A brand new book for children, ‘The Twistrose Key’ will be published this week, written by Tone Almhjell, inspired by her gerbil! It’s a brilliant fantasy book for children aged 7+, from a new Norwegian author, and you’ll have the chance to win a copy in a few days time to fill your children’s bookcase with Tidy Book’s book review and competition.
Meanwhile, read on to discover more about Tone Almjhell and whether she thinks Voldemort is scarier than Sauron: The 9 year old and I got to ask Tone a few questions!
TB Blog: Hi Tone, we’re were delighted to have your book to read, and looking forward to hearing more about you and The Twistrose Key. My son R aged 9, a big fantasy story fan and I enjoyed the book and we’ve written the questions together. Thanks very much for taking the time to answer our questions!
Tone A: Oh, I am the one who should be doing the thanking! Especially I want to thank you, R. Did you know you were the first 9 year old reader I’ve had the privilege to hear from? It is a true honour, and it makes me very happy to know you liked The Twistrose Key.
TB: Why do you write fantasy stories rather than realistic stories?
Tone A: Ever since I was a small child, I have always preferred fantasy stories over all others. I wanted campfires and trolls and terrible danger, and I longed to be a hero. When I started The Twistrose Key, I wanted to write the kind of story I would have fallen in love with when I was eleven. So fantasy it is!
TB: What part of The Twistrose Key did you enjoy writing the most and why?
Tone A: I think the big reveals. When you’ve been spinning threads for a long time, it is very satisfying to tie them all together. And I enjoyed the very final chapter, too, because both Lin and I were both so weary at that point, and it felt wonderful to put everything to rest.
TB: Why did you choose a rodent to be your hero Petling (Rufus)?
Tone A: I started writing The Twistrose Key shortly after my little gerbil died. She was great – she used to climb onto my foot and tug at my trousers when she wanted me to lift her up on the sofa – I was her very own human lift! I missed her and her feisty ways, so I wrote a new beginning for her. Later this gerbil turned into Rufus the redback vole, who added a whole new layer to the story with his mountain background and his pockets.
TB: Is Lin anything like you, or one of your family members
Tone A: She is indeed! Lin Rosenquist was originally my sister, Line. Later I would say she became more and more like me. For instance, I might have to take responsibility for that slightly defiant streak. In fact, almost all the characters and landscapes in this book have a counterpart in real life. Even Figenskar, who was inspired by one of three abandoned kittens my husband rescued from the rime covered garden one very cold Christmas Eve. My mother adopted him, and he lived a very happy and comfortable cat life. But what if he hadn’t been rescued that day?
TB: Why do you think many fantasy books are set in snowy landscapes?
Tone A: I suppose that sometimes snow is chosen for its “otherness.” In most parts of the world, snow is rare and exotic, and so it works as a backdrop for dramatic, other-worldly stories. But in the case of The Twistrose Key, it was more about familiarity and home. In Norway it’s snowy for many months a year. Also, The Twistrose Key started out as an advent calendar – 24 pages glued into a scrapbook for my sister. Here in the north, Christmas and snow go together. And of course – snow is very beautiful.
TB: Will Lin and her family return to live at Summerhill again?
Tone A: I’m sorry I can’t tell you that. But I can ask you – what do you think and what do you hope for? Your wish is as important as mine now.
TB: Who is the illustrator of The Twistrose Key? (Love the maps!)
Tone A: His name is Ian Schoenherr, and he lives in New York. I absolutely adore the maps, too! They make you feel as if you’re a starfalcon, flying in over the landscape. Some of the illustrations were made after Ian had studied scenes from my childhood in Norway: the old town of Trondheim, the valley of Sunndalen. I think he did a lovely job.
TB: Who would you prefer to have on your side: Lyra from Northern Lights (Philip Pullman) or Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)
Tone A: Let’s see, those two are both similar and very different at the same time. They’re both smart, and they both know how to sneak around, which is good in a pinch. But Lyra is very rarely afraid, and she does brave things because it’s the right thing to do, while Bilbo is quite often afraid, and he does clever things out of necessity. And I would want someone who would complement my own strengths and weaknesses, right? I suspect I might be more afraid than brave in those situations, so I choose Lyra.
TB: Who do you think is the scariest villain, Sauron from Lord of the Rings or Voldemort from Harry Potter?
Tone A: I will have to pick Sauron here. Not just because I read The Lord of the Rings when I was eleven, and dear me, he was terrifying. But also because I so often felt that Frodo couldn’t win, that Sauron was too strong. But I never doubted Harry for one second, not even when he faced Voldemort in the woods. Harry is the strongest hero I know.
TB: Apart from Lord of the Rings, what else did you enjoy reading as a child?
Tone A:I loved fairy tales of all kinds, especially the ones from the northern region of Norway, which were full of ghosts and trolls and magical fish, and even a dragon. And I devoured everything I could find that tasted even just a little bit of fantasy or great heroes. Watership Down, The Three Musketeers, Greek myths and Arthurian legends.
TB: Did you play the troll hunting games when you were young?
Tone A: No, I am very sad to say. Why didn’t I think of it then? I would have loved it! I did, however, fight many a grim battle against the Viking ghosts in the grave barrows near my house, and I also knew how to turn back the undead monks that lived under the flagstones outside the church (the secret, if you ever need it, is tiny bells and children’s rhymes.)
TB: Do you still climb on the roof?
Tone A:These days there is very little roof climbing going on in my life. But the next best thing for adventures was always reading books, and I do a lot of that.
TB: Are there any other Norwegian or Swedish writers for kids that we should look out for?
Tone A: I know you will already have heard of Astrid Lindgren, because Pippi is very famous around the world. But have you read her fantasy books? Ronia the Robber’s Daughter and The Brothers Lionheart are fantastic, some of my favorite books ever. In fact, they need to go on the list above of things I loved to read as a child.
TB: Now for some quick fire questions: If you had to choose between:
1. Chocolate or Chips? Chocolate!
2. Sun or Snow? Snow.
3. Cat or Dog? Cat… But I love all animals.
TB: What else are you planning to do today apart from answering our questions?
Tone A: I’m rather sure I’ll be writing. I share an office with my sister, so we’ll be having coffee and cinnamon buns for lunch. And in the afternoon, I’ll try (in vain) to tidy the house after the kids and cats have played pirates or superheroes or bandits in the forest. Do you ever wish your mess would come alive in a musical number and tidy itself up, like in a Disney movie? I wish for that alarmingly often J
TB: Will there be a sequel to The Twistrose Key?
Tone A: No, I’m not planning on a sequel. Lin’s story came to a rest where it should – I think she’s earned that. But there may be more from the Realms of Dream and Thorn in the future (maybe in my next book or maybe in three books from now), and for that you’ll just have to wait and see…
TB: What else are you working on?
Tone A: I’m writing another novel which will also be published by Little, Brown in the UK. I can’t tell you yet what it’s about, but like The Twistrose Key, it will be for middle grade readers (and anyone who remembers their inner ten-year-old), and I promise you there will be magic.
TB: Thank you very much Tone and we’re looking forward to hearing more about you and The Twistrose Key!
Tone A: Thank you again, and I hope we get to chat again soon! In the meantime, if you would like to read more about The Twistrose Key or read a little sneak preview from the book, visit the Little Brown Young Readers site: http://www.lbkids.co.uk/the-twistrose-key-read-an-extract/
Much love, Tone
Thanks to Little, Brown Kids in the UK for setting up Tidy Books’ interview with Tone Almhjell. The Twistrose Key is published Oct 15th 2013 by Little, Brown UK