I didn’t expect to encounter a dragon in my wellies…

I didn’t expect to encounter a dragon in my wellies but that’s sometimes how things go. Hay Festival last week was pretty wet (lots of looming black clouds, squelchy mud and dripping umbrellas)… But as I tramped through the puddles towards the Starlight Stage I didn’t care about the rain – because inside that tent three best-selling authors, Justin Somper, Charlie Fletcher and Philip Womack, had gathered to talk about Dragons, Heroes and Assassins. Eek.

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Chaired by the renowned children’s books editor for The Guardian, Julia Eccleshare, the authors gave us an insight into their fantasy worlds. Somper, author of the best-selling Vampirates books, has now released the first book in his Allies & Assassins series. The ruler of Archenfield, Anders, has been murdered and it’s up to the heir, Prince Jared, and the Council of Twelve, to solve the murder and protect the princedom. Somper read aloud from Allies & Assassins, drawing us into his world of betrayal, bravery and threat. And just when Moontrug thought the plot was going one way, Somper hit us with a line that undermined everything that had gone before. Anders’ murder is more complicated than it seems…

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Fletcher, author of the much-praised Stoneheart trilogy, is now working on his Dragon Shield series. Despite bringing his kids up in Los Angeles, he discovered inspiration for his children’s books back in London. LA might have given him frozen yoghurt chains and great weather, but London gave him a city dripping with story and myth… Dragon Shield opens with two children, Will and Jo, in a hospital. Something dark awakens inside the British Museum and it stops time, literally freezing the city in its tracks. The people are there, but unmoving, unseeing – like statues. The statues, on the other hand, can move… It’s up to Will and Jo to fight back against dragons and gargoyles and to rid London of the evil that stalks its streets. As a Londoner right now, Moontrug can’t wait to ‘walk the streets’ of this book and when Fletcher read out an extract, Moontrug could actually see the coils of black smoke rising from the ferocious dragon and hear its barbed tongue flick back and forth at the sight of Will and Jo. It was as if the dragon was actually lurking behind the Starlight stage – and let’s face it, wellies aren’t exactly a catalyst for a quick escape…

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Womack, author of the much-celebrated Liberators and The Other Book, has now embarked on a new trilogy: The Darkening Path series. The idea for the first book, The Broken King, (out later this month) came from a line from Shakespeare’s play, King Lear: ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.’ And from that one line came a world of black swans, brave knights, suns and moons. When Simon’s little sister is mysteriously snatched away to a dark other world, he is sent by a golden messenger on a dizzying quest to get her back. With him is Flora, whose brother has also vanished, and a strange boy who rescues them from a violent attack. To enter the land of the Broken King they must complete three tasks: Eat the Shadow. Steal the Sun. Break the Air. Just the kind of riddle-y magic Moontrug LOVES – and perfectly revealed when Womack read aloud from his book – of the swan’s mysterious power and its unsettling darkness…

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Each author was asked what the hardest part about writing books was. Somper gave us distractions (all the millions of other things dragging us away from the story), Fletcher admitted it was getting overly excited about ‘the next idea’ when he’s only on the first book of a series (Moontrug gets that A LOT) and Womack revealed it was the editing – the idea that when you finish a first draft of your book you think it’s fab – then you leave it a week and when you revisit it you realise how much you have to change. All three authors had the Starlight crowd enthralled by their words and books and before Moontrug had to leg it (in her wellies) for a train back to London, they revealed the things they’d be doing if they weren’t writers. Justin Somper would be a gardener, or (he admitted later) a winery owner; Charlie Fletcher would be a silversmith and Philip Womack would be ‘a lot richer.’ Much as Moontrug loves wine, silver and shiny coins, she’s very glad these three are writers – because they bring us dragons, heroes and assassins lurking in worlds beyond our own – and that is pretty cool.

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