Guest blog: Joseph Lidster’s ‘Next Big Thing’!

Last week I took part in the ‘Next Big Thing’ blog chain. One of the five fab writers I tagged doesn’t have his own blog, so I offered to host his response right here…

I’m pleased to welcome my first ever guest blogger – the lovely and talented Joseph Lidster. Joe’s work has included scripts for The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood on BBC TV, and audio dramas for Doctor Who, Dark Shadows, Sapphire and Steel, The Confessions of Dorian Gray… But what’s his Next Big Thing?

• What is the title of your new book?

My next big thing is a story in the new childrens’ television series Wizards Vs Aliens. It’s called Rebel Magic and it’s told over two episodes that are broadcast on 12 and 13 November.

• Where did the idea come from for the book?

Russell T Davies, Phil Ford, the other writers and myself had a big storyline meeting where we batted ideas back and forth. As the title suggests, the series is primarily about some Wizards versus some Aliens. It also tells the story of a 16-year-old boy who suddenly has to become a hero because of the events in the series. I was interested in that aspect really because it’s about growing up. Suddenly, Tom, the hero, can no longer use his magic to do homework or win at football – he has to use it to save his family. The series is also about the growing friendship between him and the school geek, Benny.

I thought it would be interesting to tell a story about Tom meeting a wizard who appears, on the surface, to be everything he wants to be. The wizard he meets, Jackson Hawke, is attractive, cool, more-grown-up and has no responsibilities. There’s a loneliness and darkness to Jackson, though, which means that his and Tom’s friendship soon becomes very destructive both for themselves and for everyone they know. The thing I really wanted to do was to show how easy it is to be tempted by something or someone that is wrong. You laugh at what Jackson and Tom do – and it’s important that the audience find it funny because it is funny – but then Benny points out that actually what they’re doing is bullying. It’s about blurring the lines, that you sometimes get in kids’ fiction, between good and evil and good guys and bullies and so on.

• What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose, technically, it’s science fiction meets fantasy. Is that science fantasy? As with a lot of my work, though, the science fiction elements are quite minimal. It’s probably best described as a coming-of-age story.

• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Obviously this question doesn’t apply so much to me. What I can say is that the cast are fantastic. Scott and Percelle who play the regulars, Tom and Benny, are both just amazing. Proper stars in the making. And Andy, who plays Jackson, is just stunning. He manages to be both fantastically likeable but also terrifying. The three of them on screen together are, if you’ll forgive the pun, magic.

• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Tom Clarke is about to discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s a BBC Wales/FreemantleMedia Enterprises co-production. And I’m represented by The Agency.

• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft of the script was handed in on 11 July 2011 and the shooting drafts were completed on 4 May 2012 although there were a few minor rewrites after that.

• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The series itself is a bit of Harry Potter, a bit of Doctor Who, a bit of The Sarah Jane Adventures… but it actually reminds me more of the spy adventure books I read as a kid. It’s a big exciting adventure series basically!

• Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was lucky to be asked to write for the show. What inspired me, as always, was telling a good, strong, character-based story.

• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think it’s so important that kids get good quality drama. At the moment we’ve Wolfblood, Young Dracula, Tracy Beaker and so on and I think Wizards Vs Aliens continues along those lines. It’s a fantastic set-up in which to tell stories that have a real heart to them. Plus it’s got Brian Blessed playing a big giant magic-eating alien.

• Which other writers would you like to tag to tell us about their Next Big Thing?

Simon Guerrier

Scott Handcock (also guest-blogging here!)

Thanks Joe! I’m hugely looking forward to your episodes. And I couldn’t agree more that good quality children’s television – like good quality children’s literature – is vitally important.

You can catch Wizards Vs Aliens on CBBC and the BBC iPlayer. The season opener – which went out this week – shows we’re in for a slick, funny, action-packed series. I loved it!

You can also check out four other great writers’ ‘Next Big Thing’ by following these links: Daniela SacerdotiLari DonPippa Goldschmidt:  Emily Dodd – and you can find my own post right here (or just scroll down!).

disclaimer: all the Wizards Vs Aliens shots above have been taken from the BBC website. Please don’t sue me!

The next big thing…

Last week, I was thrilled when Paul Magrs tagged me in his blog post as part of a chain of book and writer recommendations. This week the ‘Next Big Thing’ torch slips into my trembling fingers. Below, I’ll give you the answers to ten burning questions – regarding my most recent project – and then pass the torch on to five more writers I’m eager for you to meet…

Ok, so here goes…

• What is the title of your new book?

The Daemon Parallel

• Where did the idea come from for the book?

A very spooky dream, that I never quite forgot. I dreamt about a boy going on a quest through a dark and twisted city, and returning home to his grandmother – who didn’t seem that pleased to see him!

I started asking questions of the dream – about why the city was so strange, about why the boy had to live with his spooky gran, and what kept these characters bound together. I decided that the boy’s dad had died – and his granny had offered to bring his dad back to life. The whole mad story unfolded from there…

• What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a quirky fantasy adventure, set both in this world and an alternative version of it, for readers aged 10 to 100.

