A friendly welcome and hello to Claire Fayers, who journeys into The Reading Realm today to talk to Sarah Farrell about her new book Storm Hound!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about Storm Hound?
Storm is the youngest of Odin’s fearsome hunting hounds, running through the skies on stormy nights. But on his first hunt he finds he can’t keep up with the pack and he crash-lands to Earth. Even worse, he is shrunk to the size of a very adorable puppy. Will he ever find his way home? And why oh why won’t humans TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY!!!!
I really liked the humour of the character of Storm, particularly his view on humans and his disdain at being treated like a puppy rather than a fierce storm hound. Was he a fun character to write?
Storm was terrific fun to write. Many of the scenes had me giggling as I wrote them. What I love most is his enthusiasm. Through his eyes, the world is wonderful, exciting and full of magic. I need Storm’s outlook on life.
In the back of the book, you mention that you chose to set the book in Abergavenny during a trip as it’s a very magical place. How and why did you decide to incorporate Norse mythology?
Odin actually came before Abergavenny. The first chapter of Storm Hound burst out of my head when I was working on something else. I did think about turning Odin into King Arawn of the Welsh Otherworld, but I liked the idea of combining Norse and Welsh mythologies. They both have a great sense of place, and are peopled with larger than life characters. And I loved the idea of the Wild Hunt charging, Valkyrie-like, across the Black Mountains of south Wales.
Storm Hound explores parental separation and moving away from home really well. Are there any other books that you’d recommend to children going through a similar situation?
This question was far harder to answer than I thought. Jacqueline Wilson sprang to mind immediately, but I couldn’t think of any others. So I asked a nice bookseller, and we went through the whole children’s section of the bookshop looking for ideas. We came up with Mrs Doubtfire by Ann Fine, Matt Haig’s To Be a Cat and Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m sure there must be many more.
Storm Hound deals with many themes, including friendship, loyalty, identity and belonging, with David, Jessie and Storm all feeling like they don’t belong. What message would you most like readers to take away from reading Storm Hound?
Life is bigger and more magical than we can imagine, and we ourselves are full of possibility.
There’s a friendly rivalry between Storm and Nutmeg throughout the text, with both ultimately wanting to help each other. Would you say you’re more of a cat or a dog person?
Cats, definitely. Nutmeg is based on my old cat, Penny, who died in January 2019, age nineteen and a bit. She used to sit next to me, practically velcroed to my leg while I wrote. I miss her terribly. That said, all the time I was writing Storm Hound I wanted a black puppy of my own, so you never know, one day I might turn into a dog person. Anything’s possible!
I loved how Storm went back to rescue the old dog from the rescue centre at the end! Were you always going to have him stay with Jessie or did part of you want to have him re-join the hunt?
I wrote the first and last chapters of Storm Hound before anything else, which is unusual for me. (Normally I don’t know what will happen at the end until I get there.) So I always knew Storm would stay. Working out how he got to that point was another matter entirely.
Jessie is a very strong character throughout the book. Which 3 words would you use to describe her?
Creative, brave, lost.
I enjoyed description of the three eccentric professors trying to fit in at school (wearing pink jumpers with bunnies on, of course!). Were they modelled on any teachers you ever had?
Ah, that would be telling! I had quite a few eccentric teachers, but none of them ever wore pink bunny jumpers, I am happy to say.
How would you see Storm Hound being used in classrooms? Which writing activities do you think would come well from the book?
First and foremost, I’d love Storm Hound to be read aloud. I still remember my primary school teacher reading to us at the end of each day. It’s a very special thing.
A school I visited had made ‘missing pet’ posters for Storm. Those were great fun.
You could write your own story – what if a magical creature appeared in your town? Or what if your pet developed super-powers? You could find out more about Odin and Norse mythology. Which is your favourite Norse god?
Or look up the story of Ceridwen, the Welsh sorceress who appears in Storm Hound. You’ll see how I played with the original stories and changed bits of them. Try writing your own version of Ceridwen’s story.
I have some class resources on my website. Anyone is welcome to download and use them.
In the book, David turns back into a hare in order to communicate with Storm and the sheep. If you could turn into any animal, what would you be and why?
I’m tempted to be a cat, but I think I’ll go for something completely different and become an octopus. They are fascinating creatures – highly intelligent, able to squeeze their bodies through the tiniest spaces, and, I think, quite beautiful. I’d love to drift about the oceans, waving my many arms and startling the other sea creatures.
After writing two Accidental Pirates books and Mirror Magic, what’s next for you? Will there be another book featuring Storm or the Otherworld or will you move on to something else?
I’d love to write a sequel to Storm Hound one day. At the moment, though, I’m working on something completely different: a sort of science-fiction/fantasy crossover. I’m keeping very quiet about it because it’s in its early stages, but I’m very excited about it.
Claire Fayers was talking to Sarah Farrell, an UKS2 teacher and geography lead in Bristol. You can find out more about Sarah here!