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Anna Goodall on Maggie Blue and the Dark World and her favourite fantasy books for kids

Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall. Book cover and author photo.

 

Our Macaw subscribers faced a tough choice this month between two highly original and thought-provoking books, including the Costa Children's Book Award-shortlisted Maggie Blue and the Dark World. This beautiful book takes the reader deep into a fantasy world that is rich with magic, adventure and some truly irresistible characters. We asked author Anna Goodall to tell us all about what inspired the book and which fantasy books for young readers she would recommend you turn to next.

What inspired you to write Maggie Blue and the Dark World?

I’d just moved to a new place and I had very mixed feelings about it. I was sort of fascinated and bored by it at the same time! Several projects I’d been working on with other people had also fallen through and I suddenly just wanted to write on my own again. Maggie is so real to me that I can’t exactly recall how she came into my mind, but maybe she was inspired by the feelings of isolation and rebellion I was experiencing.

What do you think we can learn about our world from the Dark World?

The Dark World is a place where self-interest and greed have led to climate disaster and a total disconnect between human beings and their environment. It’s a suppression of what’s real, in a way, to live a life that is untenable and destructive. Hence, also, the Dark World’s sadness epidemic and the ruthlessness with which they try to “cure” themselves. It’s, of course, a comment on what we’re doing to the planet. But also, in a far less critical way, it’s about how many of us struggle to feel happiness and contentment. It’s not giving a solution to this hugely complex problem, but on some levels the Dark World represents a place in ourselves, and shows us how repressing our emotions and who we are only leads to greater darkness.

Who do you think is the real hero of the story?

The hero, for me, will always be Maggie. But, of course, Hoagy the cat must get a mention. I don’t want to give anything away but that is one brave cantankerous jazz-loving one-eyed cat! In some ways, as a character, he goes on the biggest journey, though naturally he’d be the last to admit any such thing.

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I didn’t! I just started writing and thought, hmmm, when there’s a talking cat it’s normally a children’s book (unless you’re Murakami). And I found so much freedom in writing for younger people. All the literary voices and influences I admire and that I had been trying to emulate just fell away, and I finally wrote as myself.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

My study in my house. During a project or when I’m writing a draft, it’s a real mess with papers strewn everywhere. When I’ve finished a bit of it, I do a big clean up and then I go again.

What other books with fantasy worlds would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I think one of my all-time favourite fantasy worlds is Lyra’s world in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, but I imagine many of your subscribers are familiar with his books already. For another example of possibly the best-ever world-building, I recommend The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, which I constantly go on about. A post-apocalyptic biblical community obsessed with purity, and trying to keep “mutants” at bay in an unnamed part of a ruined world. I’m not a sci-fi fan but this book soars beyond genre. It’s an incredible story about fear of difference and humanity’s need for dominance at all costs.

If you were a shifter, what animal form would you take?

I would be a bird, because bird shifters are the good ones (and, as will become clear in the next book, they are warriors, too). I think I’d be a robin.

Is there going to be a sequel and can you tell us what the future holds for Maggie?

Yes, I’ve just finished a draft of Maggie Blue and the White Crow. (So my study is finally going to get another clean!) All I can say is that whilst Maggie’s life seems to be going much better, and she is determined to have nothing more to do with the Dark World, the Dark World will not let her go. And this time her connection to it is far deeper and more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Copies of our Maggie Blue and the Dark World pack are now available for individual purchase here . Grab a copy while stocks last!

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