We are particularly excited about this month’s Cockatoo book. The Lightning Catcher is a brilliant debut that had us on the edge of our seats. It’s modern and relevant, exciting, magical and beautifully told. We caught up with author Clare Weze to find out more about what inspired the book, it’s unique setting and excellent cast of characters.
What inspired you to write The Lightning Catcher?
The initial inspiration came from the way some of the trees in our own garden behaved, and the fact that children found the setting quite spooky and intriguing. I made lots of changes to the setting, adding in dilapidation and junky old machinery, then started thinking about who might live there and the reasons for this person letting everything disintegrate around him. This wild, forbidding no-go area then became the kind of place that would attract the curiosity of a child. I could then feed in some of my main interests – weather, biology and electricity – to create my other characters and plot.
Is Folding Ford based on a real place and why did you decide to set the book there?
It’s a fictional place but shares some geography with my home village. The shape of the village suits a story like The Lightning Catcher because it’s easy to imagine the landmarks Alfie passes through. The elongated ‘tail’ makes a great hiding place for a no-go area. The fact that it loops around means that sometimes Alfie’s actually visible when he thinks he’s out of sight.
Are any of the characters inspired by real people?
The spark of Alfie came from one of my son’s birthday party guests. He was funny and confident and the heart and soul of the party for a while, so I gave Alfie some of his confidence. Alfie then morphed off in his own direction over time, which is one of the loveliest parts of the writing process, for me. It takes place subconsciously and really grows in directions that surprise you. Alfie became his own person with no resemblance to anyone else, even the original party boy. With the exception of Mr Clemm, the other characters just arrived in my head and grew stronger as the writing progressed. I still have no idea where they came from. The idea for Mr Clemm’s unusual physical shape came from a real person my son and I saw passing through the village one day, complete with long flowing hair and flapping coat.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
In my favourite café, where they also roast coffee, so I come out covered in delicious smells.
Why did you choose to write books for children?
I love the outlook that children have on life and the new ideas they bring to everything. I was a child when I first started writing, so it seemed natural to carry on in that world. The middle-grade age was my favourite age to be, and for my own children, that seemed to be the most magical age, when all kinds of things in the universe feel possible. The books I read as a child were also very influential. Sometimes I misunderstood things and accidentally invented whole new exciting meanings, and I saw my own children doing the same thing. There’s a lot of freedom in writing for children. You can take an idea, distil it down to its basic parts then build it up into something new and a little bit strange.
What was your favourite book as a child?
A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce. In this book, a boy has been led to believe he’ll be getting a dog for his birthday, but instead, he’s presented with a picture of a dog. Amazing things happen, but it also focuses on strong emotional bonds. I’ve never read anything quite like it.
What other adventure books for kids would you recommend our subscribers read next?
The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley is a lovely adventure that dips into the ancient past, taking a present-day character back there by accident, which makes it very relatable. Otherland by Louie Stowell mixes danger and magic together in an exciting quest. And Katherine Rundell’s latest Skysteppers is a heart-in-mouth action-packed story wrapped around her lyrical way with words. I loved her book Rooftoppers too.
What sort of weather would represent your mood right now?
Stormy! It’s my favourite type of weather and for me it represents excitement and adventure. I’m writing today, and that’s often the kind of mood I’m in when I write. Outside, it’s lashing it down, and the wind is blowing everything away. I love windy, stormy and even rainy days in spring and summer, because at this time of year you have lush greenery and busy birdlife to go with it, and that makes everything feel more alive.
Don't miss out on the adventure. Grab your copy of The Lightning Catcher plus our awesome activity pack here.