Did I set out to write a five book series? The answer to that is no, I started out with the kernel of an idea, which was; was what if a kid found something left to him by his father that would change his life. And what if that thing had to be kept a secret to stop it from getting into the hands of people who would want to use it to do harm.
Pretty generic as what-ifs go. But I knew as soon as this little idea for the Artefact quintet crystallized, that it had scope for lots of conflict with family, friends and authority. As I developed the story, I realised that to tell it properly would either need one book 700 pages long, or maybe four or five books in digestible, 140 page wedges. Since I’m writing for middle grade–10 and up, that seemed to be by far the most sensible approach.
The Artefact series is, in fact one long serialised story with a beginning on page 1 of book one and an ending on the last page of book five. This is not the same as a series whereby the same characters are retained in each book/story, but each episode is a complete and different story. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books are a serial. Enid Blyton’s famous five books were series. Of course, in a 5 book serial, the trick is also to make each book more or less a stand alone story as well. It is not absolutely essential that anyone has read book one to read book two or three, but the hope is that reading any one will drive the reader to the others. And here one has has to balance the need to bring the reader up to speed in each book against boring repetition. It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off.
I knew, too that this would be an SF/fantasy. The mission statement on my website is culled from Arthur C Clarke. Magic is simply our inability to understand technology and that, I would suggest, pretty much explains the wonder of every episode of Dr Who. But I wanted to build a world that was real and yet subtly different. I wanted it to be set in the here and now and full of all the stuff that kids do like video games, texting and all the other distractions that drive everyone mad so that it would be identifiable. I knew that a chunk of 10-14 year olds reality is school and so, school had to play a big part. But I also needed somewhere for the really good stuff to happen and so I had my protagonist live in a supposedly ‘haunted house’. This way I could begin to meld the supernatural with SF and fantasy. Has it worked? You tell me.
I spent a lot of time working out how this would all end having established my premise. I felt that I needed to know the ending thoroughly before I launched into the writing and this is what I spent a lot of time doing. And I mean a lot of time. It is now six or seven years since I began this little adventure. Was it hard to pretend to be 11, 12 and 13 again? No, I don’t think so. The difference between adult books and children’s books, quite apart from the obvious, is the psychological reaction of the protagonist. I found it quite liberating not to have to think too much about adult themes.