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>> There is something in the woods...

There is something in the woods...
05/06/2019

There is something in the woods...


In THE LONGEST NIGHT OF CHARLIE NOON, Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to find out what lies in the woods near their home - a monster, a spy or some other mystery? Author CHRISTOPHER EDGE tells us more!

Q: How did you decide on the three children you wanted to focus on in this novel - Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny?

A: The story is Charlie's story, but I wanted to explore friendship in this novel too. After writing the first draft of the story, I was immersing myself in nature writing and in particular, the work of Denys Watkins-Pitchford, an author, illustrator and naturalist who wrote under the pen name 'BB'.

I read his novel Brendon Chase which was first published 75 years ago in 1944 and tells the story of three children who run away from home to spend an entire summer in the woods, and realised that in many ways The Longest Night of Charlie Noon had strange echoes of this story, even though Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny only spend a single night in the woods; in many ways this night for them lasts a lifetime.

What's universal to both novels is the way that nature shapes these children's view of the world and I think this is an important theme now more than ever.


Q: Why did you decide to give each of the characters a difficult home life?

A: Sometimes childhood can be romanticised as a golden time filled with carefree days climbing trees, but for many children their home lives can be troubled or chaotic and I wanted to reflect this reality in the novel.

What I wanted to show in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is that there is a way through the woods.


Q: The novel explores bullying, and remorse, through Johnny; why do you give him the chance to redeem himself?

A: It's very easy, especially nowadays it seems in the age of social media, for people to be characterised for a single action or thought and for this to then define them completely. However our lives are long and a mistake we make one day can be redeemed the next and I wanted to show this.

The fact that we can change is an important theme in the novel. As Charlie reflects in the book, "Everything changes. And that means we can too."


Q: Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny become lost in the woods, where time itself seems to take on a different nature. Why did you decide to explore the idea of time in this book?

A: It wasn't so much that I decided to look at the nature of time in this novel, but more that questions about time emerged from the story I wanted to tell in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon. My novels always begin with a character and it's understanding this character's journey that helps guide the research I need to do before I start writing.

Time is a source of endless fascination in literature, and what I wanted to do in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is tell a story about now. That for me is time's biggest 'wow' factor - it's always now.


Q: Is that why you have written the story in the first person, with Charlie as the narrator?

A: We experience the world as an ever-unfolding now, so that's why I chose to write The Longest Night of Charlie Noon in the first-person present tense. It would have been impossible to tell the story I wanted to tell in any other way.

I hope when readers get to the end of the novel that they see how everything fits together and might then be tempted to re-read to find the clues that are there on the page. I wanted to write a book that rewards re-reading and I hope there will be details that take on new meaning on a second, third or even fourth reading.


Q: What were the challenges in writing a story - which would usually be one thing happening after another - to explore time, which works differently from that?

A: Well, this is the thing - for us time is linear. That's how we experience it - like a river constantly flowing into the future one moment at a time. It's only when I started to investigate different theories of time that I discovered that many scientific theories of time jar with our everyday experience of it.

Time isn't fundamental to the equations that describe how the universe works, so this has led some scientists to argue that time doesn't actually exist! Fiction in a way reflects how time works in our heads, with flashbacks reproducing memories and a constant sense of anticipation or fear as we turn the pages of the story of our lives, and it might be that our experience of time is the fiction...


Q: What would you like the reader to take from the novel?

A: That we shape the future with every action that we take. I've got faith that they're the generation that are going to face up to the challenges all around us in these present times and that they'll change the world for the better.


Q: What is the best question you've been asked by a child?

A: I don't know if it's the books that I write, but I seem to get asked lots of mind-boggling questions by the young readers that I meet. One of my favourites was one that I was asked at the Hay Festival last year when a child asked if they could just be someone else's dream.


Q: When and where do you write?

A: Like a cut-price Roald Dahl, I've got an office at the bottom of my garden where I write my books, but the truth is I write anywhere or anytime that I can. This could mean scribbling down a few pages on a long train journey, or just writing a single line on a post-it note beside my bed before I go to sleep at night.

I always write the first draft longhand in a notebook as typing this up onto a computer then becomes a second draft stage with me revising the work as I go.


Q: What would your dream 'writer's shed' look like, and where would it be?

A: I think it's the one I'm in now, especially as it's just got a fresh lick of paint. Although it might be nice to move it to a secluded Greek island for the summer...


Q: What are you writing now?

A: To be completely accurate, I'd have to say this sentence! However, there's another story currently taking shape in my notebook that I'm very excited to tell.
 
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