Posts tagged mystery stories

Drawing mutant carnivorous plants: a chat with Sabrina Malcolm

How do you turn ordinary looking plants into walking, talking mutants? That’s what the wonderful illustrator Sabrina Malcolm has to do in The Fly Papers books. I asked her a bit more about how …

sabrinaWhen you start coming up with ideas for turning particular carnivorous plants into sentient mutants – what are some of the things you think about?

Sabrina: I always need to think about how the creature will move around, and how it will perform whatever actions are required by the story. Dion’s roots, for example, became his way of getting around; and his traps came in handy for things like opening louvre windows.

The eyes have always been particularly important, because they’re one of the most important ways of showing the creature’s thoughts and emotions. Other parts of the creature can be helpful with that, too — for example, Dross’s leaves can look bedraggled, or lively and excited; and similarly with his eye stalks.

Of course, these things are always decided in consultation with the author and designer!

dionDo you use real plants or photos for reference (or both)?

Sabrina: I use real plants when I can, but photos can be useful too, especially if I’m drawing while a plant has died down for the winter. Venus flytraps, for example, can look very poorly during the winter months.

How do you make the plants’ eyeballs express emotion?

 Sabrina: Eyelids are the crucial thing: without them, it’s much harder to show emotion. They can take on some of the job of eyebrows — pulling down for a frown, narrowing together to show suspicion, or rolling right back in fear.

The eye stalks can be helpful, too — if they’re rearing back, it can convey fear, and lunging forward can show aggression.

Okay, if you were Bette Noire – and you could create a mutant plant or animal in your lab – what might it be?

 Sabrina: A cow with cheesecake-flavoured milk. Oh, and edible brussels sprouts.

 

Sabrina is the illustrator of all The Fly Papers books, and also an author. Last year she wrote and illustrated a beautiful picture book: Blue Moon Bird.

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Solving The Fly Papers mysteries

character1 If you’ve been following the adventures of Spencer, Tora, and their friends in the first two books of The Fly Papers, you know that the kids still have a lot of mysteries to figure out. Luckily they’ve got six more books to do it in!

People often ask if I’ve planned what’s going to happen all the way through to the eighth book.

When I first started writing book one, my answer was, ‘Mmmm … kind of.’ I had a vague resolution that I aimed get to at the end of book eight, but that was about all.

character2The wise and generous author Fleur Beale took me in hand and told me (nicely) that I needed to do better than that. She warned that if I didn’t have a very clear idea what was going to happen throughout the whole series, then writing it would be dangerous. I might get to a point later in the plot where I was stuck and would suddenly realise I should have written things differently earlier on.

So I came up with a few paragraphs of plot description for each book, but deep down, I knew it might not be enough to save me from a plot tangle.

Luckily – after the first book was published – something exciting happened. We got approached by a  producer working for quite a famous British film and TV company. This company was interested in maybe turning The Fly Papers into a TV series! (I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t even reply to their email for about a month, because I thought it was someone scamming me. But nope, it was legit.)

Well. First they wanted to know more aboutcharacter3 every book’s storyline. So I began feverishly developing the plot in more detail than I’d ever tried to do before.

As it happened, no TV series eventuated. (Such is the uncertain nature of the film and TV industry.)

I was a bit disappointed, but not horribly, because I’d been trying not to get my hopes up. I was also grateful. I now had pages and pages of plot information to work from, all the way through to the end of The Fly Papers.

character5So now, when people ask me if I’ve planned what’s going to happen the answer is, ‘Yes – everything!’

(But no, I’m not telling.)

P.S. All these lovely character illustrations from The Fly Papers are by the marvellous illustrator Sabrina Malcolm.

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Caroline Lawrence introduces The Western Mysteries

Did you love The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence?  The exciting news is that she has now started writing The Western Mysteries set in the Wild West, with cowboys, indians and outlaws.  Check out this video of Caroline Lawrence talking about her new series:

Look out for The Case of the Deadly Desperados in the library soon.  To find out more about the series check out Caroline Lawrence’s website for The Western Mysteries.

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Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John

Laura has spent most of her life as an orphan, living at the Sylvan Meadows Children’s Home, in between foster homes.  What Laura longs for “is to have a life packed with excitement” like some of the characters in the books she reads.  She has always been told to be careful what she wishes for, and one day she discovers that she has an uncle that will adopt her.  When she arrives in the seaside village where her uncle lives, little does she know that the life of mystery and adventure she has longed for is just around the corner.  Why does the quiet Indian boy have bruises and cuts on his arms?  Why is her uncle so secretive?  Is the bird watcher hanging around her house who he says he is?  Who is the mysterious ‘J’ in her uncle’s books?  Laura has to start thinking like the detective in her favourite books, Matt Walker, so that she can solve the mysteries around her.

Dead Man’s Cove is the fantastic first book in the Laura Marlin Mystery series by Lauren St. John.  Laura is a great character who reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, because she loves stories and is very inquisitive.  Like Laura, you’ll gather clues and put the pieces of the puzzle together to track down the villains.  Dead Man’s Cove is perfect for anyone who likes books full of adventure, mystery, heroes and villains.  I can’t wait to read more of the Laura Marlin Mysteries! 

Recommended for 9+    9 out of 10

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