I want to thank A.J. Hartley for being a part of the March MG Madness and for stopping by to answer a few of my questions. Be sure to check out my review to learn more about A.J.’s MG book Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact.
Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright has spent his whole life in a tiny town in England. So when he is forced to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, he knows things will be different - but what he finds there is beyond even his wildest imaginings!Darwen discovers an enchanting world through the old mirror hanging in his closet - a world that holds as many dangers as it does wonders. Scrobblers on motorbikes with nets big enough to fit a human boy. Gnashers with no eyes, but monstrous mouths full of teeth. Flittercrakes with bat-like bodies and the faces of men. Along with his new friends Rich and Alexandra, Darwen becomes entangled in an adventure and a mystery that involves the safety of his entire school. They soon realize that the creatures are after something in our world - something that only human children possess.
Q. What three words best describe your MG novel Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact?
Suspenseful, mysterious adventure.
Q. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read your book…c’mon, really sell it!
It combines the thrills of fantasy with the real world issues of a misfit boy trying to find his way in a strange city.
Q. Now, using as many sentences as you’d like, could you tell us a bit more about Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact?
Darwen is a mixed race English boy transported to Atlanta, GA to live with his business-woman aunt and attend an exclusive private school where he utterly fails to fit in. But a chance encounter at a very strange shop leaves him with a mirror which, after sundown, becomes a portal into another world. That world is beautiful and strange...and full of monsters which want out. Darwen has to forge some uneasy alliance with his class mates to solve the mystery of the world beyond the mirrors and prevent what amounts to an invasion.
Q. Why Middle Grade Fiction…why did you choose to write MG fiction and what do you love best about reading and writing MG?
I have a 9 year old son. He was the immediate prompt for me to take a break from writing for adults, though in part that was simply because being with him allows me to remember what it was like to be that age, discovering books for the first time.
Q. Why do you think MG appeals to such a wide audience, from very young readers to adults like you and I?
Well, we were all kids, right? And I think that a lot of the things that drive middle grade books--the joys and anxieties and fears--never really leave us. I also think that children's books are in some ways freer to say "we are now leaving conventional reality: check your personal baggage at the door." I like that.
Q. What’s your current favorite MG book? Your favorite MG book of all time?
Hmmm... I'm currently enjoying Wildwood by Colin Maloy. Favorite of all time? Not sure. As a kid I loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe though I'm a big fan of the third Harry Potter book.
Q. If you could switch places with any MG character from any book, who would it be?
Darwen, of course :) A reluctant hero in a threatening but remarkable world? Yeah.
Q. Who’s your favorite MG villain…who do you just love to hate or hate to love?
I like my villains specific rather than abstract. I was always fascinated by the elegance of Narnia's White Witch and the curious detail of the Turkish delight, but I also like complex villains who think they are doing good, like Professor Umbridge in the later Harry Potter books who reminds me of Thatcher.
Q. In Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact your main character discovers another world through a mirror…what kind of world would you love to discover through a mirror?
So long as it is secret, I don't mind.
Q. If you were to create/bake aDarwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact cupcake, what flavor would it be, or what would it taste like, and what would you call your tasty masterpiece?
Ha! Something rich and chocolatey covered in sugar cogs and gears, and with a completely unexepected centre! I would call it The Unpredictable Confection.
Be sure to stop by the March MG Madness home post and enter the big month long giveaway to win a box of MG books and swag! You can earn extra entries in the big giveaway by answering a question whose answer can be found in the interview above...go HERE to enter.
British born writer A.J. Hartley got his first taste for archaeology touring sites in Greece and Rome as a child with his family. As an English major at Manchester University he took extra classes in Eqyptology and got a job working on a Bronze Age site just outside Jerusalem…
Since then, life has taken him to many places around the world, and though he always leaned more towards the literary than to the strictly historical, his fascination with the past has continued unabated.
He has an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University and is currently the Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As well as being a novelist and academic, he is a screenwriter, theatre director and dramaturg (and has a book explaining what that is). He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, and treats ordinary things like sport and food and beer with a reverence which borders on mania. He is married with a son, and lives in Charlotte.