Wednesday, 1 August 2012

CAT MAGIC - Ruth Symes

When I visit schools I often tell the children how I had whooping cough when I was 8 and had to have a whole term off school. As it was pre-computer days, and my mum didn't want me watching too much TV, every week, and usually more than once a week, she'd bring me home all the library books she could and I’d read them all, along with lots of adult books including Reader's Digest versions of ‘A Town Like Alice’ and‘The Devil Rides Out’.
When I went back to school and took my end of year exams instead of being near the bottom of the class for English as I usually was I was pretty near the top - thanks to no schooling and tons of reading (I still had to have remedial maths for a term but then I caught up.)

 One of the books that sticks most clearly in my mind from that time was about a girl who's wandering round a market at the start of the summer holidays and somehow ends up with a magical cat. I don't know who it was by or remember the rest of the plot but it must have been shortly after I stopped being contagious and was allowed to go to the library by myself and choose my own books and what I can still remember most clearly was the tingle of excitement I felt when I found the book and realised it was about a real life girl who went to a regular school and lived in a normal sort of house, not a princess from long ago, a girl just like me, set in the present day (the girl in the book even looked a little bit like me) and it was about MAGIC. It seemed to be saying that magic could happen to anyone at all however ordinary your life. I didn't know it was called magic realism then. I just knew this was the book was for me.
        Years later I'm writing my own books about magic. The Bella Donna books started off as an idea for an adult TV series about a white witch who moves to a stuffy village, then became a book aimed at the teen market. before finding it's rightful place with a younger audience.

        It’s the first series of books I've written and there's something about coming back to the same
set of characters and telling new stories and learning more about them which is very satisfying. A bit like when I write episodes for children's TV.
        I thought I might be asked to write 2 or 3 books but my fourth one ‘Cat Magic’ comes out today complete with the most wonderful illustrations by Marion Lindsay and I'm working on the first draft of the fifth one.
        There’s something that's just plain fun about writing fantasy and being able to invent your own magical world and then throw whatever appeals to you most into it - a unicorn here, dragon there, magic buffet table laid out with all your favourite foods.
      And I love the letters I get from children who the books appeal to - and even a photograph of a hand-made Bella Donna doll.

        This year the first of the foreign editions are being published. Germany's book, kindle and audio versions come out in September.

The German edition is called Bella Donner because
Donner means thunder in German and they felt it would be a more dramatic name.
        I haven't seen the covers for the Polish, Hebrew, or Chinese editions yet but am very much looking forward to doing so.
        But most of all I like to think that maybe somewhere a reader will pick up a Bella Donna book and have the same tingle of excitement I had – and know that now they're going to read about MAGIC that could happen to someone just like them.

Ruth's website is  Bella Donna now has her own website


Polly said...

Pretty sure the book you remember is the still wonderful 'Carbonel' by Barbara Sleigh...

madwippitt said...

Love the 'Bella Donner' change - what a wonderful cros--language pun!

Ruth Symes said...
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Ruth Symes said...
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Ruth Symes said...

Just looked up Carbonel - title doesn't feel familiar but it does look like it could be the one!

And yes the Bella Donner change is great - they also wanted me to change a few of the spells so they'd be easier to read aloud which I think is a good idea.