Pollockmania might not yet have reached UK shores, but in France it is everywhere.
Across the Channel, young fans are eagerly awaiting the sixth and final book in the Oksa Pollock adventure series, desperate to find out what happens to their favourite magical heroine. Rights to the series, which is written by close friends Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf, have been sold in 27 languages, and next month Pushkin Press will publish the first title in the series, Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope, in English for the first time.
It tells the story of 13-year-old Oksa, who is brought to London from Paris by her family, alongside her beloved Baba (grandmother) Dragomira and best friend Gus. Once in London strange things start to happen—Oksa finds that she can produce fire from her hands, move objects with her mind, and fly.
The truth is soon revealed and Oksa discovers that her family is in fact supernatural royalty, forced to flee their magical homeland Edefia by the Occupants: she discovers she is Edefia’s Queen, and its last hope for peace.
Filled with fantastical creatures, evil magic and epic battles between good and evil, The Last Hope offers an adventure that rivals the Harry Potter books in scope, but for its authors the story is inspired by the magic of everyday life. Plichota explains: “One day we heard on the radio that the human eye only sees 5% of what actually exists . . . we heard that and we thought there are so many things that can be imagined for that [other] 95%—some very frightening, magical things.
“Both of us like to believe there is something else beside just ourselves; in daily life, if you want to, you can see magic everywhere, but only if you want to. The impossible can be possible because we all experience such amazing things that you couldn’t imagine happening before they happen.”
Oksa herself is brave and curious and in possession of major magical abilities, but she is also “weak too”, suggests Plichota. “I think that’s what makes her such a readable character for our fans. She is not perfect, and they like that she is an anti-hero. She can be brave but she has weakness too; she makes mistakes. Even though she is a great magician she is also very human, and I think sometimes readers forget she has magical powers as she looks like us and feels like us, and could be any of us.”
Starting off her magical journey in London, the pair chose England as the setting for Oksa’s adventure because it is a very “magical place. What we love in England is that when we are there we are foreign, but we don’t feel foreign,” Plichota says. “You are somewhere that is different but it’s very familiar as well. We love it there. The taste for fantasy and eccentricity is deeply inside English culture; there is a feeling that we don’t feel anywhere else. It’s a question of aesthetics and culture.”
A publishing fairytale
The publishing story behind the series is somewhat magical too. Having been rejected by numerous traditional publishers the pair decided to self-publish the series . . . but not online. They learnt how to print and promote the books themselves, giving them to libraries and even giving them away at school gates.
A rabid fanbase soon built up in France and after receiving letters from readers, French publisher XO Editions offered the two authors a deal. Film rights have now been sold to SND, a shareholder of Summit Entertainment (producer of the Twilight movies), and the Oksa Pollock adaptation is currently in pre-production.
“It is not a very conventional publishing story at all, but it is amazing that it has all happened,” Plichota says. “We are writing the sixth book now and it will be the last one because it really is time for Oksa’s adventures to end—but we so want to go back and write a prequel and look at what happened in Edefia before Oksa’s time and meet some of the older characters back when they were younger.
“The film is a great chance for the books, if it is well done, but for us it is not our priority because I think it can change your way of writing. So we try not to focus on it, or think about it, and maybe one day we’ll go to the cinema and watch Oska on the big screen.”
Rights sold 27 languages
Film rights sold SND, a shareholder of Summit Entertainment
Editor Stephanie Seegmuller
Translator Sue Rose
- 10 Questions: Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf
- Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf
- Peter May | "In France crime is regarded every bit as much as serious literature"
- Michelle Paver | "You can tell an almost mythic story and deal with the big issues- life, death, freedom, fate, free will"
- Mind the (Oksa) Pollocks