Week 41 | Favourite sub-plot

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 41

My second favourite sub-plot in The Elder Throne is the relationship between Madam Sage Begonia and Spindle Larkspur.

Madam Begonia is the Head of the Knowledge Circle and Spindle is her very enthusiastic – but incredibly messy – student there. Spindle is well known for jumping from one research topic to another without first clearing away previous work, and it drives Madam Begonia absolutely nuts. There is a constant war going on between them and it actually leads to an important discovery that relates to the main plot.

My favourite sub-plot is one I can’t share as it contains too many spoilers for The Elder Throne and for future books but I will say that it also involves Madam Begonia.

Week 40 |A day in the life of your villain

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 40

As I’ve mentioned, the main villain of The Elder Throne is the UnSeelie Commander Janus Atropa. Now, there are things I can’t say about her daily routine for spoiler reasons but here’s a general glimpse of how she spends her time!

Dawn Get up, bathe in icy spring water
Before breakfast Private sparring session with one of the following – Val Talloak (air magic), Moloch Penwith (earth magic), Glendunn Sludge (fire magic).


After breakfast Inspection of the troops; observation of training sessions, followed by a sparring demonstration with a squad leader picked at random – keeps everyone on their toes and emphasises her strength to new recruits.
Mid-morning Bathe and change. Reading – border patrol reports, missives from other UnSeelie cities, political updates.


After lunch Continuation of political updates; meting out justice / hearing cases
Mid-afternoon Punishments and executions from the aforementioned cases
Before dinner [redacted for spoilers]
Dinner If a public dinner – habitually taken with one of the heads of the Three Families or their heirs: Mire Blackwood; Val Talloak (of the Vale line), Arum Vale. If a ‘private’ dinner – with [redacted] or [redacted].
Before bed Private research on one of three topics: war tactics, blood magic or the New Moon legends.

There is a secondary – almost tertiary – villain mentioned above, by the name of Arum Vale. His daily routine is simple and constant, and can be summed up in two words: “plot revenge.”


Week 39 | Your book is now a film. Who is in your dream cast?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 39

“Dream casts” aren’t really something I think about as I find it unlikely that The Elder Throne would ever be made into a film and – if it did – I doubt I would have any input in the casting decisions.

However, I’ve been honing this series for a few years now and I’d be lying if I said I’d never come across an actor and thought “They’d be perfect for XX,” if only on a purely visual level. So, although I don’t have everyone, here is the ‘Dream Cast’ for the few characters I’ve stumbled across:

Aberon3 Holly Knightshade

Aberon Gladiolus

Holly Squires Commander Knightshade Valerian
DC: Nigel Havers DC: Rachelle Lefevre

DC: Jason Isaacs

Janus.jpg Sage Leander

Commander Janus Atropa

Sage Begonia Lord Leander Goodfellow
DC: Rachel Weisz DC: Lyndie Greenwood

DC: Eddie Redmayne

Bracken Wisteria Quinlan

Lt. Fearghal Bracken

Wisteria Wisp Quinlan Marsh
DC: Bradley James DC: Dame Maggie Smith

DC: Algee Smith

Mythe Tythe Moloch

Mythe Morcant

Tythe Morcant Cpt. Moloch Penwith
DC: Nicholas Hoult DC: Ed Skrein

DC: Jason Statham

Cobb Azalea Clematis

Mrs. Cobb

Azalea Burgeon Lady Clematis
DC: Archie Panjabi DC: Nicole Beharie

DC: Anna Chancellor

Blossom Cathal Arum

Blossom Valerian (Blackwood)

Cathal Valerian Arum Vale
DC: Keri Russell DC: Chris Hemsworth

DC: Mads Mikkelson

You’ll notice that I haven’t ‘cast’ Anna, Priya, Burr or Spindle – I’m afraid they remain solely in my head for now!

Week 38 | What is your villain’s biggest regret?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 38

The main villain of The Elder Throne is Janus Atropa, who is the Commander of the UnSeelie Court. The position makes her the de-facto ruler of the Court, as they do not have a royal family or a hereditary leadership.

