Good morning I have something a bit different on the blog today, a Q & A with Rob Keeley. Rob is the author of the ‘Spirits’ series that I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing this summer.
Hi Rob welcome to the blog and thanks so much for agreeing to answer my questions about your ‘Spirit’ Series. What I’d love to know is where you got your inspiration from for the ‘Spirits’ series?
“I’d visited lots of stately homes and castles over the years and heard many of the ghost stories accompanying them, but with the first book Childish Spirits I simply wanted to write the best ghost story for children that I possibly could. It actually began life as a rejected TV script for CBBC, which I then novelised and expanded upon to produce the book. Now it’s been recorded as an audiobook by the actor Sally Millest, we have come full circle – it was written originally to be performed and now it has!”
Is Ellie based on a real person? How old is she as her age is never mentioned?
“No, Ellie simply sprang from my imagination! I wasn’t too specific about her age in the earlier books as I like a young reader of any age to be able to look at the protagonist and see herself or himself. But in the final two books in the series I started to make her age a bit clearer, as she had grown up a bit, and especially in the final book, The Coming of the Spirits, where thanks to the Warlock’s curse she finds herself advancing through her teenage years rather faster than she planned! “
Did you plan to write the series or was it one book that grew into a series?
“It started life as a one-off script and novel, Childish Spirits, but I quickly realised there was series potential, with Ellie meeting ghosts from different times and places. So I started to build the initial book into an ongoing story arc. I was determined though that a) each book would be readable, understandable and enjoyable on its own and b) I would only ever do a series of five. Then I wanted to move on to new characters and new stories!”
I love how you used different periods in history to tell Ellie’s story, and I wondered if you always knew which eras you would use, or if they changed as you wrote the books?
I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the series, Nicki! I worked out the individual time periods as I went along and decided which era would best suit each story. For each book I chose a period in time that interested me and which also tied in with a period that children study in their History lessons at school. One instance where it did change is the fourth book, High Spirits, which was originally going to be set during the Second World War but was then reworked to be set a few years before it. If you visit www.robkeeley.co.uk and look for the hidden Easter Eggs, there’s a link hidden somewhere to a video that tells the story of how this happened.
Did you have a favourite character or time period as you were writing the books?
I liked Henry Holborn for his wisdom and kindness (and it was interesting to write a ghost of African origin) and Sir Francis, the would-be heroic knight, and Ellie’s cheeky and good-natured boyfriend Luke. And of course Edward, the mischievous Victorian child ghost! I enjoyed all the time periods equally. What’s interesting is how, in writing each era, I found myself riffing off the styles of story associated with that period – The Sword of the Spirit used a lot of medieval fantasy elements while High Spirits, which was based around the 1930s, pays homage to the Hitchcock-style spy thrillers of that period.
Did any of the characters do their own thing whilst you were writing the series? I’ve heard this happens a lot to writers and wondered if it happens to you.
“No, I don’t believe in ‘characters writing themselves’ – I create and shape them and the author has to be in charge of their own story. Otherwise it’s like those tales of dummies taking over the ventriloquist – and no creative wants that to happen!”
Thanks again Rob for answering all my questions, it’s been great finding out more about the series. 🙂
About Rob Keeley
I’ve been writing stories and plays since I was a kid and I used to lie on the hearthrug and write with a smudgy pen and do all the pictures myself in felt tip, before stapling all the pages together (but hopefully not to the rug). Fortunately, Troubador Publishing knows much better ways of putting a book together and in March 2011 they published my first book, which is The Alien in the Garage and Other Stories, a book of short stories for children. I have now published nine books for children and they have been honoured with a win at the Georgina Hawtrey-Woore Awards and have been longlisted for the inaugural Bath Children’s Novel Award and the International Rubery Book Award, Highly Commended for the Independent Author Book Award and nominated for the People’s Book Prize.
You can find Rob on Twitter and on his website.