The Spook's County
Joseph Delaney tells us more about his spooky children's books full of Lancashire folklore...
Joseph Delaney is the Lancashire-based author of the best-selling young fantasy series, The Wardstone Chronicles, tales full of ghosts, witches and boggarts...
As a child, Joseph lived in a house in Preston where he had a recurrent nightmare. In the dream he'd be sitting on a carpet in the front room whilst his mother was knitting. Then, everything would become cold and a shadow-thing would come up from the coal cellar, pick him up and carry him back towards the dark. What's even spookier is that his brothers had the same nightmare!
After leaving school, Joseph attended Lancaster University and then became a teacher before setting up the Media and Film Studies Department at Blackpool Sixth Form College, he retired after the second Spook’s book was published to write full time.
The Spook’s Apprentice was the first children’s novel he has written and is partly based on the experiences and memories he had as a child.
The Spook’s Apprentice has been given the green light to be made into a film. Rights to the film have been acquired by Warner Brothers and it has been provisionally scheduled for a 2009 release. The Spook’s Apprentice will be directed by Kevin Lima, who directed 2007's family movie Enchanted.
Joseph tells us more about his 'Spooks' series that has its roots firmly in the folklore and geography of Lancashire...
"The Wardstone Chronicles Series is set in the ‘County’. In truth, that County is Lancashire but the stories are not located within a specific historical context. This is a mythical Lancashire but one that should certainly be recognizable to natives of our region.
One of the most important locations is Chipenden where the Spook has his main house and spends the summer months training his apprentice, Tom Ward. This is based upon Chipping, a scenic place I often visited as a teenager to climb Parlick and other local fells. Sometimes coincidence plays a part in writing. I decided that the Spook and Tom would fast in order to prepare themselves to face their dangerous supernatural adversaries. However, to keep up their strength they allow themselves small portions of crumbly cheese. It was only much later that I discovered that Chipping is an important centre of the Lancashire cheese-making industry!
Book Two, ‘The Spook’s Curse’ is set in ‘Priestown’. This is in fact Preston, the town where I was born, attended school and worked for a while. The fictional ‘Priestown Cathedral’ is based upon St Walburge’s. The labyrinth beneath it and the evil Bane which lurks behind a silver gate are, of course, invented but I lived close to its tall steeple and went to the boys’ school next to the church.
The third book, ‘The Spook’s Secret’ is set up on Anglezarke Moor where the Spook has his ‘winter house’. I gave my first talk as a published writer in July 2004 at Anderton County Primary School. Whilst there, one of the pupils asked me if I’d ever feature their area of Lancashire. I was only too happy to oblige and ‘Babylon Lane‘, right next to the school is where the spook’s fictional brother has his locksmith’s shop. As it’s a mythical Lancashire I do modify locations if that best serves the interests of the narrative.
Book Four, ‘The Spook’s Battle’ is set within the Pendle District. For this story I did quite a lot of research reading accounts of the 1612 witch trials and also novels such as Robert Neill’s ‘Mist Over Pendle’. In the end I went my own way, inventing new witch clans and deciding that Malkin Tower would be a very formidable fortification indeed. Roger Nowell features in the book and Read Hall but you won’t find ‘Witch Dell’ or ‘Gore Rock’ - they sprang from my imagination.
In Book Five, ‘The Spook’s Mistake’, Tom goes north of Caster (Lancaster) to spend time seconded to another spook, Bill Arkwright who lives in a haunted mill close to the Preston to Kendal canal. Morecambe Bay features as well as Cartmel and the southern area of the Lake District. As I understand it Coniston was once part of Lancashire. The Spook’s County is reclaiming territory that has been lost! If you hail from Lancashire, one day the Spook will visit somewhere close to where you live!
In this book there is danger from water witches and other creatures that live in fresh water. Not only that the Fiend makes another appearance and Tom is in great danger.
I have three books published this year. The first is 'The Spook's Tale' which tells the story of Tom Ward's master, John Gregory, in his first encounters with the dark. It is part of the World Book Day publications and can be purchased with the £1 book tokens early in March. This year they are 'flip-overs' - you get two books in one. The other writer with me is Mark Walden with a story from the 'Hive Series'. I've recently read some of his earlier work and although a different genre than the one I work in they are exciting page-turners and I really enjoyed them.
In June, the next in the Wardstone Chronicles, 'The Spook's Sacrifice', will be out. It this book Mam returns and Tom leaves the County to travel to Greece, her homeland. There they face a powerful blood-thirsty goddess called the 'Ordeen'. I think it's one of the most action-packed books in the series and it is as dark as usual. Not everyone will survive that encounter.
'The Bestiary' should be out in October. I've almost finished it now and the illustrator, Julek Heller is now drawing the Witches Section.
At the moment I've started writing Spook's Seven (as yet untitled) and will also be writing another book in which Alice tells the story of the two years she spent being trained as a witch by Bony Lizzie.
So it looks like a busy year ahead!
Hope you all enjoy the books!"
Joseph Delaney, 16th January 2009
last updated: 16/01/2009 at 09:55
Have Your Say
Which places in Lancashire would provide good inspiration for a spooky tale?
LUV The Spook
Billy Boy Johnson
Heather Magnier-Ashton Age 12
Vincent, from Chambéry, France
Naomi Thomas 15
Stewart (adult fan)
Kelly and Tara
Wardstone chronicles fan...
peanut. BEST BOOKS EVER #1 FAN #1 FAN!!!!
hannah #1 fan
christopher williams age 10
saige hall age 14
bleddyn jones age 13
Rhidian howarth age 14
The real #1 fan
Susie Harrison, age 12
J. Delaney's #1 fan
Micah - Australian Fan
Paul and Miao