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Wildsmith - Liz Flanagan, ill by Joe Todd-Stanton

Blogtour stop for this brilliant adventure by Liz Flanagan, illustrated by the always fabulous Joe Todd-Stanton....a match made in heaven between author and illustrator in this fantasy series.

Thrilled to be part of the blogtour for this, published by UClan, and to host this brilliant guest post from the author about the ideas and inspiration for the book.

Where did the ideas come from for this series?

This blog describes how I started writing a new series for younger readers – by remembering what I was like, aged seven!

Plus a writing prompt for you to try...

I started writing the Wildsmith series in that strange summer of 2020. I’ve written before about how my daily walk through my local landscape inspired these stories. But why did I decide to write for younger children? You might say I am going backwards, because I started with a YA novel Eden Summer, then wrote the upper middle-grade series that starts with Dragon Daughter, and now here are these Wildsmith stories for children aged seven and up!

However, it’s not so strange that I tried something new in 2020. Lots of us found our usual ways of working were unavailable to us, didn’t we? We all learned new ways of connecting – I remember showing my mum how to use Zoom for the first time! All the events I had in my calendar that year were cancelled, as everyone’s plans were during those months.

But out of that long quiet summer came some new ideas. I wrote a short story for The Scottish Sun newspaper here {} and I wrote another short story for The Handmade Parade to adapt for their extraordinary lockdown community arts project – see the final film here: {}

Then one day I was chatting to my agent Phil Perry and she said, ‘Why don’t you try writing a longer story for this age group?’

I wanted to keep busy, so I did just what she said - because those other two projects had given me the confidence to try. My first step was trying to remember what it felt like to be seven. For me, this was a time when I loved being outside, climbing every tree I could find. And my favourite things in all the world were animals. I desperately wanted a pet that was just mine. So all these things are present in the Wildsmith series – see if you can spot them all!

I wrote every day that summer, knowing that this would help anchor me and distract me from the worrying news. Slowly the story began taking shape, and I got to escape to the magical Dark Forest with the brave and resourceful character Rowan. She meets her grandfather for the first time – and his white wolf Arto – and she learns that she is a wildsmith just like him, someone with the gift of talking to animals and healing them.

So this is what I hope for any child who reads this story: that it will give them a wonderful escape too, just as it did for me when I was writing it. I hope readers are carried away into an exciting adventure full of mystery, magic and many, many animals!

What did you love when you were seven?

Can you make up a new character who also loves those things, and see what happens when you put them into action?

Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, is published by UCLan Publishing on 2nd February 2023, £7.99

Post by Rich Simpson ( @richreadalot) Feb 2023

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