As fall ushers in the magic of the holiday season and watching leaves turn to gold, I can think of no better time to introduce M P Hedley; author of a newly released fantasy action/adventure novel The Lost Story: The Scroll of Remembrance. In addition to writing tales of enchantment, he enjoys piecing together a living as an editor and local director for Westminster Theological Centre’s degree courses in the east of the UK, where he lives with his wife and two young children.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Well, I’m not too good at sticking to any one thing so I tend to circulate around a number of endeavours: I play and write music, I draw, I’ve dabbled in animation, anything to satisfy the creative urge. I love the simple pleasure of starting with a blank page and ending up with something that has its own life. Otherwise, I read a lot, watch a little too much TV, I love to get out into the countryside, and I try and spend as much time as I can with my family. It’s hectic, but fun!
What can you tell us about your book?
The Lost Story: The Scroll of Remembrance follows thirteen year-old Barnabas Brown as he finds the Forgotten World – a place you can only find if you remember to look for it – and is sent on a quest to recover the Great Story, which once inspired people to lives of adventure but has long since been lost. To do this, he must find the Scroll of Remembrance, which will tell him how to reach the Silver King, who had first told the story. And he must do it before the evil Dark Prince, aided by his servant the Druid, returns to rule the Forgotten World.
At its heart, it’s a story about the importance of adventure and friendship, as well as overcoming fear and doubt, and hopefully there’s a fair few giggles along the way! Although it’s written for older children and young adults, so far it’s been very well received by all ages – and in fact, I’ve probably had more adults come back to me asking eagerly for the second book!
It can be purchased from:
Is it part of a larger series, or do you have other projects in the works?
The Scroll of Remembrance is the first part in The Lost Story series, which will take Barnabas through to the end of his Forgotten World adventures. It’s likely to be a five-part series in total, and I have ideas for related short stories, so I’ll be living in the Forgotten World for some time to come! I’m currently working on book 2, but I do also have other projects on the go – perhaps the one I’m most excited about at the moment is being a regular contributor to LitBits on the Alderway Publishing blog (writing stories in less than 500 words). That’s great fun!
Which character do you identify with the most from your story, and why?
I guess there’s a little bit of me in most of the characters, but there is a lot of me in Barnabas. Our backgrounds are different, but he shares my inadequate balance between loving adventures and being too anxious to undertake them – and he gets to do all the things I like to think I’d be brave enough do in his position! Hemlock and Winfell are both aspirational characters for me – they depict a lot of the characteristics I look up to and would love to emulate.
If you were able to go to the Forgotten World, what adventures or quest do you think you might have?
Now that’s a question! Adventures in the Forgotten World are given to draw out the purpose of the adventurer, so I’d really love Barnabas’ quest to tell a story that changes the world! But since that one’s been taken, I think I would be sent to discover insights and wisdom, which need to be returned to the town of Ramshackle. So long as I could spend at least one day in the River Man’s house, I’d be delighted!
Where do you get your inspiration?
It’s a well-worn cliché, but anywhere and everywhere. I’m a firm believer that anything can be exaggerated into a great story. The Forgotten World is made up from lots of small, real places that I’ve exaggerated into this whole world; the Scroll of Remembrance narrative was sparked into life by a random conversation with a friend while out hiking. But I can also read strong elements of day-to-day life, my faith, my past experience, and what’s happening in the world today, all influencing my writing.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Like a lot of writers, I’m excited by good writing before any specific genre, so I’ll give most things a go. I wouldn’t be a writer if I hadn’t read David Almond’s Skellig or J K Rowling, but then I wouldn’t be a reader if I hadn’t read The Wind in the Willows and Roald Dahl. The best book I’ve read in many years is The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and for my money, Philip Roth is probably the best writer alive today. But then, perhaps it’s the authors I return to that really count, and right now, that would be Arthur Conan Doyle and Henning Mankell – both crime writers, and both master storytellers. And that’s really what I hunger for … absorbing storytelling.
What’s something about you that not many people know?
Ah, asking for my secrets, huh?! Well, something trivial would be that I have a scar on my left shin from when I tried to hurdle a bench when I was 17 to impress a girl (it didn’t work). Perhaps something more purposeful, that only my friends know, is that I think best out loud and can regularly be found walking through fields near my home, reciting material for books or talks I’m working on!
When did you know you were a writer?
When I was a kid I would make books by folding sheets of paper and I’d fill them with stories I’d made up about my favourite TV characters. I even illustrated them! But as I grew up I got more into writing music and stories fell by the wayside – it was only when I was at university and I took a ‘writing for children’ module that I rediscovered my love for creating characters and crafting narrative. That was ten years ago, and I’ve become more committed to it every day since then, so that it’s now an inseparable part of my identity.
What would be your ideal writer’s retreat?
I’m very fortunate in that I already have access to my ideal retreat, which is a small cottage on the banks of a river in the Norfolk Broads region of the UK. I go there a few times a year, usually for a day, sometimes longer, to escape all other distractions and write. There’s no internet, no TV, no radio, just the sound of the river flowing by, the inspiring scenery, my pen and me. Bliss.
What advice would you give for writers just starting out?
The most important thing I’ve learned so far is the value of giving myself permission to write rubbish – indeed, sometimes, I intentionally write rubbish! The freedom this gives me as a writer in priceless. It helps me overcome the fear and sting of writer’s block, helps me let go of the burden of always writing bestseller material, arms me against the inner demons that insist I’m not good enough. And, just occasionally, it inadvertently unlocks something hidden away and sparks my writing into life. The most fun I’ve had as a writer has almost always come from sitting in front of a blank page with no ideas or inspiration and starting: ‘Well, I’ve got nothing to say today, but …’ Try it – it’s liberating!
Where can readers connect with you?
Isn’t it fantastic that the advances in social media mean that the dividing line between readers and writers is now so blurred! I’m on Twitter (@freddyhedley)I occasionally post to my blog (mphedley.blogspot.com), as well as the Alderway Publishing blog (alderwaypublishing.blogspot.com), and I’m newly on GoodReads (goodreads.com/mphedley). Find me – I’d love to connect!