A raven with something to crow about

A raven with something to crow about

<p><strong>Marcus Sedgwick Flood and Fang: Raven Mysteries Book 1 (Orion Children&#39;s Books, March, hb, &pound;7.99, 9781842556924)</strong><br />Best known for his teenage novels, Marcus Sedgwick has now turned his hand to a much younger audience with a new series, Raven Mysteries, aimed at readers aged eight and over. Castle Otherhand is home to the Otherhand family and their guardian, a cantankerous old raven called Edgar who narrates the story. In the first book of the series, Flood and Fang, the castle comes under attack from a strange creature that has found its way into the cellars. The castle, which has a life of its own, reacts by sealing all its doors and windows to drown the creature but in doing so, threatens the family and its retinue. It is up to Edgar to solve the riddle and save the Otherhands.<br />Subsequent books will also have a mystery that needs to be solved and, during the course of the six planned books, Sedgwick will gradually reveal the mystery at the heart of the series&mdash;the missing fortune of the Otherhand family.</p><p>Sedgwick, whose days are spent as the UK sales manager for Orion rival Walker Books, began to write the Raven Mysteries after a two-month period of feeling &quot;very gloomy&quot; about his writing. &quot;I had reached the point where I couldn&#39;t see the wood for the trees and was worrying too much about the process and the marketplace and not enough about the writing,&quot; he says. &quot;Then I realised that you write because you enjoy it and for no other reason.<br /><br /><strong>An urge to do different things</strong><br />&quot;So far I have had nine books for teenagers published with another due next year, and as much as I love writing for teenagers, I want to do more and different things. I&#39;m famous for being a gloom merchant and for writing dark and serious books (not that I think that they are as dark or as serious as other people seem to . . .) but I do have a sense of humour and I thought it would be fun to explore it and go younger.</p><p>&quot;When I wrote the first book it was a wonderful feeling, it was short and light-hearted and very different from anything I had written before and was perfect for cheering me up. It&#39;s refreshing writing for younger readers because you can hold the whole plot in your head and concentrate on the style.</p><p>&quot;I suppose that Edgar, the narrator, is me, or one part of my character. He always means well but he&#39;s -slightly gloomy about things. I think that lots of people feel slightly gloomy about life and so I exaggerated that and put it into a feathery form.</p><p>&quot;However, I&#39;m not really into animal books and animals that talk, and Edgar never talks aloud. Everything you hear is happening in his head. The whole idea for Edgar started a few years ago when I heard this line in my head, &#39;I suppose I have fleas again.&#39; That was when I thought about writing a book narrated by a flea-bitten raven. I would have been too frightened to suggest it before now, I am sure that it would have been turned down.</p><p>&quot;For children, these books are about having fun and feeling more powerful. All the adults in the series are hugely incompetent and it&#39;s nice for children to feel that they are more in control of their world than the adults like to think. </p><p>&quot;I&#39;m not sure, though, if it was it easier to write for a younger audience. It was different, and easier in the sense that it was shorter, but it is still daunting to write a book of any description. It&#39;s very hard to write a book, even a bad book.</p><p>&quot;I suppose the hardest thing about it was the humour. You can&#39;t really plan it other than the odd set piece. You just come up with funny things as you write. The other different thing about creating this book was the illustrations and seeing someone else bringing to life a whole different dimension of the book. The illustrations will run throughout the book and I haven&#39;t seen them all yet but what I have seen so far are spot-on, very commercial but with a lightly odd edge to them. They need to look sophisticated so that they will appeal even to older readers. </p><p>&quot;I have finished two of the books now and am starting on the third. I know what happens in all six books&mdash;this one is about a monster, the next will be about a ghost, then bad luck, and one will have a vampire. During each book, the overriding theme of the Otherhands&#39; missing treasure will become more critical as the family becomes more poverty-stricken.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m really lucky that I am the kind of writer who can write really quickly and even if I had all the time in the world, I wouldn&#39;t want to be writing 500 words a day. Because of my day job at Walker Books, I have to work in bursts so I write every other weekend. When I sit down to write after 12 days, I am really keen and I have worked out where I am going. I can do a hideous amount of words in a weekend. My job also means I know what is being written&mdash;although that can also mean you worry about what else is out there.&quot;<br /></p>