Elias: Hello, Darren. Welcome to Elias Zapple Interviews...
Darren: I'm so honoured to be interviewed by you that I think I may start to cry.
Elias: I understand that you have two children and that one of them, your daughter Ellie, was the inspiration behind The Seren Trilogy. I myself was inspired to write Jellybean the Dragon due to my late pet slug, Steve - which made all my other slugs supremely jealous and demanding that I write books for them too. Do you find yourself in a similar pickle? Will you be writing a book for your other child as well?
Darren: Firstly I’m very sorry to hear about the passing of your slug, Steve and it is a shame that the others would feel how they do BUT I think they have a point, if I was a slug and knew that Steve had inspired a book I might start to think “Am I not good enough?” “Do I not have enough inherent slugness?”
So even though in a very small way my youngest is introduced into the books I can imagine a fair amount of sibling rivalry as the years progress and I think I had better start on some outlines now!
Elias: The Seren Trilogy promotes the helping of others. Shouldn't it also promote the throwing of cabbages?
Darren: Although cabbages do make fine throwing objects the creatures we are dealing with would either eat them or sling them with enough force to go through a wall so I think the health and safety issues override any want for lobbing cabbages about.
Elias: You have a book called Ellie and the Dragon. I have a book called Jellybean the Dragon. In a battle, who would win between our respective dragons?
Darren: Hmm, my dragon can be a bit of a softy but he is extremely loyal and brave and would only fight if protecting his loved ones. That said, mine.
Elias: Will your next book be entitled 'Ellie and the Slug'?
Darren: If only! Slug society is so complex and involving I don’t possess the writing skills as yet to take on such a task instead I shall be committing myself to Ellie’s adventures when she encounters a witch.
Elias: In Ellie and the Rabbits, Ellie meets some talking rabbits. Are you aware of the evil, disgruntled rabbit in 'Ado in the Meadow' by Mary Danino? What are your rabbits like?
Darren: I’ve seen that rabbit and it looks very mean and though some of my rabbits can be abrasive and a bit distrustful of Ellie at first they show their true side when she helps them.
Elias: You have another book, a book of poems, called 'I Think I Lost My Bottom'. Did you indeed lose it? How does one lose a bottom? I once thought I had lost a slug until I found it stuck to my shoe.
Darren: I’m very glad to say it was not my bottom that was lost but a close personal friend. They told me of their experience of waking up and just not being able to get their trousers to stay on, in short they had a very unhappy bottom so please everyone keep your bottom happy. Slugs in my experience like to stick to my windows so they can watch TV.
Elias: Does living in Norfolk inspire you in your writing? If so, is it down to the Coleman's Mustard?
Darren: The countryside is gorgeous and perfect for writing about. The setting for The Seren Trilogy is very close to our home near the coast and a summer’s walk through Sheringham Parkl ed to the grand ending in Ellie and the Battle.
As for mustard? No. I’m a turkey man, it’s why I moved here, I love turkeys but not as much as rabbits.
Elias: How much of your childhood in Wales comes through in your books. My time in Maputo shines through in my work.
Darren: I honestly have to say not that much. As my ambition was for my daughter to be able to recognise the places, people etc in the book then I have based it on what she knows and loves about living here in Norfolk. That said a couple of the rabbit characters are definitely based on teachers I knew from school. One in particular, Cast, who is the magic keeper for the rabbits is based on my Headmaster Mr Thomas who I remember as a lovely man.
Elias: Do you encourage your children to eat their cabbages?
Darren: With my son I’m lucky as he’s not on his solids yet and that’s a battle I will face with dignity and restraint when the time comes. My daughter however is adverse to any form of vegetable when served at home. If she has it at school then it goes down a treat so I think she’s plotting, scheming and devising a grand master plan that I assume will come to fruition in its own good time.
Elias: What are your main literary ambitions, Darren? Is it to become the next Elias Zapple?
Darren: I can only dream about attaining such magnificent moustachioed greatness, I hope one day to be able to inspire slugs and teach my children to throw cabbages. For the present I write and write, for the future I hope I continue to love it as much as I do now.
Elias: Thank you, Daren. May you one day achieve a moustache like yours truly. Unlikely, though.
