12 March 2021

Let's return to The Magic Place! Chris Wormell's debut children's novel is out now in paperback!

Posted in: Children's books, Illustration, Process

The Magic Place, Chris Wormell’s debut children’s novel is out now in paperback, and as it’s name suggests is packed full of magic and character that will enthral readers of any age. While we wrote about the book when it first came out in hardback, we caught up with Chris to revisit The Magic Place and find out more about it’s creation;

“The Magic Place began with its three main characters: Clementine, her wicked Aunt Vermilia (who, ‘… wore spectacles with such thick lenses her eyes looked enormous and appeared to jump out of her head – Clementine thought she looked like a large, fat beetle.’) and odious Uncle Rufus (who ‘…had a very large mouth and lots of teeth, and Clementine thought he look rather like a crocodile.’)

But at that point, I had no plot…

I knew the story I wanted to write – about an orphan, desperate to escape from the house of her aunt and Uncle where she is more or less imprisoned and treated as a slave. But this could so easily become clichéd and hackneyed. I was already using standard architypes. It wasn’t until I thought about where my heroine might escape to and why, that the story began to develop. Then another idea that had been floating around in my brain for many years suddenly jumped into my consciousness and I saw how it could be used in this story. A kind of magic moment that would become the pivotal point of the book. The creative cogs began to whirr, and I began to plot how I might engineer this scene.

The moment is when Clementine, locked in a dark damp cellar (her bedroom) at the bottom of the house, looks into a broken fragment of mirror lying in the cold fireplace and…

‘Far away, beyond the smoke and the rooftops and the chimneys, she saw high mountains with purple heathery slopes sweeping down into a wide green valley with a silvery stream, a stream that tumbled over waterfalls and ran between woods and fields beside a winding road…

She saw the place of her dreams. She saw the Magic Place.’

A seemingly impossible moment. But there were ways it could be managed…

The fragment of mirror, a lens from Aunt Vermilia’s spectacles, a circular window in the attic and a little grey rabbit with long floppy ears were all devices used to contrive that moment. Though of course, once I’d thought of them, each of these things expanded the story in other directions also… and thus a story grows and begins to take on a life of its own.

Key to all was Gilbert the cat. He is the thread running through the story and weaving all the various elements together. And though to begin with I just needed a cat for Aunt Vermilia to kick (luckily, she doesn’t – she kicks a coal bucket instead), Gilbert quickly developed into a far more important character. He is Clementine’s only true friend – comforter, companion and confidant. But he is more than this. As I say at the beginning of the story, he is an extraordinary cat – so clever that one might suspect there is a touch of magic about him…”

The Magic Place is out now in paperback through David Fickling Books.