In 2019 David Fickling Books released the exquisite hardback version of Chris Wormell’s The Magic Place which I was lucky enough to read and review after winning a copy in a Twitter competition.
The Magic Place is a tale of a young girl who we discover is enslaved to an ‘Uncle and Aunt’ who dreams of escape, and it has such a depth and soul to it, with echoes of classical literature featuring children, but equally a modern redemptive, resonant and restoring middle grade novel.
I am so happy to be hosting a stop on the Blog Tour for the paperback release which shall hopefully bring this story into more hands and hearts. I am lucky enough to be hosting Chris’s reflections on his inspirations when constructing and writing Clementine’s world and hope that it inspires you whether as someone who has already read the novel to reflect on how you may see this, or indeed to pick up The Magic Place yourself.
Chris Wormell’s Thoughts on Real World Inspirations
For a writer to really empathise with a character they’ve created – and they have to if they want their readers to – a little bit of themselves must go into that character. Certainly, there’s a bit of me in Clementine. I may also be present in my villains too – her wicked aunt and uncle, though I’m not so aware of that. (Others may see it more clearly). I’d like to think there’s a bit of me in Gilbert the cat also – the prime-mover and instigator of all the important incidents in the story – but he’s rather cleverer than me, and much more enigmatic and mysterious.
I don’t think I have such self-belief as Clementine. Nor her indomitable spirit and faith that there must be something better than the wretchedness of her life with Aunt Vermilia and Uncle Rufus. But the way a place captures her imagination, casting a kind of magic spell upon her, is without doubt something I can relate to.
Places have always stirred strong emotions in me, especially when dreamt of from afar. And though my childhood was nothing like Clementine’s – I had a wonderful time and only have happy memories – I did do a good deal of daydreaming, longing to be by the sea or in some wild mountainous corner of Britain. Places so far removed from my everyday life as to be almost mythical. They were indeed ‘magic places’ for me – and have certainly inspired Clementine’s Magic Place.
Another place also, in essence at least, has found its way into my story. A place barely ten miles from my home.
I grew up in London. Not right in the middle of it, like Clementine, trapped in the middle of The Great Black City (‘which seems to go on forever and ever’) but far enough in to feel a long way from the countryside, and a little bit trapped. On weekday mornings, as I waited for a bus to take me to school (which I hated – so I was generally feeling pretty miserable), I was able look out across North East London towards the valley of the River Lea. In those days the Lea valley was an area of heavy industry; smoke and smog hung in the air above it and the world beyond was visible only as a vague grey smudge on the horizon. Occasionally though, after heavy rain, a strong breeze would clear away the smokes and smogs and beyond the factory chimneys the great, tree-covered ridge of Epping Forest would appear, crisp and green, shining in the morning sunlight. How I longed to cross the road and wait at the bus stop on the opposite side. For the bus that took me to school came from far off Chingford, just on the edge of the forest.
Though I was not consciously thinking of this as I wrote the scene in which Clementine sees her Magic Place – ‘amid the smoke and the chimneys’ – it must surely have been somewhere close by in my subconscious. All the various elements of a story are in there, like the jumbled pieces of a jig-saw puzzle gradually dropping into place as the story develops.
Thank you so much Chris for sharing these inspirations, my family was North London for generations, but, luckily, I grew up next to a wild space of a nature reserve in West London, I totally get the juxtaposition of the urban space against the wild I can identify with and I think is a big inspiration to our own escape to our Magic Place in rural Oxfordshire.
I totally recommend you read The Magic Place AND check out each of the other stops on the Blog Tour!
The Magic Place by Chris Wormell is published by David Fickling Books and is out now in Paperback.