Interview by Piranha T. and Super Kitty
Janet Fox is the acclaimed author of several books for teens and kids. Her award-winning historical fantasy novel The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle centers twelve-year-old Kat, sent to a Scottish castle during World War II to escape the Blitz, who uncovers the dangerous secrets of her temporary home. Her most recent book, The Artifact Hunters, is a companion novel. We love Janet Fox’s ability to incorporate history and fantasy into intriguing and mysterious stories, so we were excited to interview her about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.
RapunzelReads: What inspired The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle?
Janet Fox: I was looking for something to write “next” after finishing my previous book, when a friend posted a picture of something called a “chatelaine” on Facebook. I took one look at that picture and it spoke to me, so I put it on my desktop. I looked it up and discovered that a chatelaine (see below) was a piece of
Author photo credit: Jodi Hausen
Chatelaine credit (below): Janet Fox
RR: The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle incorporates elements of fantasy and real, historical situations, into a genre commonly known as historical fantasy. What was your process for writing (and researching) this kind of book? What inspired you to write using WWII as a backdrop?
JF: Some of my favorite books when I was a kid were the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. For whatever reason, as soon as I started writing Charmed Children I knew I wanted it to be set during World War 2 (as were the Narnia books), and to be fantasy, and to involve a group of kids, especially family, like the Pevensie children. I set the story in Scotland because I had been to Scotland and feel it is a very magical place. Also, during the war, as the Germans were bombing London during the Blitz, many parents sent their kids to places like Scotland for safety. And I set the story in a castle because – of course! My trip to Scotland was a major part of the research, and I read a lot about World War 2 in the United Kingdom. After that, the chatelaine drove the story, as each of the children was linked to one of the charms.
RR: Do you have advice for young writers?
JF: If you love to write, there are two things I’d advise. First, read. Read a lot. Read for fun, of course, but also read to figure out how writers do things. How does this writer make a character who feels real? How does that writer build a plot? Reading will not only stretch your ideas, but also your vocabulary and your understanding of how books are made. Second, don’t give up. Writing is 20 percent inspiration and 80 percent perspiration – meaning, writing is work, and takes time, and takes commitment. I never dreamed when I was young that one day I would be the author of 8 published books, with more to come. It took determination on my part – and getting past rejection – before it began to happen. So stick with it.
RR: You recently released a sequel/companion book to The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, titled The Artifact Hunters. Since it partially overlaps with settings and characters found in the first book, did you discover any challenges in writing about those places and people in a different context?
JF: Yes, it was a challenge, particularly because my editor wanted me to explore a different kind of story. I had to think differently about what to say, and who best to make as the new main character. And I still wanted to weave in bits of the first story, and tie up some loose ends from Charmed Children, so I had to find a way to do that without retelling the story. It took quite a few rejected drafts before I hit on the right subject, found Isaac, and found the time travel elements that were really fun to write.