Angie Sage is the author of the internationally bestselling, award-winning Septimus Heap series (beginning with Magyk), which follows the training and adventures of a young wizard in a quirky and ‘magykal’ world. Her other novels include TodHunter Moon, a companion trilogy to Septimus Heap; the Araminta Spookie series; and her latest novel, Twilight Hauntings, the first in a duology about a girl in a world where magic is forbidden (the sequel, Midnight Train, will be released next month). We’ve read and loved her books for years, so we were especially thrilled to interview her about Septimus Heap and Twilight Hauntings for this month’s feature!
RapunzelReads: The Septimus Heap series has a large (and hilarious!) cast and is narrated omnisciently—how do you create a variety of believable, distinct characters, and does having many narrating characters affect the way that you write stories?
Angie Sage: It is strange, but I am not aware of actually creating the characters – they seem to appear fully formed and then rapidly set about telling me who they are and what they intend to do. I guess they are believable because they do feel very real to me. The characters are the driver of the books; they pretty much dictate the plot and the action. I think this is what gives them reality, because they are not puppets subservient to the
I do write from a fair number of points of view, with the reader getting an insight into the mind of most of the main characters and even some of the minor ones. I think this adds enormously to the reality of the characters and also allows both me and the reader to get to know them better. I find this is a very interesting way to write and it is also a great way of getting some humour going.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
AS: I read so many books when I was young that it is almost impossible to pick any out! I read and read and read. Of course there was nowhere near the choice then that there is now, but I loved myths and legends – particularly King Arthur and Robin Hood - and anything to do with history. I loved to read about all kinds of weird worlds, time travel, adventure, and I enjoyed most of the classics. Anything in fact. One very old-fashioned author I remember loving was E. Nesbit. Also Elizabeth Goudge. Their style took a bit of adjusting too, but was well worth it. I can see now that I was just building up a whole stock of weird information and crazy places to put back together again in a totally different way when I was grown-up.
RR: The worlds of Septimus Heap and Twilight Hauntings are quirky and unusual—what’s your favorite part of creating fantasy worlds, and how do you come up with them?
AS: I let the worlds evolve naturally. The Septimus world was odd because I really did feel as though it was a place I had been to. It was eerily real. I’m lucky enough to have a very visual imagination so I can walk myself through a 3D landscape, stopping along the way to check things out.
With both series I began with a very strong sense of place – in Septimus it was the Castle and in Twilight Hauntings it was Luma. I then allowed the story to spread out from there. Atmosphere is very important too. I felt the Castle was a basically friendly place where a lot of interesting things could happen and I wanted to take time to explore it. But I didn’t have that feeling about Luma. It was threatening and hostile from the start and I knew at once that Alex just had to get out of there. So Alex left Luma fairly quickly, whereas I lingered longer in the Castle. However, to move the story on I do find it easier to take the characters on a journey, and in this way the worlds grow naturally as both the characters and the reader moves through it, and we all (myself included!) discover new places and people that will drive the story forwards. I guess my favourite part of creating the worlds is just that - the discovery of new places within them and meeting the people who inhabit them. I love it when this builds and adds to the growing feeling of ‘realness’. Then I know I’ve really found the right place!
RR: What is your process for writing books? Are there certain pieces of a story (such as plot, a character, or a world) you usually start with as inspiration, or does it vary?
AS: I begin with an image. With Septimus Heap it was a baby hidden in the snow and in Twilight Hauntings it was a hot and dusty market place with a girl trying not to be noticed. And I go from that, asking myself questions, working out who is there, sensing the atmosphere and generally acting as though I am really there and have no idea what is going on. But I need to find out! So I hang back in the shadows and watch what happens. That for me is one of the most interesting parts of writing, the lurking on the edges, working stuff out.
RR: Do you have any tips for an aspiring author?
AS: If you are really serious about this, I’d say don’t worry about starting too early. Get lots of experience of life. Do things that interest you. Read a humungous amount of books in lots of different styles and genres and generally be fascinated by everything that comes your way. It is very hard to write good stuff when you are younger – well I found it so anyway – so don’t be discouraged when you first attempts are nowhere near what you had hoped they would be. Just keep on writing and make sure you get some unbiased feedback too. And then, one day, you’ll probably find you have written something that works.
The downside of being an author is that most of us get way more rejections than acceptance, and that is something you will have to bounce back from. It’s not exactly an easy life and there will be a lot of downs as well as ups.
But you do get to create your own magic and that is pretty good.