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Stepping Through the Mirror

Stepping Through the Mirror

THE MIRRORS SHATTERED is the final book in the BEYOND THE MIRROR trilogy by AJ HARTLEY, in which we discover other worlds, amazing creatures and incredible danger beyond our mirrors.

Darwen can walk through mirrors into the world of Silbrica, but in THE MIRRORS SHATTERED, he and his friends must go further than they have ever been into Silbrica to confront a danger that threatens all worlds.

AJ HARTLEY tells us more about his BEYOND THE MIRROR series, and the final book, THE MIRRORS SHATTERED:

Q: What draws you to writing fantasy novels? What was your favourite fantasy world when you were a child?

A: I've always liked the idea of fantastic things and places, environments which fill you child-like joy and wonder. I travel a lot and sometimes it feels like that's what I'm doing, trying to get back to a feeling of surprise and discovery. Fantasy gives me that. It's bigger, more full of the amazing and dramatic than ordinary reality.

As a kid I loved C.S. Lewis' Narnia books and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland stories, both of which were an influence on my Monsters series.

Q: The last book in your Beyond the Mirrors trilogy is The Mirrors Shattered. Can you tell us a little about the series and what inspired it?

A: I had been writing adult mystery/thrillers and wanted to write a book for my son, something that might do for him what The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe had done for me. One night, after I had been trying to decide what the book would be, I had a dream about a boy chasing a bird-creature through a shopping mall and into a shop which sold mirrors. He lost the creature, but then saw it looking back at him from inside one of the mirrors. That was where the story began.

The book is also very much about feeling like you don't quite fit into the rest of the world, that there are things about you that make you strange or different, and finding a place to which you can escape. Of course, in the books, that place is full of dangers of its own, but that was the original idea of the series.

Q: Can you tell us about your lead character, Darwen, and how he developed? Why did you decide he would be from Britain - was this based on your own experiences of moving to the US?

A: Yes. I'm from Northern England but have lived most of my adult life elsewhere, in Japan and in various parts of the US. That means I've spent the bulk of my life being considered an outsider, someone who doesn't quite belong.

But it's also odd because the England I grew up in isn't like the one most foreigners imagine (palaces, thatched cottages: things like that). And of course when I go back to England, I've been away so long that people now think of me as an outsider there, too. I wanted to tap into all that sense of separateness in writing Darwen, the way those feelings can make you both lonely and strong.

Q: Darwen is a 'mirroculist' - he can walk through portals between our and another world, Silbrica. What excited you about creating Silbrica, and how long did it take to do so?

A: When I get an idea I work fast, so I think the first draft of the first novel was done in maybe three months. Silbrica is not so much a single world as a place where a lot of totally different mini worlds exist and are interconnected. At first I was just imaging different worlds and the things that made them cool, but then I had to build the logic of how they worked, their history and how they all connected.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what to expect in the final book, The Mirrors Shattered?

A: Well, there's a lot that hasn't been explained about Silbrica and how someone like Darwen became a mirroculist, and this last book delves into both of those. There's also an ongoing threat which was briefly halted in book two but which has not gone away. In book three, the enemy makes its final and boldest move against the world we live in and the danger is greater than ever.

Q: During the Mirroculists' adventures, we meet a host of other characters - who surprised you the most and why?

A: Alex is always a surprise ... She has a life of her own and I'm never quite sure what she is going to do or say next.

Q: Where in Silbrica would you visit, if you could? And where is best avoided...?

A: The very first place Darwen visits, the forest with the fountain, sounds idyllic to me (which is why I wrote it). Plenty of the other locuses are pretty horrifying, however, and I think book three presents the worst.

I won't say too much, but we learn a lot about the nature of the Scrobblers in this book, and if you ever manage to make it through to Silbrica, you should definitely avoid their locus.

Q: If you could create your own portal at home - where would you want it to take you?

A: I like forests and mountains. If I could go there, maybe near a temple in the mountains of Yamanshi where I used to live, and there were no people around, I'd be happy.

Q: What are you writing now? What are your favourite escapes from your desk?

A: Right now I'm directing a production of Julius Caesar so my writing time is limited. Not sure what the next project will be. Depends on what happens with some material I wrote recently, and with a TV show I'm involved with which is in the early stages of development.

Right now, when I'm not writing or teaching, I like to work out BabyMetal riffs on my guitar...:)

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