Interestingly – and unusually – her predecessor was also her father, Thorne Atropa, making her the first UnSeelie to inherit Court leadership from a family member since their last (overthrown) king, Ruari.

The snag (and Janus’ biggest regret) is this: to be made the new UnSeelie Commander, competitors must kill the old one in combat.

Janus AtropaJanus killed her father in cold blood in order to take control of the army for her own ends. Having more (misplaced) affection for his daughter than she ever had for him, Thorne kept her at bay using defence moves only, not wanting to hurt her. He needn’t have worried; Janus was, by this point, a far superior fighter and the battle was over very quickly.

Janus is many things but she is not sentimental. A fierce, talented warrior who deals out death with a calculating and callous eye, she has butchered hundreds on and off the battlefield. It is a bit of an anomaly that she feels anything at all about her father’s death: it would be more accurate to say that she regrets the fact he’s dead, rather than regrets she was the one to kill him. Her last living parent and the only one she actually liked, Thorne taught Janus everything she knew, training her as a warrior despite her mother’s protests.

Respecting Thorne’s legacy and acknowledging his worth as a mentor, Janus still raises a glass of his favourite mead (which she personally despises) to him on his birthday. No one knows this but her.

Four more facts about Janus:

  • Janus is one of the New Moon Children, legendary warriors found in UnSeelie folklore – but, importantly, not found in Seelie folklore. In order to be a New Moon Child, one has to be: a) a descendent of one of the Three Families [Blackwood; Atropa; Vale]; b) conceived during the New Moon three months before their parents’ marriage and c) born during a New Moon. Legend tells that they are gifted with indomitable warrior skill – a fact that Janus proves daily.
  • One other New Moon Child exists: Commander Knightshade Valerian, through his UnSeelie mother Blossom Blackwood. Janus discovered his status when they were teenagers and delights in the fact that he is completely unaware of it, having been raised in the Seelie Court. Her hope is that he will one day fight by her side, instead of always against her.
  • Janus has battled for her continued reign as UnSeelie Commander on no fewer than seventeen occasions. Her challengers didn’t stand a chance.
  • When Janus was thirteen, she had the opportunity to save her mother Pomona from death. She deliberately chose to do nothing, such was her hatred for the unassuming, gentle woman. Janus considered her mother weak and has no regrets about this decision.

Week 37 | Which writer would you trust to finish your book if you weren’t able?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 37

This is the trickiest question in the whole challenge.

SEBerrowI’d like to say S.E. Berrow as she is my most trusted writing partner (going on 10+ years now) but, let’s face it, she’d turn The Elder Throne into a decidedly adult book featuring Knightshade Valerian instead of a children’s series with Anna Squires at the helm. Plus, if I died, bequeathing her a potential fifteen novels to write, I wholeheartedly believe she’d resurrect me just to kill me again herself. So, that’s Berrow out of the picture.


To answer this question, therefore, I’m going to jump into the realms of fantasy and pretend I have access to all the famous children’s writers I admire. My first choice to write Elder Throne if I were not able would be… **drum roll** Derek Landy.

Why Derek Landy? Three reasons.


Firstly, he’s a fantastic children’s writer, whose stories have just the right amount of dark edges to them. If you’re not familiar with the Skulduggery Pleasant series, I highly recommend that you check it out. So that’s the first reason. Given some of the **** he’s pulled with Valkyrie and Skul, I doubt he’d have any qualms with where the Seelie Court Series is heading. I mean… what?

Secondly, Landy is Irish. Although my books are set largely in the fantasy realm of the Seelie Court, this is located in Ireland and, therefore, I feel that someone with a good background knowledge of the place could only help with that pesky ‘authenticity’ thing.

Thirdly, Derek Landy is hilarious, both on paper and in person. All children’s books should have some element of humour to them and I think he could serve up a wonderful slice of laughter in my absence. Oh, who am I kidding, he could probably write this series better than I could…

HOWEVER. He will never get the chance – even if for some mad reason he agreed to it – because I’m sticking around until these stories are told.

