Award-Winning Children's Writer,
Ex-Zombie and
Part-Time Superhero

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This is my "official" website where you can read all sorts of random stuff about me and I can pretend to be grown-up for a change.
Probably.

Princess of Dirt - Behind the Story



Illustration by Jayde Perkin

High fantasy isn’t a genre I’m normally attracted to – all those long, long books full of mages and magick and dwagons, with six pages of maps before you even get to the prologue. So when I came to write my fourth short story for Stew Magazine (though it’s ended up as the first to be published), I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. Could I create an entire fantasy world, compelling characters and an exciting plot in just 600 words?

This is the kind of challenge I love. Give me total creative freedom and I’ll fumble around for weeks, unable to decide what I should be focusing on. Give me a story with clearly defined limits, though, and I might have finished it within the day!

Although I hadn’t been reading many fantasy books, I had been watching Game of Thrones on TV a lot, and I’m sure some of that seeped into the story. I can also see elements from the sci-fi film Chronicle, as well as the constitutional changes to our own monarchy, which give royal daughters the same rights as sons to inherit the throne. It is this sense of historical injustice which drives the story forwards.

Magic is also important, and I’d been looking for a new angle to that usually seen in children’s fiction. Although I love the sense of wonder you get from many magical kids’ books, I decided to have none of that in Princess of Dirt – here is magic reduced to the worst kind of chore, “only fit for a woman.”

In some ways, it’s a risky story, and I’m grateful to Stew’s Editor for choosing to run it in the debut issue (thanks also to Jayde Perkin for her stunning illustration). I wanted the story’s ending to be sudden and operatic after the gradual build-up, and to stretch the reader’s sympathies to breaking point. Does the end justify the means? Read Princess of Dirt and let me know!

Nick.