KOTBD author Dave Rudden talks about writing his debut, his favourite children’s books and whether he is afraid of the dark…
KOTBD has a brilliant first line… tell us about it.
‘Looking back, it had been a mistake to fill the orphanage with books.’
The first line of the book comes from two places. We’re living in a time when there are so many amazing children’s books being written. There’s a lot of choice out there. When I pick up a book I always skip to the first line. If it immediately hooks me, I’ll read the next, and the next and the next (which is why I get in trouble in bookshops.) I wanted my first line to make you want to read the next.
This is not a fantasy book that is particularly nice to children. Fantasy books give children notions – tells them they can be heroes. A lot of things don’t like that idea at all.
Is Denizen a real name? (Denizen in the name of the main character in KOTBD.)
Not if you ask Denizen. He’d tell you that people tend to have expectations of a kid with a strange name. He’d far prefer a common, forgettable name. Like Dave. You can hide as a Dave. There are millions of us.
How long did it take you to write Knights of the Borrowed Dark?
My first draft is what I call the kitchen-sink draft. I throw in every idea I can. I try out different concepts, experiment with dialogue, really let my imagination loose when it comes to creature and character design. This is the draft that takes the longest – it took me eight months to write KOTBD, and afterwards I was left with a mess. A mess I was very fond of, but a mess nonetheless.
Remember this if you want to write your own novel. It’s never perfect first try. My second draft of the book took two months – two months of cutting some scenes, expanding others, tweaking the plot and polishing the prose. That was the draft that my agent Clare accepted and together we worked on one more draft before it was picked up by Penguin.
That’s when the work really started. As of now, KOTBD has gone through twelve drafts, copy-edits, line-edits, minor polishes and proofs. This is normal for every book. You have to make sure every line, every word, is perfect. All in all, the process took about a year and a half from the first line to the last comma, and I’m delighted it’s finally going to be out in the world.
What were your favourite books when you were a child? And what do you like reading now?
At the minute I’m reading a lot of Marvel comics – Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is glorious. I bounce between science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and I reread at least one Terry Pratchett novel a month because it’s like coming home to an old friend.
As a kid I loved Harry Potter (who am I kidding, I’m still waiting for my letter) Artemis Fowl, the Tamora Pierce books and Lemony Snicket.
I loved a good scare. I grew up on Goosebumps, Spooksville and Point Horror. Roald Dahl was an obsession. I felt he talked to children like they were equals, as smart and sharp as any adult. My favourite book was The Witches. Even now it serves as an amazing lesson in terror and suspense – the doors closing, the witches kicking off their shoes… I can still see Quentin Blake’s illustration of the Grand High Witch’s worm-hollowed face… Argh.
All these books left me with two solid lessons.
1) The world is a terrifying place.
2) But not half as scary as a determined child.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m sorry – I had to look that phrase up in a dictionary. Free time. Free time. Right. Okay. Hmm. The thing about being a writer is that you’re constantly turning over ideas and stories in your head, trying out combinations of phrases or if you’re me, walking around Dublin with very loud rock music in your headphones thinking about fight scenes. It’s hard to switch off.
I do manage to distract myself occasionally though. I run, I play computer games and occasionally organise events for writers and poets to perform. I’m currently obsessed with two shows – Steven Universe and Gravity Falls – both utterly perfect in terms of character, world-building and plot. I would love to write something like them someday. *sounds of frantic scribbling*
What’s your favourite food?
Fajitas. I’m not very good at rolling them so I usually end up wearing most of them.
Are you afraid of the dark?
I’m frightened of what’s in it.
Knights of the Borrowed Dark is out on 7th April 2016.
Get a taster from the first part of this exciting new middle-grade trilogy. Watch a reading from KOTBD with Dave.