I’m fast becoming a fan of children’s fiction and am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations of Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief, the second book in the Alfie Bloom series by Gabrielle Kent. Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief was published by Scholastic on 2nd June 2016.
Today Gabrielle Kent tells us all about the origins of Alfie Bloom
Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief
When Alfie Bloom inherited a castle and a centuries-old magic, his dull and lonely life was changed forever. But Alfie’s new life has come with dangers he never could have expected. When Ashford the butler is kidnapped in the middle of the night, the castle comes under threat from a terrifying enemy. Trapped inside with only his twin cousins and best friend Amy, it’s up to Alfie to defend his inheritance and prevent a terrible fate from befalling the whole of England!
The Origins of Alfie Bloom
A Guest Post by Gabrielle Kent
I have loved castles since I was very young. I visit local ones wherever I go and always wondered what it would be like to have one of my very own. In 2006 some friends took me to Castle Coch in Wales. It is a fabulous place full of quirky little touches and looks as though it was built by someone who wanted a fairytale castle of their very own. In one of the rooms I came across a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I felt as though they could come to life at any minute and tell me my destiny. I imagined a child inheriting the castle and talking to The Fates. As I made the long drive back from Cardiff to Teesside the idea grew bigger and bigger, and by the time I got home the story of Alfie Bloom was ready to be written.
The name of the town where the story is set, Hexbridge, is a blend of the North Eastern towns Corbridge and Hexham. I see the novel as being set around that beautiful area and think the composite name sounds magical. The creation of Hexbridge was influenced by the age and layout of Helmsley and Alnwick market towns. When I was eleven years old, my class went on a field trip to Alnwick. We visited the castle and I was struck by the ornate coaches inside. These were in my head when I wrote about the coach that took Alfie to learn of his inheritance. During that visit to Alnwick there was a medieval festival held in the market square. Everyone was dressed in costume and there was dancing, food and craft stalls and a ducking stool in the centre of the square. That festival influenced the Samhain and Beltane festivals that Alfie attends in the first two books.
Like Alfie, I moved town in my final year of primary school. This was a really significant event for me, I had to build friendships and get to know the temperaments of my new teachers. I was really impressed with the beautiful Victorian building after the modern, blocky grey school I had moved from. There were rumours that there were secret passages behind panels and the school stage. I imagined Alfie and his friends within the corridors and school hall of that building as I was writing about Wyrmwald House. I visited that school recently and was very pleased to hear that tales of secret passages from the headteacher’s office are still going strong!
Alfie’s relationship with his cousins is very much influenced by my relationship with some of my cousins in Ireland, particularly my younger cousins Niall, Aisling and Sinead who lived on a farm in Wicklow. They were wildlings and had the best ideas for adventures. We built forts from haybales, climbed trees in the orchard and raided my aunty’s secret chocolate stash for midnight feasts – despite still being full from the massive feasts she cooked for us every evening. Those summers were pretty idyllic and an escape from the rough estate where we lived back in England before moving to a new town. It was as though I got to step into a magical world for a few weeks each year and I wanted to carry that feeling into my writing.
So, while the idea for the first book came to me at Castell Coch, the origin of the Alfie Bloom novels lies in all the places I have visited, the people I care about, and the adventures that I hope I never stop having.
About Gabrielle Kent
Gabrielle Kent has worked in and around the videogames industry for fifteen years and currently lectures in games art and design at Teesside University. As well as teaching, she directs and presents Animex, the UK’s largest annual games and animation festival, bringing young people together from all over Europe. Gabriellehas written and contributed to a number of articles, papers and broadcasts on gaming and is a regular judge on the Games BAFTA awards. In 2006 she was voted one of the Top 100 most Influential Women in the games industry by US based Next Gen magazine.