The Seren Trilogy
ELLIE AND THE RABBITS
Our world is home to a very special animal.
It can walk, talk, think and feel.
It has a purpose.
It has a duty.
And it's not human.
On a family picnic curiosity gets the better of Ellie and sends her on a magical adventure with her new friends, Rox, Cast and Plume. She learns of a great danger and the duty that must be performed and promises her help no matter what.
From a beautiful sunny day to the dark woods full of danger, to the home of these wonderful creatures and the birth of our world, Ellie will travel. Not only will she try save her new friends, but the world itself.
ELLIE AND THE DRAGON
The house stood silent.
Consumed by ivy the house stood derelict and abandoned.
Forgotten, it was slowly being reclaimed by nature.
No one could live there.
No one human.
A year after her adventure with the rabbits, Ellie uncovers a remarkable secret next door to her new house. This secret will bring her joy and happiness beyond her wildest dreams. Her actions come with a price, however, and Ellie realises that what she has discovered could wipe out all mankind.
Scared, but not alone, what will she do?
ELLIE AND THE BATTLE
The adventure that began in Ellie and the Rabbits reaches it's conclusion in Ellie and the Battle. The dragons are planning to wage war upon humanity. Never again will they be at the mercy of mankind. But first, they must contend with those that would stand in their way.
Ellie and Cole have been captured but Rox enters into the struggle in an attempt to rescue her friend, and the dragons realise they have a new enemy to deal with. War seems unavoidable, and Ellie must now risk everything she knows and loves to stop the future. Join Ellie, Cole and Rox in the final book of the Seren Trilogy. Join the fight.
Elias: Welcome, Gareth. Mr Snazzy also welcomes your beard.
Gareth: My beard is not worthy.
Elias: Your father was a wandering shepherd. How did sheep inspire you to write The Kinmaran Chronicles?
Gareth: My dad mostly rode around on a tractor, and he was too large to saddle up a sheep. I guess sheep inspired me in that Isomee Hogg-Bottom grew up on a farm, but instead of sheep, she and her uncle breed and train chostri, super intelligent, fast birds large enough to ride on an race. Kids love animals of course. Slugs, not so much, except in a comedy setting.
Elias: Apparently, you've been a teacher for twenty years. In that time, how many children have you scarred for life with your tales of farming?
Gareth: I do talk about my childhood a lot, actually. I’m very proud about having grown up in the country, even if I didn’t realise how great it was at the time. Life for children these days is very different from when I grew up, let alone where I grew up. I don’t think I’ve scarred anyone, but the deepest scars are always hidden any on the inside and often hidden by wit, sarcasm, or moustaches wouldn’t you say, Elias?
Elias: The Adventures of Brackenbelly are published frequently. How are you able to do this? Do you have a team of slugs doing your writing, or do you force your pupils to write them?
Gareth: I’m just very talented. No, honestly, the stories are quite short at only 12-15,000 words, but that’s all changing as of book 5, which will hopefully be out in April. I had always intended the books to be short and episodic, but, to be honest, that doesn’t seem to be working so, along with a few other reasons, I’m making the books longer.
Elias: If you do not force your pupils to write your books, may I force them to write my books? (Some of my slugs have been quite slack of late).
Gareth: You could try, but they are huge Brackenbelly fans and fiercely loyal to me.
Elias: Have you found being a shepherd teacher has either helped or motivated you in writing in the field of children's literature?
Gareth: I think it’s helped me to know what makes children tick, plus I think and act like a child. I obviously read a lot of children’s books as a part of my job and am shocked at how boring many of them are.
Elias: How do you pronounce Kinmaran and what is a Kinmaran? Is it perhaps a kind of poisonous cabbage?
Gareth: Kin-mar-run, or at least that’s how I say it. A Kinmaran is a person or thing that comes from the planet Kinmara. So The Kinmaran Chronicles are stories that come from Kinmara. Brackenbelly is an uma, one of two (that we know of) Kinmaran races, the other being human. I’m sure there are cabbages and slugs on Kinmara, and they would most definitely be poisonous.
Elias: Your books deal with racism. As quite a few members (Mary Josefina Cade and Mary Danino specifically) of Fun-tastic Children's Books are sluggists, do you have any advice to battle not only racism but also sluggism? (My cabbages are available).
