Alice M Ross has spent most of her career as a journalist at the Financial Times, where she was most recently Deputy News Editor. She is now writing fantasy, which involves a lot more magic! When she's not writing she can be found herding cats and small people at her home in London. The Nowhere Thief is her debut children's book.
The Nowhere Thief (Nosy Crow)
Alice M Ross's science fiction novel The Nowhere Thief takes us on a gripping adventure to other worlds, where 12-year-old Elsbeth carries out impossible thefts in order to help save her mother's antique shop back in our own world. Look out for family secrets, unlikely heroes and other worlds in The Nowhere Thief! Author Alice Ross tells us more about the themes from the book, and gives a short reading in this video:
Q&A with Alice M Ross
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what brought you into writing for children?
I'm a journalist so I've spent my career learning how to write better. But I always wanted to write fiction and finally I decided to take the plunge and write a better book, after writing one in my 20s that wasn't great! I just found myself writing fantasy one day and it just felt right, so I stuck with it! I loved fantasy as a child so it made sense. Signing the book deal was just amazing - I confess I burst into tears when I found out it was happening!
2. Have you read many children's books? Any favourite fantasies?
As a children's author I think you have to read a lot of children's books, partly so you know what's out there but more importantly because you love reading!
My favourite classic children's books from my childhood tend to be by Diana Wynne Jones: I absolutely loved The Lives of Christopher Chant, for example, and The Homeward Bounders, and I think there are elements of both those books in The Nowhere Thief.
3. What happens in your debut, The Nowhere Thief? How long did it take you to write?
The Nowhere Thief is about a 12 year old girl, Elsbeth, who can travel to parallel worlds that she calls 'Somewheres' and bring back objects with her that she tries to sell in the struggling antiques shop that she lives in with her Mum. But she realises that a strange boy, Idris, is following her through the Somewheres and freak weather events start happening whenever she travels, so she starts to ask herself whether her gift comes with a price!
4. What gave you the idea for a girl who can step between worlds?
I think the idea is definitely out there: travelling between alternate worlds is a classic idea for both children's books and fantasies generally. I knew I wanted to explore the possibilities in this idea and an antiques shop seemed like a cool way of doing it.
5. How did you go about creating this concept? Did you 'map' it?
I think I drew partly on my own ideas of travelling to other worlds like The Magician's Nephew - the forest that they go to and the pools they jump into to get to the other worlds have something in common with the kaleidoscope, at least in the concept of there being a place that isn't a world itself but sort of neutral.
I did end up drawing kaleidoscopes to visualise it better and in particular I had to remember which colour matched with which series of worlds, so sometimes I got the colouring pencils out too!
6. How did your main character, Elsbeth, develop?
I think characters usually get deeper and more complex as you write them and find out more about what their hopes and fears are. Elsbeth starts out a little unsure of herself at the beginning of the book then realises she is both a lot braver than she thought she was and even that she has the potential to herself be powerful, which scares her a bit.
7. What kinds of themes did you want to explore in The Nowhere Thief?
One of the main things I wanted to explore was what makes people do bad things, which I examine through the character of Racine. I didn't just want to make her a cartoon baddie but tried to think why she would have been so bitter and made decisions that to the outsider might seem evil, but to her made sense.
8. Other than a great adventure, what would you like your readers to take from Elsbeth's story?
Mostly I would like them to enjoy reading it for whatever reason! But it would be nice if it also helped them to read about other people feeling lonely or like they don't belong.
9. Do you plan to revisit Elsbeth's world? What are you writing currently?
I have a couple of ideas in mind - I definitely have more ideas for Elsbeth's world and I'm also working on something new, that still involves a boy travelling between different worlds, only this time he isn't able to control it himself, unlike Elsbeth.
10. What do you enjoy doing to relax when you're away from your desk?
I have two young kids that keep me busy! I also play the piano, have two cats, love going swimming and also do yoga and meditate.
More about Alice M Ross
i. If you could choose to visit any fantasy landscape, what would it be?
I think it would be so exciting to be in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials with all the daemons - that's such a vividly created world. I love the idea of having my own daemon and wonder what it would be.
ii. What has been your greatest adventure (in the real world!)?
In terms of classic adventure stuff, I have travelled quite a bit and have lived in five different countries, including three during my childhood so I was used to moving around - and also to being the outsider. I loved my trip to India when I was 23 - I rode camels, went to a rat temple, did a ten-day silent meditation retreat and stayed in an ashram for a month. I'd love to go back.
iii. What do you enjoy the most, and least, about being an author?
It's quite amazing that you can write things that come out of your head and other people want to read them - and you get paid for it! And more recently I have really been enjoying my school visits - I just love how engaged and enthusiastic the children are.
One of the trickier things is the solitude, which can be nice sometimes but it also means you need to work on creating your own community. As a journalist, being responsible for my own deadlines is also hard as years of relying on the adrenaline rush of knowing you have eg only an hour to finish your work before it goes to print has made it harder to work over longer periods of time!