Angie Sage

Angie Sage

About Author

Angie Sage was born in London and grew up in the Thames Valley, London and Kent. She went to school in Tonbridge and to Art School in Leicester where she did a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design and Illustration.

When she left college she started illustrating books and then progressed to writing, first toddler books and later chapter books and now, Septimus Heap.

She has two daughters, both grown up now, and lives in a house overlooking a creek in Cornwall. When she gets the chance, she loves sailing her boat, Muriel (who is just the same as The Muriel in Septimus), and all things to do with the sea.

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Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series, about a boy who grows up to be an 'ExtraOrdinary Wizard', has engaged a huge and loyal following so it's wonderful to see the spin-off TodHunter Moon trilogy emerging for readers aged nine years plus, and not forgetting older fans of Sage's writing.

Children won't need to have read the Septimus Heap books to enjoy the TodHunter Moon adventures - although they might be encouraged to do just that once they read these new stories!

The TodHunter Moon adventures follow Alice TodHunter Moon (known as 'Tod'), who is a PathFinder. In the first book, PathFinder, we meet the villainous Oraton-Marr who will stop at nothing to steal the magical Egg of Orm to increase his own powers. In SandRider, the second TodHunter Moon book, Tod and her PathFinder friends attempt to retrieve the Egg of Orm and they travel to distant countries through the 'Ancient Ways' - 'magykal' pathways that criss-cross the world - as they try to discover its whereabouts.

We were thrilled to speak to ANGIE SAGE about her TodHunter Moon trilogy and we put the following questions to her:

Q: Does Tod, the main character in the TodHunter Moon books, appear in the original Septimus Heap series?

A: Yes, but only briefly. Tod first appears right at the end of the last book, Fyre, when she looks out of her window and sees the dragon boat flying across the sky.

I had had this image of a little girl in an attic, awake and worried because there was something wrong at home, and she looks up through the window and sees this amazing sight and it sparks a longing in her for something she may do one day - it gives her a feeling of hope, of possibilities.

I didn't say a lot about her at the time but I wanted to have her there so that Septimus readers would pick up on her in the new book, PathFinder; I like to lay these little clues for readers.

Tod is a PathFinder. The PathFinders live in a fishing village by the sea but I hadn't explored that community and I was looking forward to travelling through their world. I knew at that stage that I'd write about Tod but that I would also go back to the world of Septimus Heap, seven years later, to see what all the characters are doing.

Q: How hard was it to focus on a completely new set of characters when the old ones are still there in the story?

A: It was a very different process writing about these new characters and I had to stop myself from getting tied up with the older characters like Marcia and Septimus; I had to remember we were here on a journey with Tod.

Q: What was it like writing a girl main character, rather than writing about a boy, Septimus?

A: I had decided I wanted to have a girl rather than a boy as the main character in PathFinder although there are so many different characters that the PathFinder books, like the earlier Septimus Heap books, are gender neutral.

I want both boys and girls to enjoy the stories and the characters' actions are never driven by the fact that they are male or female. Tod is a tough, tomboyish girl and her name could be that of a girl or a boy.

Children's fiction seems to be so polarised these days and I have tried to avoid doing so in my books. There is actually a huge overlap between what boys and girls enjoy but we seem to have forgotten that and we have created this huge, entrenched divide between the two. The sooner we can undo that, the better.

Q: Can you explain the special navigational skills of the PathFinders?

A: The PathFinders are able to navigate the 'Ancient Ways', a series of pathways that cross the Earth so you can travel from place to place very quickly. We learn that the PathFinders have these navigational skills from a time when they were sent to space hundreds of years before.

Remember that the world of Septimus Heap is set 10,000 or 12,000 years in the future. I suggest that, by then, something would have happened on Earth to have diminished our population massively so there wouldn't be a lot of knowledge about. You get these odd technologies like the Ancient Ways and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. All we know is that it must have been a technically advanced people who came before.

I've laid lots of clues about this in earlier books but in the PathFinder books, I make it a bit clearer.

Q: As well as their navigational skills, some PathFinders can also breathe underwater. Which of these skills would you have, if you could?

A: I think if I could have one of their skills it would be to breathe underwater. I think it would be amazing to walk into the sea and to just keep going, there's so much to explore underwater that we just don't have access to. I'd be fascinated and it would be amazing to be free in that environment; like flying but better because there would be so much to see.

