Jane Louise Curry

Time Travel, Fantasy, Mystery -- Books for Children and Young Adults

Abáloc-- and this and my other worlds...

If at first you take a pratfall...

August 16, 2017

Tags: On writing, Beneath the Hill

As I was about to say in my last post ... I sat down to "think up" a subject for a story-- but neither sitting down or Thinking produced the sort of Light-Bulb Moment I had been hoping for. Granted, when every fifteen or so minutes a heavily laden coal truck comes rumbling down your country road from the strip mine up the way to rattle your bedroom windows as it passes the front yard, it isn't easy to concentrate. I couldn't seem to get past the tired (I thought) old motto, "Write what you know," that Miss Lambert, my high-school English teacher, espoused (along with possibly every other high-school English teacher in the Universe), but that seemed to me a feeble approach. I already KNEW what I knew, so where was the fun, the excitement in that? (There are obviously answers to that question, but they're beside the point here.)

All this was so long ago that I can't swear to it, but I'm convinced that it was on that same day, and close to 12:00 noon, that a small light bulb did blink on-- when the windows really rattled as dynamite blasted more coal loose up at the strip mine above our woods once the digging and loading machines had safely cleared off to lunch. It felt, in fact, more as if a piece from a picture puzzle had just sailed through the window to drop onto the dressing table I used as a desk-- a single piece: danger from a strip mine above a farm...

(The thing about finding a single picture-puzzle piece is that you know it belongs to a complete picture. And I've often since that first time had that same nonsensical sense that each sudden idea that exclaims "Story! carries with it a conviction that the rest of the story already exists Out There, if only I can discover it.)

Alas, the strip mine was as far as I got. "Danger from a strip mine above a farm"-- in a children's book? I knew it was right, but I couldn't for the world of me see how it could be. In the end I carried that metaphorical puzzle piece around in a metaphorical pocket for the several months that saw me sail off to England on the Queen Elizabeth (those being the days when flying cost far more) for another year at University College, London. And I fretted. I wanted to be able to tell Margaret McElderry that I was at work on a new children's book. But I wasn't. Unless you counted the fretting (which didn't do a bit of good).

It wasn't until October or November, in London, that the key to the puzzle leapt into my hand from a bookstore shelf: a book I had been looking for since fifth grade... (to be continued)

Quick Links

Book Pages

abaloc series
"full of mystery and magic." booklist; "an engrossing fantasy." Publishers Weekly
"National Book Award" finalist.
"deeply satisfying"   The Listener (BBC)
"a rousing adventure fantasy" publishers weekly
"always enthralling" Publishers weekly
"brisk and riveting"   Horn book
"fresh and exciting" NCTE English Journal
time travel
"Top Ten Fantasy Books for Youth " BOOKLIST
"Masterful suspense." Washington Post
Wouldn't you like to have a magical servant? "...thrilling, and simply splendid." Google Books reader
mystery and adventure
"A... thriller of the first order." CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR, u.k.
folk tales
"A stellar collection of Native American tales." --KIRKUS REVIEWS