• What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Do you know, I think I’d prefer a TV series? I love the way telly can develop complex, twisting plots, and how you get to know characters over a greater span of time. (Not that I’d be uninterested in a movie adaption… Come back, Hollywood! Come back! I didn’t mean it!)

I’m struggling to think of age-accurate casting – these guys are late teens rather than early – but they have the right sort of look and style:

Thomas Knight (who played Luke in The Sarah Jane Adventures) would make a good smart-but-awkward Cameron.

And grunged-up Bobby Lockwood (Rhydian in CBBC’s Wolfblood) could be a very appropriate Morgan.

And as for spooky Grandma Ives? She’s absolutely Phyllida Law.

• What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A boy battles daemons – of all kinds – on a quest to bring his father back from the dead.

• Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s published by Floris, and I’m represented by Fraser Ross Associates.

• How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first complete draft took almost exactly a year – the revisions took longer!

• What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Reviews so far have drawn reference points to Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising), Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the work of Diana Wynne Jones – all of whom I’m delighted and thrilled to be compared to.

• Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In some ways fantasy fiction was a lifeline to me as a kid and teenager – as it often is to those who don’t entirely fit in to the mainstream, for one reason or another. I guess I wanted to give something back – to add my own voice to that ongoing fantastic tradition.

• What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think London is maybe a wee bit over-subscribed these days as a fantasy landscape – my novel’s set in Edinburgh, a marvellously grand and atmospheric city, that’s still ripe for new adventures.

It builds to its dark and chilly conclusion as the nights draw in, and the year ends – hopefully it could be ideal reading for some of you this winter…

That’s  it!

The writers I’d like to introduce to you – and who’ll tell you about their current or upcoming projects next week – are:

Daniela Sacerdoti: Dani’s first novel, Watch Over Me, was a runaway success on kindle this summer. She also writes for teens (the Sarah Midnight Trilogy) and children (you can read my review of Really Weird Removals.Com here).

Lari Don: Lari’s exciting and fabulous ‘Fabled Beasts’ adventure series has just reached a breathless conclusion with Maze Running.

Joseph Lidster: Joe was responsible for some standout scripts for both Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, and is currently writing for CBBC’s upcoming awesome-sounding Wizards Vs Aliens.

Pippa Goldschmidt: Pippa’s first novel Wider than the Sky was short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize, and will be published next year. I can’t wait to read it!

Emily Dodd: multi-talented Emily is a poet, scriptwriter, editor, performer… Her first book, Banana Me Beautiful gains a paperback release this Christmas.

Click everyone’s name to be taken to their blog. Joe is currently blog-less, so I’m pleased to be hosting his ‘Next Big Thing’ right here on So check back next week!

{update: credit where credit’s due. The Edinburgh image on the right was facebooked by Edinburgh City of Literature and is apparently the work of Scott Hutcheson. The one on the left is by me!}

Daniela Sacerdoti’s Really Weird reviewed

“The Really Weird Removals Company. Yes. RWR, for short. We are the one-stop shop for safe removal and/or rescue of any supernatural creature, from the humble fairy to the mighty troll…”

On a windy day on the island of Eilean, Luca and Valentina’s charismatic Uncle Alistair blows in. Their dad isn’t too pleased to see him – there are rumours he may have had something to do with the children’s grandparents mysteriously vanishing. That’s not the only secret Alistair carries: there’s something strange and semi-transparent lurking on his shoulder that only Luca and Valentina can see. And as for his business, the Really Weird Removal Company? People imagine Alistair removes household pests like rats and mice, but the truth is much, much weirder…

Before they know it, Valentina and Luca – who narrates this fast-paced, often funny story –are embroiled in many strange new adventures with their Uncle. They discover that all sorts of supernatural creatures – trolls, mermaids, selkies and stone fairies to name but a few – can get embroiled in the lives of humans; sometimes innocently, sometimes malevolently. Like a sort of Rentaghost-in-reverse, it’s the job of Really Weird Removals to sort these problems out, to disentangle the monsters, and try and find a happy solution for all concerned.

One of the strengths of Daniela’s writing is the breadth of her imagination. There’s mention made at one point of ‘The Secret Map of Scotland’, and it’s tempting to believe Daniela has actually plotted this atlas out, and invented a secret history and marvellous creature to conceal in every location. Each chapter of the novel opens with an extract from Alistair’s ‘Scottish Paranormal Database’ – some funny, some chilling – before leading us into the children’s latest encounter. These extracts feel like sketches for stories in miniature, and would be a gift for any budding young writer (or teacher) who’d like to spin their own adventures off from Really Weird Removals.Com’s starting point. (I was particularly drawn to the tale of singing troll, whose cries were apparently captured on a cameraphone in 2009, and so enjoyed a period of infamy as a ringtone in Scottish schools…). While individual monster-problems are often dealt with swiftly by our team of heroes, it is satisfying to discover there’s a bigger, character-driven plot brewing in the background, that lends this novel its emotional and entirely-fitting conclusion. This is not only a story about fabulous monsters – it’s also a story about families, and how they fit together.

Along with The Daemon Parallel and Alette J Willis’s How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People), Daniela’s novel was originally shortlisted for the 2011 Kelpies Prize. It’s been my privilege to get to know Daniela in recent months, and it’s a real pleasure to be able to say how much I enjoyed Really Weird Removals.Com.