Today we welcome LD Lapinski into The Reading Realm to talk to Ian Eagleton about The Strangeworlds Travel Agency!
Firstly, welcome to The Reading Realm! I wondered if we could start with you introducing yourself and telling us about THE STRANGEWORLDS TRAVEL AGENCY: THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN?
THE STRANGEWORLDS TRAVEL AGENCY: THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN is the second book in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency series. Having learnt in the first book that the multiverse is accessible through portable portals contained within suitcases (and that she has the special ability to see magic), Flick is off on another adventure. She and Strangeworlds Custodian Jonathan receive a summons from Pirate Queen Nyfe Shaban, whose nautical world is falling apart, beyond repair. The pirates are keen to escape and find a new world to live in, but how do you sail an enormous pirate ship through a tiny suitcase?
What would you say the main themes in your stories are? Are they similar to any other stories?
My books are typical ‘children find portals to magical worlds’ stories, which are similar to books like Pages and Co., A Clock of Stars or His Dark Materials. The difference is that Flick and Jonathan’s portals can be carried around with them in the form of suitcases, and that they cannot simply create new ones.
What was your journey like to getting an agent and publisher?
Strangeworlds wasn’t the first book I wrote! It was the third time my agent and I had submitted a book to publishers, so I was very worried about it. I am very pleased it happened this way though, because I think I am a better writer for it, and I may never have ‘met’ Flick and Jonathan if this hadn’t happened!
What does a day in your life look like when you are working on your children’s books?
Pandemic aside, I usually start writing mid-morning after the school run and when I’ve had enough caffeine. I’ll write til lunchtime and usually eat at my desk, and then in the afternoon before school pickup I do admin and answer emails unless I’m under pressure to keep writing!
What is the editing process like for you? What does it involve? What did you have to edit out of this book to make it work?
I prefer drafting to editing (to me, drafting feels like free-wheeling downhill whilst editing feels like mountaineering), so editing for me usually involves a lot of chocolate as bribes. There actually wasn’t a lot cut out of THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN, instead I was lucky enough to be able to put in more details about the world of The Break, and give more page space to new character Avery.
What’s the best thing about being a children’s author?
It used to be that I could stay in my pyjamas all day whilst at work, but everyone does that, now! But seriously, the real best thing has always been hearing from young people who have read and enjoyed the books, and hearing what sort of worlds they would like to travel to if they were part of The Strangeworlds Society.
Did you have a favourite story when you were younger?
I read my copy of Northern Lights so much that the cover is now falling off and the pages in danger of dropping out. I was lucky enough to meet Philip Pullman a couple of years ago and handed over my very battered book for him to sign, slightly shamefaced about its condition. But he was very gracious about it!
What advice would you give to teachers about how to develop reading for pleasure in their classrooms and schools?
Novels aren’t the be-all end-all when it comes to drinking in stories. I have more graphic novels and comics on my bookshelves than I do books of prose, and some of my all-time favourite stories are in video games. Scripts, comics, sites like Webtoons or Tapas, and even long-form memes are all forms of storytelling that appeal to readers who might not necessarily enjoy novels. Reading at the end of the day is about being entertained.
How would you envisage teachers using your book in their classrooms? What age group is it aimed at? Do any activities or ideas spring to mind?
The wonderful people at Hachette Children’s Group have put together a pack of learning resources for Key Stages Two and Three to aid using Strangeworlds as classroom books. There are lots of themes contained within, from world-building to environmentalism.
Can you recommend a book you’ve enjoyed recently and one you’re looking forward to?
I’m recommending PET by Akwaeke Emezi to everyone. For teen readers, it’s a simply phenomenal books about a young trans girl named Jam, who accidentally summons a monster-hunting angel into her peaceful town. Jam and her best friend Redemption are initially confused, because their town is meant to be monster-free. But is it?
Finally, can you describe your book THE STRANGEWORLDS TRAVEL AGENCY: THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN in three words?
Magical suitcase adventures!