It’s a while ago that Sue Hampton featured on Linda’s Book bag when I reviewed her wonderful collection Ravelled and Other Stories here. Today, Sue returns to tell us all about her latest book, this time one for children The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence.
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence, published yesterday, 29th March 2018, by Candy Jar is available for purchase here.
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence
Lucy Wilson doesn’t want to move from London to sleepy South Wales. But when she arrives at her new seaside home, it doesn’t appear to be as boring as she expected.
Ogmore-by-Sea seems to be under the control of a mysterious and powerful force. But why is Lucy its target? And why, when students at her new school start to disappear, does no one seem to care?
With the help of her new friend Hobo, Lucy Wilson must assume the mantle of her grandfather, the legendary Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and defeat an invisible enemy before it’s too late.
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries is a Lethbridge-Stewart spin-off adventure and features licensed characters created for Doctor Who by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.
A Guest Post by Sue Hampton
As a sensitive child I was genuinely frightened of Daleks and Cybermen in the black-and-white days of Doctor Who, and never really ventured back once latex and dodgy sets had been replaced by CGI. But recently I’ve returned to sci-fi and it’s taught me a lot. I’ve fleshed out a new action heroine in the form of Lucy Wilson, for the first novel in a series with Candy Jar. I hope she will mean as much as the female Doctor to those girls who meet her on the page, but to boys, their mums and dads and grandparents too. Lucy Wilson’s world may not be as real as ours but it’s not so different either, and we need girls like her. We need boys to respect girls like her. And we need other girls to respect her too.
Every genre –and I’ve explored most of them in 31 books – has its register and rules (even though like most writers I sometimes like to push those a little). Being a form of fantasy with a kind of credibility built on science – often undiscovered but already imagined – sci-fi offers a heady freedom, but also parameters. The idea is to develop something fresh within a tradition readers recognise, but for me, and in science fiction sometimes categorised as soft, the characters always carry the narrative and make it matter. The rest is context. At the core of any good novel, whatever the genre, are the central character’s feelings and relationships, needs, strengths, weaknesses and unique, complex wholeness. Cue Lucy.
Like a baby delivered by a stork she landed on my doormat, in the sense that she has a heritage, a family tree that’s copyrighted and can’t be tinkered with. It’s in her blood. But when I help children create a character for writer-in-residence projects in school I tell them such basics are just the start. We find various angles from which to get to know her and when we think about three defining adjectives there’s one that springs more forcefully to mind than any other. In an adventure of any kind, real-world and emotional or sci-fi and powerfully wild, courage is essential. A character that lacks it at the start will have to find it. And in Lucy’s case, it’s not the lack that’s a potential problem but the excess. She knows no fear, and young readers will know how vulnerable that can make her as it pushes her beyond the usual limits. Naturally there’s an exception, but they have to wait a little for that, with the clues lying low where clues should. A character with no Achilles heel is an intolerable and preposterous thing! But courage in action has to find a wider remit than resisting the evil that is the Great Intelligence.
Right from the start, even when she’s being stroppy about being dragged away from her London life to Ogmore-by-Sea, that courage kicks in as she defends Hobo, the boy she’s just met and thinks a bit of an oddball, because she recognises bitchiness when she hears it. Lucy has a strongly developed sense of justice and that means resisting everyday evils like prejudice and bullying too. All of this makes her a heroine we might call feisty and committed, but she must be flawed. Lucy’s enormously spirited and imaginative but she can misjudge situations and is sometimes, like girls her age, unreasonable. More than that she needs, like most strong characters, to be funny – and that means sharply witty but it may also make her just a bit ridiculous at times. As we all are. I hope I’m not the only author who loves her characters with a passion and Lucy is no exception. In more senses than one, I believe in her.
Lucy is the character I follow in close third person, but she needs a friend who will not be an echo or variation but an individual to challenge her. When the Head of Publishing mentioned a boy with alopecia my resistance to the project crumbled. But while I’ve explored alopecia in two teenage books, in those stories it is, to a great extent, the story. Here was an opportunity to create a boy who only happens to live without hair. What defines Hobo, apart from his ‘anagramitis’, is his intellectual energy and sense of fun, along with the deep inner strength and kindness I’ve seen many times in the young people I support, as Ambassador for Alopecia UK, with their hair loss. Of course I also saw an opportunity to shed light, for children unaware of the difficulties, on this interesting condition – while celebrating diversity in a broader sense (Lucy is mixed-race and one of her brothers is gay).
At the comprehensive where the Head of English bought 750 preview copies, I’m told everyone loves Hobo. But the frankness of children can be startling. After a school assembly on another recent author visit, a boy came up to me to say, “Lucy must be a really nice girl to have a boy with alopecia as a best friend.” GULP! An adult retorted that Hobo must be pretty cool not to be threatened by a strong girl like Lucy.
Once I found my bearings in the thrillingly liberating world of sci-fi, I had a blast. I hope readers will too – whether they’re Y5 or 6, teenagers or adult #Whovians. For all the strange happenings, I’ve also kept it real. That’s the difference fully-rounded characters make. Anyone will relate to their feelings and their relationships. Otherwise, however exciting the plot, why would readers care?
About Sue Hampton
Sue Hampton writes for adults as well as children and teenagers, and across genres. An ex-teacher, she was inspired by the stories of Michael Morpurgo, because she witnessed their emotional power over young readers. Sue aims to write deep, compelling novels that will make people think and feel. Now a full-time author, Sue visits schools of all kinds and works with young people of all ages.
Many of her passions can be detected in her novels, which are all different, (some historical, one futuristic, one magical and funny) but have in common themes like love, courage, freedom and our right to be different.
Sue herself looks a little different from most women because she has alopecia, having lost all her hair in 1981. After writing The Waterhouse Girl about a girl with alopecia, she began going bareheaded and feels strangely liberated even though it isn’t easy. As an Ambassador for Alopecia UK she supports others with hair loss and led a team on Eggheads, winning £25K for the charity. Sue also lectures on the importance of fiction in school.