by Claire Main

#95, 28 May 2007

Interview with Julian H. Lewis

UK Bookselling

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Once more BookThink's intrepid UK interviewer ventures into the unknown, armed only with a deep knowledge of Indian curries and an affection for Indian elephants. As I pressed the doorbell, I wondered if this was indeed a house or a time machine? Was Julian H. Lewis himself from this time or another? Would I be transported back in time? Had he got any chocolate? As questions mounted, it was definitely time to get them answered. Julian opened the door dressed casually in English style. But was that sitar music I could hear?

BOOKTHINK: Julian where are you from?

LEWIS: I was born and bred in London, and that is where I still live - although I have moved about a bit over the years!

BOOKTHINK: So that explains the time travel. Tell us your latest news?

LEWIS: I am tremendously excited about the launch of my book - both Waterstones and WH Smith, the two largest book selling chains in the UK are really getting behind it and will promote it very heavily. It will be great to have my book on the children's shelves of these bookstores alongside the great J.K. Rowling and the latest and final Harry Potter book in July.

BOOKTHINK: Why and when did you begin writing?

LEWIS: I have always loved stories, and I have been telling stories - as opposed to writing them down - for very many years. Mainly to my children, but also to anyone else who would listen. I suppose I first started writing down stories when I found myself away on business. I wrote some short stories and faxed them to my kids. Then I moved on to longer stories, and eventually a book.

BOOKTHINK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

LEWIS: I don't know ... when does one become a writer? Perhaps it was when I was about 8 or 9 years old at school and when I handed in my (supposedly) factual account of "what I did in the summer holidays" - an account filled with such fantasy and tales that my teacher read the essay out to the entire class. I think he meant to shame me, but it only encouraged me to write more stories.

BOOKTHINK: What inspired you to write your first book?

LEWIS: As I said, we moved house quite a few times over the years. When we bought our current house, which was built about 80 or 90 years ago, we discovered an old abandoned chest in the corner of the attic. My children were very excited and we carefully carried it downstairs, hoping that it would contain something valuable - possibly treasure! Instead there were some old clothes and an invitation, carefully preserved, to an old fashioned ball in India in 1912.

BOOKTHINK: Who or what has influenced your writing?

LEWIS: I loved the books that I read when I was growing up - old fashioned adventure stories, stories of heroism, companionship and good-heartedness. I can't point to any particular author, but I think there is a whole genre of books written in those days that don't seem to exist any more.

BOOKTHINK: How did you come up with the title The Magic Lantern of Kimbustan?

LEWIS: The book features a magic lantern, so the first part was easy. For a long time I was going to call it simply that The Magic Lantern. Then we did a search on Google and Amazon and discovered a large number of books with "The Magic Lantern" in the title. So, we added "of Kimbustan" to make the title unique. Since Kimbustan is a made-up kingdom, it is unique to my book!

BOOKTHINK: What is the book about?

LEWIS: I wanted to write an old fashioned adventure story that would appeal to both children and their parents - a tale full of mystery and suspense, with a strong, compelling, fast moving plot and a raft of colourful characters. I wanted to create something bursting with interest, with big themes that would grab and hold the young reader's attention - love and death, excitement and peril, heroes and villains. I wanted to blend fantasy and reality in a way that would really grip the imagination. Imagine, long ago, the faraway kingdom of Kimbustan, near India - a land full of magic, some say. A realm of colour and character - jungles and mountains, castles and palaces, fortune-tellers and soldiers. A land of poverty and great wealth, ruled nominally by the Maharajah, but in practice by the British Raj. A place full of intrigue, conspiracy, suspicion and xenophobia. A place where, once upon a time, a young Scottish girl fell hopelessly and tragically in love with the heir to the Kimbustani throne; and fabulous treasure went unaccountably missing ... Now imagine two English children, years later, sent to live in a big, creepy old house in Scotland in a quiet, remote village where the locals dislike them and their new schoolteacher seems remarkably like a witch ... This is a book where children take the central roles, and certainly the two principal characters - twelve-year-old twins, Tim and Kelly - have all the attributes of traditional hero and heroine. But adults play a part too. The book touches on some darker themes - jealousy and unfaithfulness; deception and death; politics and betrayal. These themes feature in the book, but do not dominate. I have tried to treat them as sensitively as possible.

>>>>>Click here for page two>>>>

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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