Ian P Buckingham spent a decade in Berkhamsted where both of their children were born. Ashridge Forest was their playground and the castle of the Black Prince their favourite picnic spot. So it’s no surprise that the area we know and love has finally found fame in fiction even though most of us have yet to see the faerie folk or were-beasts he evokes in Legend of the Lost, his thrilling children’s fantasy adventure.
Q: You’re better known for writing management books. So why children’s fiction and why now?
A: Social media and the online world has many benefits. But it needs balance. Great stories and books are one of the ways we provide that balance in the lives of our kids. And as I spend so much time trying to help organisations and leaders, largely repairing bad habits, I wanted to tap into the magic of childhood and add to it, in some small way. Children’s authors like Blyton, Lewis and Tolkien have been very important to me and I wanted to create something in that heroic journey style.
Q: You’ve written a trilogy, of which this is the first. Did your own experience of parenting inspire these stories in some way?
A: Very much so. We used to travel to Cornwall from here a lot when they were little. It’s a long drive. This started a habit we persist with now, the story relay. One of us begins a tale by introducing a character and setting. We tell a few paragraphs then hand the story on and the next person takes the characters into new setting and challenges or introduces fresh characters. That’s how we came up with the original concept, the idea of the family of changeling children, the villains and the underlying eco-theme of a dark magical force disturbing the balance of nature.
Q: People will recognise some of the classic characters, like fairies, pirates and mermaids. But seldom have they been seen all together like this. Tell us more.
A: Well, some were inspired by the amazing walks in Ashridge. The famous mysterious wooden hut naturally became the home of the dark witch and during one of our walks we always used to stop at what became our fairy tree. In fact, many of the ancient forest trees have so much character that they inspired the homes and the sites where much of the action takes place. The rich animal life in our area had to be cast as well. So there are enchanted foxes, owls and deer
Q: And gypsy pirates on the Grand Union assisted by a mermaid with special powers?
A: >laughs< Yes. Haven’t you noticed that stretch just past the Rising Sun on the way to the Three Horseshoes? Many a magical character to be seen there if you look hard enough or the stretch from Northchurch to Tring.
Q: We are lucky to have so much on our doorstep, but you bring the Cornish coast to life as well. Does that continue throughout the trilogy?
A: Without wanting to drop any “spoilers”, Cornwall is also very special to the family but their magical journey, discovering unique powers and magical artefacts extends to Africa and the Americas in the other two books. This gave me a chance to introduce an ever more exotic range of characters, indigenous people and amazing wildlife. They all play a part in either assisting the changeling family on their quest or attempting to thwart them, depending on the side they have chosen.
Q; It struck me that the journey-theme would make for a cracking holiday read.
A: Hopefully. They were conceived on a series of journeys and it’s no coincidence that they echo the classic hero’s journey tales like the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings or the Narnia books. So they should keep young imaginations occupied for some time. It’s no coincidence that, like the Blyton’s books, the adventure starts on holiday too.
Q: So are the books just for kids?
A; CS Lewis, author of the Narnia books famously said:
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
Remember when Harry Potter first came out and the publisher issued “adult” covers for some, for fear people would be ashamed to be seen reading them? Well, the designer has done a great job with the cover of Legend of the Lost, but I think we’re all a bit more open about our love for things like children’s books, comics and even games, these days. Even Disney realise that they have to cater for the adults too. I wanted to write something that was just as entertaining for adults to read with and to their kids as it is for the children to want to dive into on their own. For me, reading with your kids is a real privilege and one of the treats of parenting. It sadly doesn’t last forever as school and peer pressure takes over and the ipads and teen channels soon kick in with the seemingly relentless commercialism. But if I can play a tiny part in keeping the magic alive for a bit longer, then that will be an important achievement, I guess. And if it helps more people to appreciate this lovely part of the world where it’s a privilege to raise kids, all the better.
If you want to be among the first to get your hands on this locally-set adventure story, the first edition of Legend of the Lost is available online now, direct from Book Guild, the UK publisher. It is also available to order now via the leading online stores. The official release date on Amazon is August 28 at which point it will also be on sale in key stores and stockists. Ian will be releasing dates of signings and other appearances on the website dedicated to the trilogy.