I feel like I have waited FOREVER to host Janet Fox on my blog. And now she’s here, celebrating her spine-chilling new book, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle (Viking). So I’m going to turn this space over to her right away.
Where Ideas Begin
Non-writers and young readers often ask me where I find the ideas for my stories. In the past I’ve answered with a mumbled, “My ideas come from things I’ve experienced or know a lot about.” This was true. My first novel is about my experience of losing my mom. My second is set in San Francisco during the great earthquake of 1906, and I’ve got a MS in geology. And so on. This was true – until now.
My new novel, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, came from some weird combination of luck, an image charged with magic (bear with me), and what stories I read as a child.
When I was a tween reader, my favorite books were C.S. Lewis’s NARNIA series, followed closely by Greek and Roman myths and legends. I graduated to the Red and Blue Fairy Books, and the Grimms. But paradoxically I was also reading Nancy Drew, and I had a real fascination with puzzles and mini-mysteries – one-page puzzlers with twisty solutions. In my teen years I fell in love with Agatha Christie and James Bond, but my all-time favorite books are THE LORD OF THE RINGS (which I’ve probably read through ten times, easy.)
My reading landscape, then, from childhood has been populated by some combination of fantasy and mystery, with a sprinkling of knights and a dose of togas.
Now to the luck and the image. I’d just finished drafting what would become my third novel, SIRENS, and lazily perusing the internet, when a friend of mine posted a picture of a piece of jewelry called a chatelaine. I’d heard of chatelaines, and seen a few (check out the chatelaine worn by Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey), but this one was weird. So weird that I pulled the image off the internet and put it on my desktop. So weird that I couldn’t stop staring at it. So weird that it made a story in my mind, and it wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d put that story down on paper.
Ordinarily I struggle with the first ten chapters or so of a new work, mainly because I’m such a pantser I can’t wrap my brain around planning a novel out. Not this time. I had forty pages written by the end of week one, and the entire novel mapped out by the end of week two, and although it went through a large number of painful iterations, the novel is essentially as I conceived it.
Right from the start, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE was meant to be my book, I’m convinced of it. That image of the chatelaine spoke directly to me.
Now when I’m asked about where my ideas begin, I can honestly say that they begin with a willingness to accept magic and be open to luck, backed up by childhood experiences. I believe that the best ideas begin at the rim of the inner world where mind meets heart.
Janet Fox writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. Her published works include the non-fiction middle grade book GET ORGANIZED WITHOUT LOSING IT (Free Spirit, 2006), and three YA historical romances: FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Group, 2010), FORGIVEN (Penguin, 2011), and SIRENS (Penguin, 2012). Janet’s debut middle grade novel THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE (Viking, 2016) has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, is a Junior Library Guild selection, and is a 2016 Indies Next pick for spring. Janet is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives in Bozeman, Montana. She’s represented by Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can also find her at www.janetsfox.com