Week 36 | A day in the life of your protagonist

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 36

OK. So by now, everyone probably knows that my protagonist is Anna Squires, 11 year old daughter of single-mother Holly Squires. Depending on what time of year it is, Anna’s daily life differs wildly so – to avoid spoilers – I’ve chosen to write a ‘diary entry’ from her 11th birthday, just before The Elder Throne kicks off.


Woke up to Mum bouncing on my bed at 5:32am like she does every year (because that’s the time I was born). I tried shoving her off but she got under the covers to give me a cuddle and presents, so I can’t be too annoyed. Every year, she promises she’ll stop once she “forgets the pain of the twelve-hour labour” it took to have me, but I guess she hasn’t yet. To be honest, I think she’s just being a big baby. How much can it hurt if women have babies all the time?

At least today wasn’t a school day though, so I got to go back to sleep. After, obviously, I’d opened my presents, because it’s never too early for that. Mum got me my own gardening kit and a book on home science experiments that I’m going to try out with Tom. It shows you how to make volcanoes and everything! It also shows you how to make your own snowballs that don’t melt in summer, and that weird cornflour liquid that turns into a solid when you put it on speakers and play loud music. Mum says we’re not allowed to try the last one though, after Tom tried it a few months ago without clingfilm, got the mixture wrong and now owes his dad all his pocket money for the next three years. Mum loves music, she’d kill me if we ruined her speakers too!

Tom came over for breakfast (pancakes, obviously) and gave me Broot Force, which is this fantasy quest video game that everyone’s playing at school. It rained nearly all day today so we played it and got really far. You can play two-player and race to see who gets the Mystic Medallion first, but we didn’t do that because Tom’s had loads of practice with his cousin Aleandro and he knows how to cheat. Plus, it takes me a while to get used to playing a new game with one hand.

Actually, that was one weird thing that happened today. My present from Nana Janet and Granddad Billy was more of a question, really. They said they’d booked an appointment with a private doctor and said they’d pay to get me a prosthesis if I wanted one for secondary school. I’m not sure I do. I asked Mum what to say but she said it had to be my decision and no one else’s. Although she did add that if I did get  another one, I wasn’t allowed to throw it under a lorry like I did last time – I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me for that, haha, but I was two!

As great as all the other presents were, the best one came from Grandfather Abe. He sent me a book called Secrets of the Emerald Isle, which is packed full of Irish mythology and old folk stories. That was brilliant, but even better was the letter that came with it – he finally convinced Mum to let me go to Ireland with him this summer! I’m so excited, I want to pack right now. I can tell Mum isn’t too happy about it, which I guess is fair considering what happened to Dad over there, but I can’t help it. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tom isn’t too happy either because I’m leaving him alone all summer, but he’ll manage.

Actually, that reminds me. It stopped raining in the afternoon for a bit, so we took a break from Broot Force and went to Cho’s for some cake. I had the weirdest feeling the whole time I was out, like someone was watching me and following me. Tom said I was imagining things but it was such a strong feeling. It stopped when I went home though so maybe he’s right.

Right, Mum’s calling me for dinner now – birthday bangers and mash – got to go!

Love, me

Week 35 | An interview with a character of your choice

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 35

I was in two minds about who to ‘interview’ for this week’s question and finally settled on Priya Dhawan. I’ve used the ‘Hot Seating’ questions from before, which you can find here. Priya is a Changeling in the Seelie Court, meaning that she is a human child who wandered into their realm, and has begun to change because of exposure to their magic. However, she is not fully accepted as one of the Fae.

Priya1. How old are you?
I don’t know. I came to the Seelie Court when I was ten, but time moves weirdly here. I look about twelve but I think I might be older than that. Mrs. Cobb says I complain like an old lady.

2. Where were you born?
In my mother’s bedroom in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India. I caught her by surprise!

3. What’s your favourite food?
Spiced pumpkin and potato pie. There’s a stall that sells them throughout autumn and winter, but the best ones come from Lady Hayley Goodfellow at Mabon. It’s just about the only thing that family is good for!

