Our Macaw subscribers are heading into a mysterious, imaginative realm this month with Furthermoor by Darren Simpson. Balancing both real and fantasy worlds, this book is brimming with empathy, a fantastic cast of characters that young readers will relate to, and a gripping storyline. We asked Darren to tell us all about what inspired the book and which fantasy books for teens and tweens he recommends you read next.
What inspired you to write Furthermoor?
It all began with the landscape. I really wanted to set a story in a crystal, clockwork forest – I just love a striking setting – but I wasn’t sure how to do so in a non-fantasy novel. Then I had an idea. What if I put this fantastical forest in a character’s imagination? That way I could set the story in both the real world and in these wondrous woodlands. When I started to imagine combining both settings, I saw tower blocks and alleys covered in crystal flowers, and that’s when I got really excited.
Are any of the characters based on real people?
Unlike many writers, I don’t tend to base my characters on real people. Cary’s backstory drew a little from my own life, I guess. My dad used to be in the army, so I spent my youth regularly changing schools, and after a while this made me lonely because I missed my old friends so much. I soon learned the importance of making new friends, though. Beyond that, Furthermoor’s characters were freshly invented, and came gradually to life as the story developed.
Do you think Furthermoor is ultimately good for Bren? Does it help or hold him back?
It’s good for Bren to an extent. We all need escapism and fantasy sometimes. That’s why we read books, watch movies and daydream. But such fantasies can become hiding places that stop us from facing up to the reality. Bren’s character was inspired by maladaptive daydreamers – people who are so addicted to imaginary worlds that their real-life careers and relationships are damaged.
What would your imaginary world look like (and who would be there)?
The world we live in is already amazing, and much of it is almost fantastical in its strangeness and beauty. So, to be honest, my imaginary world wouldn’t look very different to our real world, except every single person in it would care for others and for the environment, and the world would be fairer and greener as a result. And I’d live close to all the best friends I’ve ever had – a whole neighbourhood of buddies and loved ones.
Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Bren and his family?
Things can only get better. Bren’s mum and dad – just like Bren himself – have realised how grief has caused them to hide away, and now they can all come out of their shells and help each other to heal. It’s exactly what Evie would have wanted, so she’ll be happy too.
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
I actually started writing for children and teens by accident! My first published book, Scavengers, was originally written for adults, but I decided to focus on its younger character to make it a better story, and before I knew it, I was writing for a younger age group. It was a very happy accident, as younger readers are very receptive and open-minded, which allows me to experiment more with stories.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
That’d be our study at home. It sounds quite fancy to have a “study” to write in, but our study is also where we hang up our soggy washing, so it’s not all that glamorous. I love it, though. It’s sunny and peaceful and has my drum kit and books.
Which other fantasy books would you recommend our subscribers read next?
Good question! Fantasy books I’ve loved recently include Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray, The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel Halpin, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll, and Aarti and the Blue Gods by Jasbinder Bilan. So many incredible worlds to explore!
Copies of our Furthermoor pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!
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