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What’s new at Vertebrate? February 2018

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Reissued this month with an all-new cover, Arrowhead, the third novel by award-winning children’s author Ruth Eastham, awakens an ancient Viking curse, from which Jack and his friends must save the world. Weaving aspects of Norse mythology with race-against-the-clock tension, the modern world is turned on its head as Ruth draws you in to a thrilling emotional journey. We caught up with her to talk about plot and character construction.  

What was the inspiration for Arrowhead, have you always had an interest in Viking history?
Several ingredients were the inspiration for Arrowhead. One was a visit to the atmospheric Lindisfarne in Northumberland, the site of that notorious raid that kicked off the Viking Era. The other inspiration was when I read an article about a 5,000 year old man, Otzi, found in a melting glacier in the Alps, northern Italy. It’s a fascinating cold case murder story (!) and I was lucky enough to be able to visit the body. That got me thinking … If a 5,000 year-old body can be preserved in a glacier, what if …? What if the body of a young Viking was found, trapped for 1,000 years in the ice cave of a glacier? And then … How did he become trapped? What if his last act as he was dying was to carve runes in the ice, runes warning of some terrible danger? The rest, as they say, is history!

Your books always include a throwback to the past, do you enjoy the blend of ancient and contemporary or modernising well-known stories and retelling them anew?
My daughter thinks history is boring - but I keep telling her, it’s because she’s not being taught it in an inspiring way! History is part of us, and I find it fascinating to think about following the branches of my family tree further and further back in time and think about how my ancestors might have lived, and what it was like to be them. I enjoy exploring well-known stories from the past, and then thinking about how I can re-tell them with a twist.

You’re often praised for the believability of your characters. What advice can you give to budding authors struggling to bring their characters to life?
Thank you for saying so! Well, for me, the voice of a character has to be authentic, and distinct from the other voices in the story, as this marks out their personality. And – very important – your characters have to have flaws and failings, to make them believably human. But we need to like them too, and root for them, despite their sometimes getting things wrong, and they have to be pro-active and making decisions. And as for antagonists – even they have to have redeeming features!

The protagonists in your books have all been boys so far. Was this a conscious decision and do you think you might make a girl the central character in your next book?
In fact a recent book of mine, an illustrated short novel called The Moonlight Hare, has a girl as a main character! I really like the dynamics of the two boys and a girl trio. Actually all my books, without exception, have strong female characters vital to the plot, who are all very much major driving forces in the story. Lia in The Memory Cage, Sasha in The Messenger Bird, Emma in Arrowhead, Yara in The Jaguar Trials, and Emmi in The Warrior in the Mist

What do you imagine happened to Jack and his friends after the final pages? Could they go back to living normal lives after such dramatic adventure?
Ah, well, that is for the reader to decide! I don’t think you could entirely go back to a normal life after being chased by murderous classmates, together with a blood-thirsty, resurrected Viking warrior, do you?! Tough things have happened to the characters, but I hope the ending is satisfying and meaningful for the reader, if not a total happily ever after.

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