4. Are you allergic to anything?

5. Cats or dogs (preference)?

6. Why?
Because I don’t think many people like them compared to dogs and I don’t see why. They’re just as good. They’re four-legged fluffy things and the best part is that you don’t have to pick up their poo because they usually do it in someone else’s garden. When I was in the human world, I had a cat called Bilāḍī (literally means cat in Gujarati) and he was my favourite thing in the world. We had to leave him behind when we moved to Ireland for my father’s work and I cried for a week.

7. What has been the best day of your life so far?
Probably making real friends (Anna and Spindle) in the Seelie Court. I don’t really count my years in the human world as my life anymore.

8. And the worst?
… I’d rather not go into it right now. Let’s just say that there’s a reason I’m staying in the Seelie Court and it isn’t because everyone’s nice to me (they’re not).

9. Do you have any habits you’re ashamed of?
Sometimes I suck the bottom of my plaits when I’m thinking or nervous. I suppose I’m not really ashamed of it but I hate the choking gagging sound when a loose hair gets stuck in the back of my throat.

10. What would make you kill someone?
An accident, I guess? I’m a healer, so I can’t imagine ever killing anyone. I’d defend myself if someone was hurting me, but I don’t think I could ever take someone’s life.

11. Have you ever smoked/taken drugs?
I’ve smoked but not taken drugs. And I only smoked once, my brother stole a cigarette for us to try so we could fit in with the school crowd. We didn’t like it and it didn’t work anyway.

12. What would you do if I poked you in the eye right now?
Poke you in both. Just because I’m a healer, doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.

13. Would you ever wear trainers without socks?
Yeah, I suppose so? I always wear boots though, and I always wear socks with them because otherwise they’d hurt my feet.

14. Who is your best friend?
Anna Squires or Spindle Larkspur. I love Anna to pieces but I’m probably closer to Spindle because we spend more time together.

15. Where did you and your best friend meet?
I met Anna after she fainted coming through the Lia Fail portal. I woke her up with some fermented troll dung… she didn’t like that, for some reason… Spindle, I’d known about for years but never really got to know each other until Anna reintroduced us.

16. Will you wear this pink dress?
I’d rather it was red but yeah, I guess.

17. Who is your favourite superhero?
I don’t have one. I prefer heroes that don’t have superpowers because I think that’s cheating a bit. Besides, faeries have powers. It doesn’t make them ‘super’. Usually it just makes them arrogant and stuck-up.

18. What are you most afraid of?
Pain. I think that what most people are afraid of when they say they’re afraid of other things – they just think those other things might hurt them. Also spiders, which Anna and Spindle find ridiculous. I don’t know why.

19. Are you romantic?
Yes. Although there’s fat chance of me ever being romantic with anybody here.

20. Do you bite sellotape or cut it with scissors?
Whatever’s quicker. I’m not particularly patient.

21. How often do you clean your teeth a day?
Twice a day, morning and night.

22. Do you pick your nose?
Only if absolutely necessary. Usually I’d blow it in a tissue but sometimes that’s not enough to clear it, is it?

23. If you could have one job, what would it be?
I’d probably be a doctor. I’m pretty good at the healing stuff. But, if not that, I’d like to work in politics. Specifically the Circle of Culture because woah, do those guys need some new ideas.

24. Would you swim with sharks?
No thanks.

25. Would you go into space?
Yes! How amazing would that be? Of course I would.

26. You sneeze into your hand in public and don’t have a tissue. What do you do?
Get a tissue from somewhere or something else to wipe it on. What else would I do?

27. Your mother/brother/sister falls over. What do you do?
I’d never see that happen so it doesn’t matter. Now, if Mrs. Cobb fell over… well, I’d move out of the way because she’s ten feet tall and would probably crush me. Then I’d try and help her up. No idea how…

28. Do you dunk biscuits in your tea?
No. I like biscuits but I usually drink my tea black so it’s not as nice to dunk them in. I’d dunk them in milk, though.

29. Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. I think you can tell who you fancy at first sight but it’s not love until you know a person.

30. Have you ever stolen anything?
I helped my brother steal that cigarette. I also stole a knife from Mrs. Cobb when I was escaping to the human world years ago but that’s about it for now, I think.