At our recent conference, delegates were treated to a presentation led by Ross Montgomery where he talked about his new title and discovering new parts of London, some truly hidden places. Discover a bit more in his guest blog for us today.
Usually when I write a new book, I give myself a treat: being able to go somewhere new that could help me write about it. So much of being a writer means sitting in one place and getting the ideas out – it’s nice to balance it out with a bit of exploring. For THE MIDNIGHT GUARDIANS, I travelled all the way up to Buxton in a day and went hiking along the Monsal Trail to decide where my protagonist Col would live. For THE CHIME SEEKERS, I went exploring creepy forests and finding dolmens where I imagined evil faeries might be hiding.
When I started writing SPELLSTONE though, things were different. It was in the immediate aftermath of a year of lockdowns – we could leave our houses by then, but the idea of going exploring felt a little nerve-wracking. Instead, I decided it would make sense to set the story closer to home: that way, if I wanted to go and explore for research, it meant I wouldn’t have to leave the city where I lived. But by then, I’d lived in London for almost half my life – it all felt familiar to me. How could I change that?
The answer was to go on micro-adventures. You don’t need to go somewhere brand new to find new things, just like you don’t have to climb Mount Everest or run a marathon if you want to feel a glow of achievement. Instead, I simply started going down roads I’d never been down before: exploring parts of the city I hadn’t even considered visiting. And it was a complete revelation. The answer to seeing the world anew, it turned out, wasn’t to go somewhere where everything was different: it was to start looking closer, pausing for a moment, thinking about what I’d overlooked when I’d been pacing to the tube staring at my phone every morning.
In fact, this ended up being the backbone of the story. SPELLSTONE is all about the magic that is all around us, and that we never notice because it’s simply quite… unexceptional. Or at least, that’s how it seems. I started researching about the odd and unusual things hidden in the city: the parts that tourists don’t normally see, for example. I got obsessed with tracking them down, like a weird little Pokémon collector: underground rivers, Roman ruins, forgotten statues. It turned out they were everywhere.
We live in a world where children aren’t able to go on adventures in the way that, say, my parents could: playing outdoors for hours and then coming home when they were hungry. Children live quite enclosed lives nowadays: so what better way to encourage them to think magically than by showing them the magic that’s already there, hidden in plain sight?
Spellstone by Ross Montgomery is published by Walker Books and is available on the 4th of May.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.