So sometimes, I may sail closer to her wind, and at other times, I suspect I go well off piste!
3) The latest title in this series, The Thorn Island Adventure has a stunning cover design which reminds me of my all time favourite book as a child – Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, What was your all time favourite book from your childhood?
Aren’t the covers brilliant? Thanks to the utterly talented Tom Clohosy Cole for that. Again, I never read Swallows and Amazons, but the book that I remember above all else is Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken. It’s far less well known that the Wolves of Willoughby Chase but features some of the same characters, and is the second outing for my favourite character of all time – the totally wonderful Dido Twite.
4) The adventure the children go on within The Thorn Island Adventure comes about after sailing their Grandads boat, Can you sail? Was it part of your research process to experience this too?
I used to sail at school, I actually learned on Frensham Ponds and I like to imagine the cousins are sailing something pretty similar to the old boat that I learned on. I’ve only sailed at sea a couple of times and unlike Ava, I found it pretty scary! But Ava is much braver than me.
5) The four children that feature in the series Aiden, Ava, Chloe and Josh stay with their grandparents in the most gorgeous location, with stunning landscapes brought to life within the books. Is this referencing a location that is special to you? And if so can you please elaborate
The farm, the village, the countryside around is all morphed from the wonderful places that I’ve visited in the south west over the years. Some of it is the villages of Coverack and St Mawes, there’s a touch of Trellisick garden, a smidge of the Lizard peninsula, also a fair old dollop of the Isle of Wight, where I spent a lot of my childhood and early adulthood. I have a pretty clear image of the landscape in my head and I could easily draw it – in fact, I drew it very bady for the map at the front of the new Clifftoppers which is properly drawn by my son, Rufus.
6) Who most inspires you in your writing?
I was lucky enough to have a lot of Nina Bawden books as a child. She was a good friend of my parents and always took care to make sure I had a copy of her most recent. I think she’s the most wonderful writer and I would love to get somewhere near her writing myself.
7) There is a further title in this series due for publication later in the year, how many books in total with Clifftoppers feature?
There’ll be four in total. The last one, Frost Castle is set in the snow and I’m rewriting it now, just as the spring comes on!
8) How important are mystery stories within the bookcases of children’s libraries?
You don’t often come across a child who doesn’t enjoy mystery – and of course lots of books which we might think of as fantasy are actually mystery stories. I like the contemporary mystery because it’s a real world that the child can see themselves in, and I think that’s really important.
9) If you could collaborate with any author of your choosing on a book who would it be and why?
Crikey, what a question? There are so many – but perhaps I’d really like to work with someone who was really good at plotting things which is where I tend to get lost – so maybe Anthony Horowitz?
10) Perseverance, Determination, Bravery and Teamwork are some of the qualities best associated with the children in the Clifftopper books making them fantastic role models for the books intended readers. What would you like young readers to take away from your books?
I think so many children leave scarily sheltered lives, not enough time to be bored or out in the wild. Too much time indoors. It’s really different from the world in which I grew up, so I hope that some of my readers get at least some of the thrill of being absolutely free.
All three of the Clifftopper titles mentioned are available to purchase from any good bookseller, and of course Fleur has also written other titles that are hugely popular and come highly recommended, including The Boy Who Flew. Further details can be found on this brilliant Toppsta Biography page.