Gareth: They do, and hopefully in a way that isn’t in your face, unlike your slugs and moustache. The only way to defeat racism, or sluggism, is through education and good role models. Can you provide that, Elias? My books aim to be entertaining but with strong moral values that hopefully the reader will pick up on, if only subconsciously.
Elias: Do any of your characters use cabbages as weapons? If not, why not?
Gareth: Not yet, but I could easily write it in. Part of what inspired The Kinmaran Chronicles was Chinese Wuxia (martial arts hero) stories. The characters in them often fight with everyday objects like umbrellas or even musical instruments. Maybe Isomee could use her Lak-Ti to fire cabbages at the enemy. In book 5 a new character, who is nominally Chinese, is introduced. I already had plans for a weapon, but a cabbage isn’t entirely out of the question.
Elias: Have you any plans to write an entirely different series of books based on my moustache, Mr Snazzy?
Gareth: Not about Mr Snazzy, no. But, I am writing the first in what will probably become a new series. It will keep many of the themes of The Kinmaran Chronicles, especially what it means to be a hero. It’s funny, Brackenbelly was inspired by Wuxia stories and myths and legends, and now I’m going back to my roots. My new project is retellings/imaginings of the great hero myths from Greece and Rome.
Elias: Don't you think it's time you shaved off your beard and walked away, head bowed, admitting defeat to the all-powerful and furry, Mr Snazzy?
Gareth: I did shave it off on the first day of the half-term holiday. While my beard isn’t as luxuriant as your magnificent ‘tache, it does help hide my double chin and flabby jowls. It’s slowly growing back.
Elias: Thank you, inferior beard-grower.
The Kinmaran Chronicles I.i - The Adventures of Brackenbelly: All in a Day's Work
A thought provoking and exciting fantasy adventure for 8-12 year olds. The Adventure Begins! Isomee Hogg-Bottom's life changed forever the day she met Brackenbelly. A traveller of incredible skill and intelligence. A warrior with a kind heart. An outsider who could communicate with animals. A stranger who would become her friend. When Brackenbelly arrives at Hogg-Bottom farm to buy a chostri to ride, he finds himself thrown into the middle of a dangerous mystery. Something is trying to eat the giant birds in the darkness of night. In exchange for a chostri, Brackenbelly agrees to capture the foul beast, but he soon finds it isn't the only monster that lives on Hogg-Bottom farm.
The Kinmaran Chronicles I.ii - The Adventures of Brackenbelly: Two's Company
An action-packed and thought provoking fantasy series for 8-12 year olds.
The Adventure continues!
Brackenbelly’s life changed forever the day he met Isomee Hogg-Bottom, he just didn’t know it yet.
Leaving Hogg-Bottom farm, and Isomee, far behind, Brackenbelly takes a short cut through a large forest. He soon discovers it’s riddled with mysterious dragon ducts and that there are many dangers lurking in the trees. To make matters worse, something is following him, but who, or what is it and what does it want?
It doesn't take long for Brackenbelly to realise it’s none other than Isomee Hogg-Bottom, who’s run away from home, but the danger’s only just beginning for them both. Isomee’s trapped down one of the dangerous dragon ducts and something equally dangerous wants to stop Brackenbelly from rescuing her.
Will Brackenbelly succeed? And even if he does, will the pair escape the other dangers of the forest unharmed?
In All in a Day’s Work, Isomee Hogg-Bottom's life changed forever the day she met Brackenbelly, but in Two’s Company, things REALLY change - for them both!
The Kinmaran Chronicles I.iii - The Adventures of Brackenbelly: Three's a Crowd?
A thought-provoking fantasy/adventure series for 8-12 year olds.
Finally emerging from the dangers of the dragon duct forest, Isomee is about to find out that her new Lak-Ti isn't just a Gift, but can also be a curse. Tired and hungry, Isomee and Brackenbelly try to get a lift from a passing farmer, but when he discovers Brackenbelly is an uma, he refuses. Despite his reaction, Brackenbelly charges to his rescue when he is attacked by a band of vicious L’Tar. Grateful for the help, Audley, the farmer, takes them to his home in Bently village. Will our heroes finally get a chance to rest or will the L’Tar return for revenge?
