by Amna Gillani, Age 14, Pakistan
Joseph Delaney is a full-time writer living in Lancashire in the heart of boggart territory. He once made a note in his notebook that said, “A story about a man who hunts boggarts.” Years later, when he had to come up with an idea at short notice, developed this into The Spook’s Apprentice, the first book in the series. The Spook’s Apprentice, The Spook’s Curse, and The Spook’s Secret have all been shortlisted for the Lancashire Children’s Book for the Year Award. The Spook’s Apprentice is the winner of both the Sefton Book Award and the Hampshire Book Award.
Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your books?
The Wardstone Chronicles is the story of an apprentice, Tom Ward, being trained by a spook to fight the dark. They deal with ghosts, boggarts, and lots of witches who drink blood and crunch bones.
I was a teacher of film and media studies before becoming a full-time writer. I began my working life as an apprentice in a factory. I carried a tool bag for an older engineer, but we didn’t fight the dark. We just repaired machinery.
Which books inspired you to start writing?
Every time I read a great book, I think “I wish I’d written that.” There were so many—far too many to list. But I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings and Dune, both of which probably influenced my writing. They certainly inspired me!
Nowadays, Young Adult is a very popular genre. Did you grow up reading YA? What are your opinions about the conditions of the genre at present?
When I was growing up, there was no such category as “YA.” I got my books from the local library, which had a children’s section, although I really wanted to borrow from the adult library! I used to read two books a week from about the age of six. The “YA” genre is thriving, and some of its books can be read by much older people. Recently, when I signed a book for a teenager, she said, “It’s not for me. It’s for my mum!”
The movie for The Spook’s Apprentice is scheduled for release early next year. How involved are you in the filming process? Is it going to stay true to the book? What are your expectations?
I have not been involved in the filming process that much. They asked me a few questions, and I visited the set in Vancouver and watched Jeff Bridges in action. It has gone through a process of three directors and even more screen writers. It took eight years from my signing of the contract to the post production of the film. It is different from The Spook’s Apprentice, but it will be a good action film, and Jeff Bridges will be a good, convincing spook.
With a book a year, you must have a very busy writing schedule. Do you still find time to read? Which books have you recently enjoyed?
My schedule is busy, but I still read a lot from a range of genres. Recently, I have read:
The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howie
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
Success by Martin Amis
The Green Man by Kingsley Amis
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
This last one was a proof copy. It will be published in July 2014.
In The Curse of the Bane, the body of the Quisitor who burns “witches” floats, showing that he is the evil one. As a former educator, do you leave subtle lessons in your books for the benefit of young readers? If so, how do you manage to balance the part meant for pure entertainment and the one which is meant to teach your readers something?
I don’t deliberately leave any lessons at all in my books, but they probably do reflect the way I think. I am just trying to tell an interesting story and scare my readers.
You completed an apprenticeship just like your protagonist Tom Ward. Do you see other similarities between him and you?
There are a few. For example, my mother believed in duty. I hated being an apprentice, but she made me go to work on cold rainy mornings. That’s what Tom’s mom does, too. He has to work with the spook and fight the dark whether he wants to or not!
Amna Gillani is a 14 year old writer from Pakistan. She aspires to be a published writer one day after successfully overcoming hurdles in the way. This article was first published on Amna’s blog, The Speculative Daily. It has been republished here by permission of the author.