By author Santa Montefiore
Having written twenty-one adult novels, it might come across as a total change in direction to have embarked on a series of children’s books about rabbits. However, I have always written for myself and at a very early age I was writing about hedgehogs and rabbits after school and in the holidays. It was my hobby. I adored the Little Grey Rabbit series by Alison Utley, Winney-the-Pooh by A A Milne and Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. I grew up on a farm and my sister and I used to dress up as rabbits and hop about a hollow tree, which was our burrow. As I grew out of rabbits I grew into my teenage years writing romances, which evolved into short stories for my school friends, turning them into heroines and the boys they fancied into heroes. In adulthood, I changed direction again. Thus my books have evolved with me, reflecting my own tastes and passions, as my focus is always on entertaining myself first and thinking of my reader second. If one thinks too hard about what other people want there’s a danger of pleasing no one at all!
I thought I had consigned rabbits to the metaphorical attic along with my childhood joys and delights, but when my six-year-old son couldn’t sleep one night, I asked him to think of something he loved. He replied, ‘Rabbits’. I asked him where they lived, and he answered, ‘Beneath Buckingham Palace’. It was then that those rabbits gleefully hopped out of those old boxes stowed away in the deepest part of my memory and I looked them in the face again. I blew off the dust and, together with my husband, because, in an area unfamiliar to me two minds are better than one, we set about creating the world of the Grand Burrow, the Royal Rabbits and evil Ratzis. It was a long process. In fact, because we were both so busy with raising a family and writing our adult books (Simon is a historian and novelist) it took six years before we were able to put some words onto a page. The biggest challenge was finding the antiheroes. The rabbits were easy. Their history as the Rabbits of the Round Table in Camelot was great fun to create and their job of protecting the royal family and fighting evil in the world from their burrow beneath the palace came without difficulty. But to think of the enemy was hard. Then one day I was walking down a beach on holiday when my husband came running towards me. ‘I’ve got it!’ he exclaimed excitedly. And he had. Ratzis, a mafia style gang of giant super rats, headed by the evil genius Papa Ratzi. They live at the top of the shard in pristine offices and have the most modern and advanced technology. With their internet and smart phones, intent on destroying reputations and changing the course of history, it was a perfectly modern and original idea. Above all, it was great fun. We’ve written four now and each one has been hard work, but ultimately rewarding. The illustrations by the brilliant and charming Kate Hindley are magical. We receive the most wonderful letters from young readers and respond to every one. Twentieth Century Fox are producing the movie, so hopefully there’ll be a CGI film soon to entertain both children and adults alike. It’s been a fabulous adventure and a welcome distraction from writing my adult novels. I hope my young readers enjoy the fourth novel, The Hunt for the Golden Carrot, as much as they’ve enjoyed the first three. We certainly adored writing it. As for more, we have many ideas to expand the series. Watch this space!
The Royal Rabbits: The Hunt for the Golden Carrot by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore, illustrated by Kate Hindley is out now (Paperback, Simon & Schuster) and is available to purchase from all good booksellers.
Any opinions expressed may not truly represent those of the FCBG.