Q: There is a multitude of wonderful 'baddies' in these stories - do you have a favourite?

A: Ah, the bad guys multiplied while I was writing. I think I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Aunt Mitza and the Lady, who manages things for Oraton-Marr and who is his sister.

Aunt Mitza, who is Tod's step aunt, is particularly unpleasant because she is family; she's a real snake in the grass and she gets worse as the books goes on. I liked how subservient she is to the Lady but you discover that she's also really vicious. So I had great fun giving her some just deserts at the end of the book.

The lead bad character, Oraton-Marr, gets a bit silly because he is so vain. I wanted to show that while you can laugh at bad people it's easy to forget that they are still awful; he may seem ridiculous but he's really vicious. However silly he looks, he's a nasty bully.

I'm taking the baddies all the way through to the end; they don't come off terribly well....

Q: Can you tell us what to expect from the third book in the trilogy?

A: The third book is called StarChaser and it begins with the problems that have been caused by removing the Orm Egg from the 'Heart of the Ways', which has had a huge knock-on effect on the rest of the world. They must find a way to restore the enchantment.

Removing the Orm Egg from its natural home has been a disaster and I wanted to reflect on how we can't just go on taking things from the Earth without expecting any consequences. I was thinking about the environment and how people wreck it for their own ends. Sometimes that can trigger a series of events that that we couldn't have predicted.

Q: The plot is multi-layered and sophisticated, yet you write it with very short chapters. Why do you do that?

A: I use very short chapters because I am writing for the kind of fidgety child who will be looking around while the story is going on and who needs the extra excitement to pull them in to the story.

But while I'm focusing on a fidgety little kid, I also have an older audience, those young adult or adult readers who have followed the Septimus books through and who are still reading the series. For these older readers, there has to be some emotional depth and back story to the characters, but I also have to support the fidgety child, so it's a wide audience to write for.

Q: You've planned the TodHunter Moon books to be a trilogy, but will you write more Septimus Heap books after the trilogy is completed?

A: I do want to continue writing about the world of Septimus Heap but I think this trilogy marks the end of the big series for that world.

I think when I do write about the Septimus world again, it will probably be the back stories about characters like Jenna and Septimus, and they will be aimed at older readers who want to know who ends up with whom. I'm still finding my way with that idea and I have begun a short story which I may put online. I also have more futuristic ideas I'm thinking about.

Q: Where do you do your writing?

A: I write at home. It's a lovely old house but it is a bit cold so I'll sit in front of whatever fire is lit with my laptop and I'll write.





APRIL 2013

In Fyre, Septimus Heap and his friends must unite against the Darke Wizards who threaten to destroy the Chamber of Fyre, once and for all. This is the final adventure in the Septimus series and author Angie Sage tells us more!

Q: How did you feel about coming to the end of Septimus Heap books?

A: I felt both happy and sad. When I started writing the first book I had no idea that I would go on to write seven books in the series and that the world would turn out to be so complex and with so many characters. But it's also quite nice to know that I have got to the end and to know what all the characters are doing and to feel they have all got to the place where they needed to be. I really didn't know where some of them would end up.

Q: Did you have each book planned out before you started to write?

A: I don't plan exactly because I like being led by the characters so there are always surprises. I always knew the big ones, for example that Jenna would become queen, but I wasn't sure what Septimus would end up doing until the end when it became clearer. So each book I plan a little and let the characters decide a lot. It's an adventure and a journey for us all. Sometimes it's a bit scary writing this way, especially not knowing where Septimus would end up.

Q: You have so many characters in these stories, how did you manage to tie up all the loose ends?

A: For Fyre, I had to write a 'must do' list and it was the first time I started a book with 'I must talk about these people, they must be part of the story' so I had a structure - although the characters were still free to mess things up if they wanted to....

Q: Did any of the characters surprise you?

A: Some of the minor characters had a much bigger influence than I expected. Beetle, for example, was only going to be someone that Septimus went along and saw occasionally because I wanted Septimus to have another friend and I found that I really liked Beetle. Others surprised me - I thought Jillie Djinn would be a good person but she ended up being so annoying.

Q: Septimus Heap lives in quite a complicated world. Did you have to plan it out before you started writing it?

A: I can see his world like a 3D image in my head, so for me it's a bit like being in a movie and I can work through it. Sometimes I don't get the dimensions right so it's useful to have the map by Mark Zug that is in the book.

Q: Are there any real places that helped inspire your world?

