Guest Post by Nick Tomlinson
The hardest thing about writing the second Molly Thompson book was persuading Molly Thompson to be in it.
Coming up with a theme was easy. The book is coming out in October, and I learned that there’s going to be a blue moon this Halloween! A blue moon is the second of two full moons occurring in the same month, and the last Halloween blue moon was in 1974. My first Molly Thompson book, The Ghouls of Howlfair, took place during a blue moon, and when I heard that we’d be getting an actual blue moon this year, I decided to bring back the blue moon theme for Molly’s second adventure.
The image of a blue-windowed crypt flooded with moonlight – the Crypt of the Blue Moon – popped into my head. Soon I had a plot sketched out. Molly finds a sinister soothsayer’s prediction about a girl stumbling on a secret burial place and unleashing a phantom, and she wonders if she’s the girl in the prediction.
Then I sat down to actually write the book, and everything became a bit awkward.
Writing a sequel is weird. Your main characters are already established – in your head they have almost solidified into real people – and you feel a bit cheeky asking them to be in another adventure. They don’t necessarily want to be in another adventure. Molly Thompson definitely didn’t. Someone like Molly, having survived a ghastly escapade, would hope to live happily ever after, thanks very much. She wouldn’t want to get flung into another perilous quest. I felt rather guilty saying to Molly and her friends, ‘Right – you rescued your town from ghouls and from an evil sorcerer with a crystal hand – but would you mind awfully if I sent you looking for a secret tomb guarded by flying skeletons and a phantom with a metal plate over his mouth who’ll drive you mad if he touches you?’
I felt very certain that Molly would tell me to get lost. You see, she’s not a natural-born adventurer. She’s not brave or feisty like so many heroes of middle-grade fiction, and she’s not the sort of girl who’d relish, say, getting trapped in a spinning tomb filled with the dead victims of a phantom town-crier. She’s a socially-awkward amateur historian who’s easily scared and who struggles to get along with people. When she makes up her mind about something, she’s unstoppable, which is partly, I think, why readers seem to like her; but most of the time Molly’s a bit… messy (which might be another reason why readers seem to like her).
What’s more, I felt that Molly would probably still be in shock from all the things that she had to go through in the first book. I’m talking about the hell hounds and ghouls and nearly getting sacrificed to a demon named Lady Orgella. Molly would be desperate to get back to normal after all that – a feeling that most of us can relate to in these weird times.
So Molly spends at least half the book trying to live a quiet life. She becomes a tour guide for some visiting journalists who are writing a feature about her haunted town. She tries to help her mum save the family guesthouse from running out of money. And she tries to ignore the visiting journalists’ odd requests to help them find a certain secret tomb that sounds a bit like the one in the soothsayer’s creepy prediction… By the time poor Molly realises that she’s in yet another flipping horror story, it’s too late. Now she has to channel the Thompson family’s quirky wisdom and ingenuity if she is to survive.
But I’d like to think that I make it all worthwhile for Molly. There are things she needs to sort out – relationships to heal, people to forgive, a guesthouse to save, and a pretty spectacular secret about her family that Molly would never have stumbled on if I hadn’t sent her, yet again, to hell and back.
Now I just have to figure out how to persuade her to be in another book!
The Ghouls of Howlfair and Molly Thompson and the Crypt of the Blue Moon are published by Walker Books, and both titles are available to buy from all good booksellers, with book two having published on 1st October 2020.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.