The Magic Place – Blog Tour Feature by author Chris Wormell

The Magic Place began with three characters: Clementine, an orphan, and her wicked aunt and uncle. I drew pictures of them before I started writing, and though Aunt Vermilia and Uncle Rufus were rather more grotesque in these original drawings and had to be toned down a little (‘you don’t want to scare off your readers on the second page!’ advised my publisher) they were more or less fixed from the start. So, I had my characters but as yet no story.

            Gilbert came next; a very smart cat, who got a lot smarter as the story developed. At the beginning, however, I just needed a cat for Aunt Vermilia to kick. She doesn’t, you’ll be glad to know, she kicks a coal bucket instead, but it’s from this incident that the rest of the story grows.

Except it didn’t. Grow, that is, not for a long while, and all I had was this beginning, illustrated with a few sketches. I was stuck. Then the nub of the story, the pivotal scene, came to me – an idea that had been in my head for many years, waiting for the right story to come along where I might use it. It was perfect for this one, and I knew then that all the chapters preceding it would be used to engineer the mechanics of how the scene could happen and all those following it would be the consequences of that moment. I knew where my story was going.

The scene is the moment when Clementine, locked in her cellar bedroom at the bottom of her aunt and uncle’s house in the middle of the Great Black City, looks into a broken fragment of mirror lying in the cold fireplace and sees her ‘magic place’ – the place of her dreams. Suddenly all things are possible: the place she has only ever dreamt of is real. She must escape!

Most often one never really knows where ideas come from, they seem to grow without conscious thought. Certainly, I was not aware of why this particular idea had been around in my head for so long, or where it may have come from. But after I’d finished the story it occurred to me that that idea may have had its origin in the film Mary Poppins.

This film made a huge impression on me when I saw it as a child in the mid nineteen sixties, and one of the scenes I found most memorable was the moment when Bert, the chimney sweep, looks up the chimney with the children, Michael and Jane. All they see is blackness and soot, but Bert talks of the enchanted world to be found up on the rooftops of London – amid the smoke and the fog, halfway in darkness and halfway in light. Not the exact words, I’m sure, but something like that.

You never know when random thoughts and memories, swirling around in the soup of the imagination, might fuse and conjure an idea that then emerges in the conscious mind – but that’s how stories happen!

The stunning new paperback version of The Magic Place published on 4th March 2021 by David Fickling Books. For further insight check out the upcoming stops on the blog tour, details of which can be found on the tour banner below. Massive thanks go to Chris Wormell for his fabulously written feature, and David Fickling Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, not least because I fell in love with The Magic Place as soon as I got my hands on the beautiful hardback edition (back in 2019), and have continued to reference this must read title routinely since.

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