A: When I started writing Magyk we were living in Cornwall and there's something of Cornwall's 'other world' feeling in the novel. I always felt I was living in a foreign land in Cornwall so perhaps bits of the Port have a feel of Falmouth and the Marram Marsh could be when the creek was out and it was muddy and windswept.

Q: If you found yourself in Septimus's world, where would you like to be?

A: I would definitely like to land up in the Castle area. I would like to live on a house that backs onto the moat but the front faces Wizard's Way. That's where a lot of stuff happens and if you could just sit in the window and watch the world go by, you could work out what is going on. I'd also like to be able to see out onto the moat and watch the boats going by.

Q: Are there any gadgets you'd like to bring out of Septimus's world into the real world?

A: I'd love to have the moving silver staircase from the castle in my house! But I also quite like the idea of those hot chocolate charms and being able to conjure a hot chocolate from nothing...

Q: You like animating things that are usually not 'alive', what has been the most fun creation for you?

A: I like giving animation to things that are usually not animated, like doors, and so they don't open when they should and so on. I feel it expresses an awkwardness that is already there.

Probably one of my favourite things was the dragon boat, which is actually formed from a live dragon. It appeared in earlier books and I really wanted to bring it back into service. I also revisited other modes of transport, like the Tube which takes people through the ice tunnels. I didn't want to write too much about horses and carts....

Q: We loved the Drummins, the little creatures that looked after the magical Fyre.

A: I got quite a few requests to bring in a new creature for Fyre and I thought it would be nice to do so - I didn't want Fyre just to be a summary of the earlier books, it also needed to have its own feel and identity and the Drummins helped to do that.

Q: There are quite a few Egyptian influences in these books, why have you included those?

A: I started with these references in Magyk, the first book in the series. I have always been fascinated by Egypt and the hieroglyphs. The whole set-up in the last book, Fyre, was created by Hotep-Ra who originally imprisoned the Darke Wizards in the Two-Faced Ring. We never say he's Egyptian but of course he is. The pyramids and the Ancient Egyptian drawings have an other-worldly feel, magical and mysterious, so I have brought these things into my stories.

I also started drawing on Venice. I hadn't been there before I started writing but then I realised that I was drawing on a lot of things like the dark Glass and Alchemy that the Venetians had been experimenting with. In Fyre, the Queen arrives on a highly gilded boat that could be Venetian although again I didn't know about that before I wrote it.

Q: Were there any books in the series that you especially enjoyed writing?

A: I found all the books difficult to write as the world is quite complicated and all the books are quite long. The book I looked forward to writing the most, though, was the second book, Flyte, because by then I had set up the world, the characters all knew who they were but they hadn't yet started their new lives yet so I left them for a year and looked forward to going back and seeing how they were getting on.

Q: How long has it taken to write the seven books in the Septimus Heap series?

A: I started my first draft of Magyk in 2000. The millenium was a wake-up call for me, I had had the idea for so long but hadn't done anything about it so I started to write a few passages from it and wrote the first chapter - but it took me a year to send the first eight chapters to my agent. It wasn't until 2003 that I started writing full time and the first book was published in 2005. I was actually working as an illustrator before then, but I don't do illustration work now. Now I paint pictures with words!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the follow-on books you're writing?

A: I got a lot of feedback from fans who started me thinking about writing short stories based on characters in the series. All the characters were very real to me and I wondered what was going to happen to them next.

The new series will be called TodHunter Moon and will begin with three new characters: Alice TodHunter Moon (who calls herself Tod), Oscar Sarn and his twin sister, Ferdie Sarn.

It will be a trilogy and will be set seven years after the end of Fyre. I thought it would be a nice way to pick up and see where everyone is and to introduce some new characters to explore the wider world.

It starts with Alice Todhunter Moon who lives in a remote village near the trading post. They are attacked by these creatures who begin to take people away and it's happening in other areas, too. That's where I bring in Jenna and Septimus who are now grown up but who still have things to sort out. Tod has an understanding of the magical, so it's a nice way to bring together the two worlds.

Q: How does your writing day go and what do you do to relax?

A: When I am writing I try to write 1,000 words a day and two chapters a week. I tend to do most of my writing from 7am to midday, then to have a break and then to look over my work later in the afternoon.

We have a boat in Cornwall near Falmouth, and being on the water is a great way to escape although the thing about being a writer is that you can never really escape your stories, they tend to inhabit you....

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