Children often ask me where I get my story ideas from and I tell them my ideas all come from things that happen to me in real life.
When we began story writing as a family, it was only because we had moved into a magical village called Newton Valence and a lady gave us a welcoming present of an African land snail in a tank that we began to write about them.
We would never have gone out and bought a snail in a tank, not in a million years.
We all Grew to Love Snails ….
My daughter was only six months old at that time, but as she grew up, she began to make up stories about her snail and to draw pictures of it. I had another baby. When he was a toddler, he too wanted his own snail. With two children and two snails in the house, there was plenty of snail talk around our kitchen table, and we all grew to love snails and to find them absolutely fascinating, which they are.
Tank on the Doorstep
One day, someone else in our village said ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if all the villagers woke up one day to find a snail in a tank on their doorstep?’. This gave us a great idea for a story and so work on Snail Trail began, or, as it was known then, The Mysterious Case of the Newton Valence Snail Trail.
Of interest to the Grown-ups
In the meantime I had got into fundraising for the local church so was able to add an extra layer to our story that I thught might be of interest to the grown-ups and would somehow explain the mystery behind the snail drop.
When that story was finished we put it all onto the computer and ran off some copies, with Amy’s A4 illustrations inside. We sold the ‘books’ in the village to raise money for the local church. Then, when everyone asked for the next story, we looked again for inspiration at what lay around us – in the case of book two, our neighbours. One neighbour had a patio burner, some strange early morning habits and a business selling crystals, and the neighbours on the other side had an extraordinarily huge and tall plant that grew in their front garden and mystically overshadowed everything!
Snail Park is all about the horrendous traffic problems experienced by the neighbouring village of Selborne. In this book we spun a story around the villagers protesting against the building of a park at the school to house the giant African land snail that had been discovered on Zig-Zag Common, aka Selborne Common, with a Headteacher descending into madness.
All our snail books are based in and around the villages of Newton Valence and Selborne which makes our stories a little more realistic because we use actual places around us. Amy and I would spend hours up on Selborne Common drawing blackberries and looking at places up there where a giant snail might well hide.
The Snail That got Left Behind
We’ve got loads of new ideas for stories. I’m working on book four at the moment, Snail Movie. Then we’ve got Snalien coming out which is all about alien snails. After that, with so many school children asking me to write about the snail that got left behind in school after an author’s visit, there’s Snail in Paradise. That book will be followed by Snail Alert! or Snail Kidnap! which is all about African land snails, Bob and Gary getting kidnapped in a car park hand-over, and being held to ransom for huge amounts of money.
I’ve lost count of the strange places I’ve met parents …
We give away lots of our snails to children who are interested in keeping one and I’ve lost count of the strange places I’ve met parents (or do I mean places I’ve met strange parents …?) to hand over something brown and slimy in a bit of peat sitting at the bottom of a margarine tub! But this has given us a fantastic idea for the kidnap story and I guess I can always bring in other story lines to that book too. It should be a real thriller!
After that, well, we’ve one or two surprises tucked up our sleeves which we can’t tell you about, can we, or they would no longer be surprises! Ha-ha!
Happy Half-Term, snail lovers! And remember, if you are spinning your own tale at home, look at what’s happening around you and take inspiration from the people and the places you know.
PS. A big snaily thank you to Hannah (you know who you are!) for her mention of madaboutsnailbooks on her Facebook page. Much happiness in your new home … you have slithered closer to us which we are over the moon about – within slithering distance indeed!