Later this year we will see the publication of the latest book in the incredible middle grade adventure series based in Eerie-On-Sea by the fabulous author Thomas Taylor, who has given us three titles in the series so far, and relatable characters and unbelievable experiences as we join in with solving the mysteries that descend upon this seaside destination. The books are written with such immersive detailing and depth that the reader is instantly transported into the world of characters Herbie and Violet, and consequently have an edge of your seat, unforgettable reading experience that we all encourage young readers to have, and a level of enjoyment in doing so that we can only envy!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas for my blog, and asked him all the questions I have pondered, and been asked by fellow fans of the books! The insight into the series that this interview offers makes this a must read feature for sure!
- If we start from the beginning of your ‘Eerie-On-Sea Mystery’ series journey, how did you create the awesome world of Herbert Lemon, and Eerie-On-Sea?
I first moved to a seaside town about 12 years ago, and discovered for myself how very mysterious such places are in the off season. When the nights grow long, and the sea grows wild, and the tourist attractions are locked up for winter, seaside towns are the perfect backdrop for mystery. And when the sea mist creeps up the streets to paint your windows with frost, even the most unlikely folk tales and legends suddenly seem like they could be true.
Walking on the winter beach day and night, with such thoughts as these, led me to create the town of Eerie-on-Sea, and the weird and wonderful people who live there.
- Do you recall the first time you saw your book in a bookshop, and how you felt?
I was very happy and proud to see Malamander in bookshops, not least because it was Waterstones ‘Book of the Month’ when it was published, so I saw it everywhere. But the first time I saw a book I wrote on sale was actually way back in 1999, when my first picture book — George and Sophie’s Museum Adventure — was published. I wrote and illustrated the book, now long out of print, but because I worked at a bookshop at the time, I could see it on display every day. And make sure it was prominently displayed, of course 😉
- You do the most immersive author events, of which I have been fortunate enough to have attended one of, what is your favourite part of the bookshop/school author events you host?
Thank you. I love to see the children engaging with my books and the stories, and there’s something especially lovely about reading from the books myself, and seeing children read along. I also have a lot of fun with the props I use, not least the dinosaur coprolite. You can’t beat revealing that the ‘funny brown lump’ a child has just picked up is actually 135 million-year-old dino poo.
- Malamander has been a huge hit, as have the books in the series that follow on from it, Gargantis, and Shadowghast. Can you give those that have yet to read these books an overview of what the books to date involve, without spoilers of course!
I’ll try! In Malamander we meet Herbert Lemon — Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel — and his new best friend Violet Parma. Violet was found as a baby in Eerie-on-Sea, many years ago, and she believes that Herbie’s lost property skills can help find her missing parents now. But as Herbie and Vi delve into the mystery of Violet’s past, they start to wonder which of the town’s weird and wonderful characters they can trust, and what it all has to do with the terrifying local legend of a creature called the Malamander.
In Gargantis, a mysterious visitor checks into the hotel, just as a terrible storm descends upon Eerie-on-Sea. Herbie and Violet soon believe the two things are connected, especially when something magical washes up on the beach. The famously superstitious fishermen of Eerie declare that Gargantis, a giant monster out of legend, is behind the storm, and Herbie and Violet find themselves racing to uncover the truth before the town is destroyed.
Then, in Shadowghast, we discover what happens in Eerie-on-Sea at Halloween, which the locals celebrate as ‘Ghastly Night’. The townsfolk gather on the pier to watch a magic lantern show, to remember the time, many years ago, when a legendary creature called the Shadowghast stalked the town. A famous magician called Caliastra turns up and offers to stage the greatest ‘Ghastly Night’ show the town has ever seen, but Herbie and Vi start to wonder if she is meddling in things she doesn’t understand, especially when when people in the town start to disappear…
Phew! I hope that sounds exciting.
- The series has some of the most relatable characters I have come across in children’s literature, from the main duo Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma, to Mrs Fossil, and many more. Do you have a favourite that you enjoy writing about?
Honestly, I love writing them all. Herbie’s voice is a lot of fun anyway, but the characters are now pretty well developed in my head, so I enjoy spending time with each of them. My least favourite character is Mr Mollusc, the hotel manager, but in every one of his scenes he is talking with Herbie, and this always gives Herbie the chance to shine.
- I absolutely love the book series’ merchandise available in your online shop, and could not resist the opportunity to buy myself a t shirt and tote bag, because they are perfect for inspiring the children that I will share my love of these books with, and just enjoy wearing in general. Do you have a ‘lucky’ item that you have with you when writing, or a specific routine you follow when drafting your stories?
Actually, I do! My grandmother — who was a librarian, and a great inspirer of my love of books — knitted me a ‘Doctor Who’ scarf many years ago. It is ridiculously long, and I like to wear it when I’m writing. Fortunately, I usually write my books in winter.
- The locations within the book are based on real life locations you love, can you share those with us? If readers were to plan a trip to visit them, where would you suggest going to, and what would you recommend experiencing whilst there?
If you want to visit Eerie-on-Sea, then head to Hastings to walk the twisty streets of the Old Town in winter, and around the fishing boats on the beach. Then go to Eastbourne to visit the rickety old pier, before heading to Cromer, which inspired the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Oh, but don’t forget to visit Tenby too. And Whitby. And Lyme Regis. Actually, I think you can find a little bit of Eerie-on-Sea in any seaside town in winter. Bon voyage!
- We know from the end of book three in the series, Shadowghast, that there will indeed be a book four! I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy, and will definitely be wearing my Eerie-On-Sea themed t-shirt when reading it! We have learnt that the upcoming publication will be called Festergrimm, can you give us a little insight into what we can expect in this upcoming adventure?
In Festergrimm, we will discover Eerie-on-Sea’s long-abandoned Waxwork Museum and Ghost Train, as well as encounter the town’s most startling legend yet — the tale of a master clockwork-maker and the wind-up creation he is said to have brought to life. There will be new characters to meet, more insights into Herbie’s own mysterious past, and some very spooky peril to contend with. Oh, and lots of fish and chips:)
- What can readers expect from you beyond Festergrimm? Is Eerie-On-Sea due another instalment (fingers firmly crossed), or will there be a new project you are working on for readers instead?
The fifth and final book in the Mysteries fo Eerie-on-Sea series will be called Mermedusa. But I do also have ideas for something to work on after that.
- Since the publication of Malamander in 2019, through to Shadowghast last year, we have had so much to contend with in our ‘new reality’, and your books have offered such a welcomed escapism into a world of mystery and adventure, and even a normality, and I know that readers everywhere are so thankful for this too. What do you enjoy reading to find some escapism from everything?
I treat reading as escapism anyway, even when there isn’t a pandemic on. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of ghost stories, as well as classics that I have missed. There are some fabulous new books coming out now though. We are very lucky to have so many amazing places to go when we need to escape from world, but also perspectives to help us understand the world a little better when we get back.
Thanks for these great questions, Samantha. Very best wishes from Eerie-on-Sea.
Titles in this series to date are available to purchase from all good booksellers, with the fourth book, Festergrimm, due to be published in September!
Thank you so much for taking the time to allow me to interview you Thomas! What a fabulous way to kick off 2022 on the BookBound blog!