“Three’s a Crowd?” expands the world of Kinmara and introduces exciting new characters.
Elias: Welcome, Christopher. Thanks for coming.
Christopher: You're welcome, Elias. I admire you and your slugs so much and I'm also insanely envious of your Mr Snazzy.
Elias: I believe you're from Chichester and your books are also set in Chichester. Are you a little obsessed with Manchester?
Christopher: Manchester? Never heard of it. Chichester or Chi as we like to call it (rhymes with eye not knee) is 15 mins from the beach, 15 mins from Glorious Goodwood - what's not to like?
Elias: Are you hoping Creatures of Chichester will do for Chichester what Sherlock Holmes did for Baker Street and, indeed, what I've done for both Camberwell and Maputo?
Christopher: I don't think the creatures would like it if we were over-run by Twolegs. The bats at the Sports Centre, Punchbag and Rowina Duckpond can get pretty mean. (I think Rowina never forgave her dad for the stupid name).
Elias: Why are there no slugs in your Creatures of Chichester books? Are you a slugist?
Christopher: In fact I don't think there are any molluscs in the books so far. Bees and ladybirds and spiders but no slugs. I'm not slugist, just a little scared of what they may do.
Elias: Is one of your characters, Mr Penfold, named after Penfold from the cartoon, Dangermouse?
Christopher: No he's named after Mr Penfold who runs the butcher's called....ummm..Penfolds in Chichester. Who says creativity is dead? I have to get cheap steaks somehow!
Elias: You've had many jobs throughout your life. Ever been a cabbage thrower?
Christopher: Never thrown a cabbage but I have in it on my bucket list along with growing a moustache, visiting Maputo and buying a sluggery.
Elias: Which of your many, many, many jobs has been the biggest source of inspiration for your books? How much does my moustache, Mr Snazzy inspire you?
Christopher: Okay I have been around a bit, teaching little darlings in Slough was an inspiration. At least to stop teaching anyway. No I love them really and some of them even made it to adulthood. I'm really more inspired by the moustache of my illustrator Joe Elgie. Check it out.
Elias: Would you like to try a grilled slug garnished with rosemary and basil?
Christopher: Depends if Rosemary and Basil are okay about it.
Elias: If your books were turned into animated films, who do you imagine would do the voices? I myself have a splendid voice that rivals Brian Blessed.
Christopher: You're booked!
Elias: What is your writing environment like? Cup of herbal tea close at hand, surrounded by many an admiring slug?
Christopher: I have a lovely office overlooking the garden I designed which does have some lovely hostas and therefore the odd admiring slug.
Elias: Any other books planned for this series or maybe something brand new? Perhaps a biography of Elias Zapple?
Christopher: I am working on the third book called 'the one about the curious cloud' which has weird and wonderful effects on the Twolegs of Chichester. Luckily, Plectrum, the rabbit from the music shop is on hand to save the day. I might do a biography at a later date of my dear friend Elijah Dapple.
Thank you, Christopher.
The Creatures of Chichester: The One About the Mystery Blaze
The Twolegs of Chichester are awoken by a blazing inferno just days before Christmas. Evil clowns are roaming the city’s streets, and they are not here to throw custard pies. Two adorable hamsters, Shandy and Mash from South Street, have been badly injured in the fire and desperately need help. It’s time for Button and Stitchley, the intrepid spiders from North Street, to once again call upon the creatures of Chichester to solve the mystery, and this time there is a sting in the tail.
The Creatures of Chichester: The One About the Stolen Dog
It’s the summer of 2012 and most of the Twolegs in Chichester, England are having a good time but not Mr Penfold because someone has stolen his dog.
A little red-headed Twoleg was last seen leading the dog away - but that was days ago.
Button and Stitchley, two intrepid spiders living in North Street, decide to get to the bottom of the crime.
They enlist the help of other creatures in the city to find out just who the vile dognapper is.
But it’s not easy; the cats hate the dogs; the mice are not too fond of the falcons and don’t even mention the bats!
My moustache is great, my slugs are great, my cabbages are great and Elias Zapple is meh.