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July 4, 2016 / peoplesbookprize

Griselda Heppel⌈ Vote Now ⌋

In the lead up to The People’s Book Prize 2016 we caught up with author Griselda Heppel to talk about her Children’s book

The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst


Griselda grew up in Germany, the land of black forests, red and white toadstools, gingerbread houses and lonely castles bristling with turrets. With Grimms’ Fairy Tales as her backdrop, the magic and stories have become a firm part of Griselda’s make-up.  After graduating from Cambridge, Griselda worked in publishing, got married, had four children and was somewhat distracted for a few years. But in the back of her mind stories grew and in 2012 she released Ante’s Inferno. Returning with The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst (publication August 2015) tackles the Faustian legend, interweaving Elizabethan magic, demons and historical mystery into the everyday life of 13-year-old Henry, who’ll do anything to overcome his problems, even follow some weird instructions in an old diary.

When did you start writing?

I’ve had stories buzzing in my head for years but only managed to start writing them down a dozen years ago, when my youngest child was 11.

As an Author, What Influences You the Most?

Books! I loved reading as a child – that sense of being seized by a story and whisked off into a different world was something I longed to be able to do myself. Great writers such as Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis, Leon Garfield, Charles Dickens and, more recently, J K Rowling, create such convincing other worlds they’ve inspired me to try and do the same.

Where did the idea for this book originate?

The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst is based on the Faust legend, one of the most dominant themes in world literature, in which a man makes a pact with a demon in exchange for knowledge and power. I wanted to write a children’s version of this, beginning with the point of view of a 12-year-old boy. What would drive him to such a dangerous bargain? I didn’t think knowledge would hold much allure; but the promise of power, when your enemies are out to get you, well, that could be irresistible.

The People’s Book Prize nominees are voted for by the readers, how important are your readers to you?

Hugely important!  I write the kind of stories I love and would have loved as a child, hoping there are children out there who’ll agree with me. But it’s not until I hear from them that I know I’ve got it right. Adults’ views matter too of course (especially since they are often the ones buying the books!), but when a young person rushes up to me to say they’ve been up until 2 am reading by torchlight because they couldn’t put my book down, that’s when I get the biggest thrill. Not so good of course if next day’s a school day and the child dozes off in class.

We like to think there’s a voice for everyone in Publishing – what is your opinion?

Ideally, yes, but that voice needs to speak in a way that will catch people’s interest. The quality of writing and story-telling are crucial: publishers need to be convinced that a book – whatever the genre – will sell because if it doesn’t, the publishers won’t stay in business! However, fashion plays a part, and some topics attract more interest from publishers than others. For instance, the children’s book market when I was young was dominated by superb historical fiction writers: Mary Renault, Geoffrey Trease, Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliff, Roger Lancelyn Green. To some extent their place has been taken today by a wealth of terrific fantasy writers.

Troubador publishes a variety of brilliant authors, what is it like to be in the company of talented writers?

Exciting! Matador publishes a broad range of fiction and non-fiction titles, some which have won or shortlisted for various book awards and prizes.  It’s great to be in such company.

What book influenced you most as a writer and what are you reading at the moment?

I draw inspiration from so many great writers, for adults and children; but if I had to single out one book, it would be The Phantom Tollbooth. Norton Juster’s combination of fantasy, absurdity, wit and wordplay is unique. I love the fact that an exciting, scary adventure with possibly even sad moments can be shot through with comedy. It’s what I try to do. An agent said on social media recently that anyone wanting to write children’s books should read Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea. I’ve just finished this excellent book and agree it embodies the best kind of writing for children: beautifully drawn characters, exciting story with deftly handled subplots and a pinch of zaniness which charms readers of any age. A masterpiece.

What can we expect from you in the future? What are you writing at the moment?

More books for age 9 – 13 (and above – who’s setting the limits?). My current wip is called The Fall of a Sparrow and is set in 1968. Sent away to school far from home, eleven-year-old Ellie struggles to adjust to an ancient house full of creaking floorboards, forbidden corridors and, most baffling of all, fellow pupils who pretend not to see the mysterious boy who follows her around the grounds.  At least, Ellie thinks they’re pretending.

Find Griselda at: /     

Facebook: Griselda Heppel

Twitter:  @GriseldaHeppel

home pageThe People’s Book Prize is the unique literary competition that is judged by the nation and open to all UK publishing companies.

You Be the Judge: The People’s Book Prize – “The home for new and undiscovered works.”

One Comment

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  1. Griselda Heppel / Jul 5 2016 10:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Griselda Heppel and commented:
    Delighted to have been interviewed by the People’s Book Prize as one of the FINALISTS (voting closes 10 July – only 5 days left!)

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