Friday, September 20, 2013

Axes, Antlers and 101 Uses for a Dead Hare: Michelle Paver in Abingdon

Note to other other authors - here's how to immediately get and hold the interest of 300 children: hold up a cute, cuddly rabbit, and them to imagine you live 3,000 years ago, then ask for ways to use said rabbit parts after you've killed it...


Michelle Paver - author of 'Wolf Bother' her latest series 'Gods and Warriors' - visited Our Lady's Abingdon this week. Children from six other local schools came too, and discovered the thrilling and sometimes gruesome world of 'The Outsiders' and the second book in the series 'The Burning Shadow'.

Pupils from Cheney School, John Mason, Larkmead, Chandlings, Thomas Reade and St Edmunds joined OLA pupils in a fantastic event. And the question of 'what to do with a dead rabbit' was strangely compelling. 

Or, more accurately, a dead hare. Rabbits weren't around in Bronze Age Crete of course. Accuracy is important, because Michelle does a huge amount of research for her books. It's this in-depth knowledge and instinctive feeling of the period is just one of the reasons that her books conjure up such a vivid world in which children love to spend time. 


Michelle is best-known for her 'Chronicles of Ancient Darkness' series, set during the Stone Age. 'Gods and Warriors' is set later, around the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, and involves the adventures of Hylas, a twelve year boy, who finds himself on the run from some nasty and extremely tenacious people, who want something back that he is stolen...


One of the delights of the series is the varying viewpoint from which the story is told: Hylas, Pirra (a young girl fleeing an arranged marriage), and (in the first book) a dolphin, giving the perspective of an intelligent creature in the vast space of the ocean. Michelle's love of animals really shone through as she told the children about her experience with bears, wolves and swimming with dolphins - again captured magnificently in the writing.

Michelle answered some really great questions from the audience; would mythical creatures be appearing in later books? What inspired her to write? Would there be a seventh book in the 'Wolf Brother' series (no!).

The children were extremely patient as she signed and chatted for over an hour, handing over a deer antler and a real bronze-age axe for the children to hold. 
Michelle sat for pictures with fans, and even a slightly chaotic signing queue, as well as an accident with a glass of water at the start, couldn't dampen (no pun intended) what was an extremely entertaining and inspiring event.


Thanks very much to Puffin for making it happen, and Our Lady's Abingdon for being such great hosts. Michelle had a great time  and really appreciated some imaginative questions from the children in the audience (which we put down to the thriving local book scene!). Naturally, we couldn't let Michelle leave Abingdon without asking her one or two questions...

Five questions with . . . Michelle Paver's writing life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on book 3 of 'Gods and Warriors' entitled ' The Eye of the Falcon', due out in August 2014.

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

(Things very hard for a bit). You know, I don't think I have never been given a writing tip...

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

The best thing is that rare time when a scene becomes real in my head, when I can see a wolf, for example, or Hylas says something, is in a scene, and it's like I'm there. The worst thing is, with some of my overseas publishers, arguments over awful cover designs!

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?

When I go off on research trips, I take 'Bat'. He's a small, plastic bat that was given to me by my sister. As long as bat is there, he usually never fails me. He sits on my computer at home too when I'm writing.

(Interestingly, we discovered, Michelle does not have an Internet connection at home...).

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?

It was 'Wolf Brother'. Up until then there hadn't been any books set in the stone age (well, apart from Jean Auel, but not for children). So I had no idea if there would be interest. The writing thing wasn't planned, and I didn't know what to expect, but Wolf Brother become a bestseller.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Golly. Looks like I would enjoy this MP stuff! Will get on it... -Leen

    ReplyDelete