Julia Golding joins us to explain why the Arthurian myths and legends provided such fantastic material for her heart-stopping new fantasy adventure trilogy, Young Knights
Strange and terrible things happen to humans who come in to contact with the Fey.
These are just a few of the options and—as traditional storytellers have realized—fantastic material for tales. And all of them happen at some point to the young characters in my new trilogy, Young Knights, starting this April with Young Knights of the Round Table.
I’m really excited to be back in fantasy territory as it was where I started as a writer with the Companions Quartet, my first series with OUP. In those books I set about reinterpreting mythical creatures to tell a story for the age of climate change. My animal-lover daughter was the initial audience and influenced the theme. Now I’m writing for my two boys so have headed into knight territory. The British literary inheritance I decided to ‘reboot’ is the collection of the Arthurian stories and folk tales of the Fey, with their wonderful mix of human politics, heroics and magic, but bring them bang up to date by confronting them in our modern age.
The process of writing the books really began with a question. In the many stories of changelings—Fey children left in the place of human babies—what happened to the human child who was taken?
The next question was what was the motive of the Fey to do this? It had to be more than mischief surely?
After lots of long country walks to think it through…
A strange woodland creature discovered on one of my walks
…I decided the answer was that the Fey had a political struggle going on in their world (Avalon) and used our world for their more troublesome exiles. Being sent to Earth was the equivalent of Stalin sending you to Siberia. To keep the particle balance between the realms, they had to take a child back or risk implosion of the space/time. These humans have been kept locked up in a prison camp being fed the lie that they had been thrown out by their parents and are about to be sent back on a mission.
The next gift of legend was the fact that life in the realm of the Fey runs much slower than here—in other words, you can time travel. As the Welsh story of Gitto Bach, the German Peter Claus the Goatherd, or American Rip Van Winkle attest, if you go to the land of the Fey or fall under their spell, you can find a hundred years have passed in what for you was an instant. I decided to set a standard time of one Fey year to a human hundred. This meant a boy taken from Anglo Saxon England would be thirteen now. Trained by the Fey as a secret agent to infiltrate our world, he is going to have some fun and games fitting in with modern teenagers. That leads to some intriguing comic possibilities.
And it also explains how Arthur can come back as promised us by the legend. If he has been in Avalon since around the fourth century, only sixteen years or so have passed. He may have been a bit bashed up in the final battle, but fully recovered he is just waiting for his summons. You could argue that he’s a little old maybe, but I take solace from the fact that David Beckham has just signed with Paris Saint-Germain at thirty-seven, so there’s hope for King Arthur yet!
Julia Golding is a multi-award winning writer for children and young adults. Former British diplomat and Oxfam policy adviser, she has now published over thirty books in genres ranging from historical adventure to fantasy. Read carefully and you’ll spot all sorts of material from her diplomatic and Oxfam careers popping up in unexpected places. She has a doctorate in English literature from Oxford. Studying for this prompted her to write her first novel, The Diamond of Drury Lane, set in 1790 and told by her intrepid heroine, Cat Royal. It went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2006 and the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize 2006 (formerly known as the Smarties Prize). In the US, Secret of the Sirens won the honor book medal of the Green Earth Book Award. Dragonfly won the 2012 Beehive Book Award, Young Adult Division, given by the Children’s Literature Association of Utah and voted on by readers in schools and public libraries. She is also a Fellow of the English Association. For Young Adults, she writes on the names Joss Stirling and Eve Edwards. Over half a million of her books have been sold worldwide in many languages.
Visit Julia’s website.
The first book in the Young Knights trilogy, Young Knights at the Round Table, is out in April.
The second book, Young Knights: Pendragon is out in October.