Sinéad O'Hart

Lola and Larch Fix a Fairy Forest
Sinéad O'Hart

About Author

Lola and Larch is Sinéad O'Hart's first chapter book series for young readers. Her books for older readers include The Eye of the North, The Time Tider and The Silver Road.    

Sinéad O'Hart lives in the midlands of Ireland with her family, where it rains a lot (perfect staying-in-to-read weather!). She loves going for walks, autumn weather, getting things in the post, and (of course) reading, writing, and being creative. If she couldn't be an author, she'd probably be an artist - and she DEFINITELY believes in fairies!



Lola and Larch Fix a Forest  (Nosy Crow)

March 2024

Lola and Larch is the new young fiction series from author Sinéad O'Hart, introducing a forest world of fairies, nature and magic that will delight anyone who believes that the end of the garden must be home to fairies - although not the sweet and sugary kind....

In Lola and Larch Fix a Fairy Forest, when Lola and Larch meet for the first time after a terrible storm, Lola realises she must find a way to help the young fairy and all her community.  

Sinéad O'Hart talks to ReadingZone about writing, daydreaming and hunting for fairies.


Q&A with Sinéad O'Hart

'I'm not really a fan of traditional fairies, who tend to be a bit too sparkly and upbeat for me. My idea of a fairy is a naughty, troublesome, sometimes quite rude character.'

1.    Hello Sinéad, can you tell us a little about yourself as an author, and the kinds of stories you enjoy writing? What made you decide to write a book for younger readers?

Hello! Thank you for having me. Well, I'm the author of five (soon, hopefully, to be six) novels for slightly older children (8+), as well as the Lola and Larch series (aimed at 7+), though of course I hope readers of any age could enjoy my stories. I love to write books about adventure, danger, friendship, and discovering how truly brave and brilliant you are.

I also adore creating stories that feature mythology and folklore, magic and mystery, and lots of fun. For this story, I thought the sheer fun of having a fairy friend who could become a rabbit, not quite at will, was suited to a slightly younger audience, though of course I hope readers both younger than, and older than, the target age range might enjoy it too.

2.    What inspired this story about fairies and magic - and hats!? Did you spend a lot of time at the bottom of the garden as a child, looking for fairies? Ever spot one?!

This story had a very simple beginning! I was out for a walk, daydreaming, as I do every day (and which I prescribe as being the absolute best way to dream up new stories) when I suddenly thought: wouldn't it be brilliant if you found a rabbit one day, and the next day when you went to check on it, you found it had turned into a fairy?

I thought this was such a fun idea that I popped a note into my phone and let it settle in my head for a while. I think about my imagination like a Creativity Cauldron in the back of my head (we all have one!) into which I pop little 'story-seeds', or drops of inspiration, which are like spices and flavours from the things I see and read and hear and experience, and I let them simmer away until they're ready. And that's what happened here, too! From a tiny 'wouldn't that be cool?', a whole story has grown.

As to did I ever spend time at the bottom of the garden looking for fairies myself - I'm from Ireland, where fairies are more often seen as tricksy, troublesome, slightly naughty characters rather than twinkly and jolly ones! So, to go looking for fairies in Ireland isn't encouraged. We still have lots of strong beliefs around fairies in the countryside here, including how important it is not to disturb any hills or mounds you might come across in fields, or any trees you find growing on their own, or - worst of all! - any circles made of stones or toadstools. If you disturb the 'sídhe' - the 'shee', or the fairy folk - it doesn't usually spell good news for you!

3.    Your fairy, Larch, is not a traditional fairy character - how did she develop, and why did you decide to make her half bunny?

She isn't traditional at all - you're right! And that was deliberate, because I'm not really a fan of traditional fairies, who tend to be a bit too sparkly and upbeat for me. My idea of a fairy is a naughty, troublesome, sometimes quite rude character, and Larch grew out of that. I love that she's not someone who obeys the rules all the time, and that she's curious, and that she can be grumpy, and that sometimes - or, well, most of the time - her magic has unpredictable effects.

When it came to designing her, I really liked thinking about different trees and flowers and shrubs, and how each fairy belongs to a particular tree or plant. So, their outfit and their hat will have some connection to their tree (in Larch's case, of course, it's the larch tree). I thought the larch cone would make a pretty hat!

I'm not sure why I chose to have her turn into a bunny, in particular - I always knew I wanted her to be a fairy with an unusual power, one that her fellow fairies didn't possess, and shape-shifting seemed like a natural choice. As to why it was a bunny? I guess, bunnies are cute! But also clever, and fast, and they've got a powerful kick! They have lots of skills when it comes to fighting off baddies, as you'll see if you read Larch and Lola's adventures.

4.    Why do Larch and Lola work so well together?

Larch and Lola are a good team because I think Lola is amazed by Larch's inability to stick to the rules, and by how much fun (and, sometimes, trouble) it can be! I also think both of them feel a little lonely, and that they become one another's friend quite fast. Lola has some pals in school, but Larch really fills that little hole in her heart caused by the fact that she doesn't really have a bestie, and Larch feels like an outcast in her clan, too. I think, despite Lola's tendency to be good, and Larch's tendency to be a little unpredictable, the two have a lot in common!

5.    Can you tell us about the villain of the story, Euphorbia Spurge?

Euphorbia Spurge is one of my favourite characters. She's named for a plant which is very beautiful, but - like all the plants in the spurge family - quite toxic! One day, when out for a walk, my family and I noticed a plant we didn't recognise, and when we looked it up on the internet we discovered it was a caper spurge, which is a weed that's completely poisonous.

I went down a rabbit hole of research (no pun intended!) into the spurge family of plants and when I discovered that the genus name for the spurge is 'euphorbia spurge', I knew: that's a character name, waiting to be written! So, Euphorbia is quite beautiful on the outside, but inside she's as nasty as her namesake. She's outcast from the fairy clan, and she's forever scheming to nobble them!

6.    Do you have a map of the forest to help plan your stories?

I only have one in my head! I should probably put it on paper, as maps really do help to put a story together. I imagine that Grandma, another of my favourite characters, lives in a house near the edges of the forest, while Lola and her family live further in. Both the houses are surrounded by trees and the forest is very much part of all their lives. The fairy village and stone circle are well into the forest, and right at the centre is the house of Euphorbia Spurge, surrounded by a 'morass', or a boggy moat… It's very clear in my mind's eye.

7.    Have you enjoyed seeing the book's illustrations, created by Rachel Seago; any favourite characters?

I've absolutely loved Rachel's work from the very beginning - she captured the characters perfectly, and I'm amazed to get to work with her. I love all her depictions, but my favourite so far is her drawing of King Ash, the king of the fairy clan [pictured]. He's not quite as I imagined him in my head, but he's even better! I love his long flowing beard, and his roundness, and his very dapper wings. He's wonderful!

8.    Do you have further adventures planned for Lola and Larch - and perhaps Euphorbia herself? Can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect next?

Yes, absolutely! Books two and three of the Lola and Larch series are written, and being edited by my brilliant editor Fiona Scoble at Nosy Crow.  Book two sees Euphorbia scheming once again, this time trying to use one of Larch's previous magical mistakes to overrun the fairy village and get her in heaps of trouble - but she hasn't factored in Larch's human sidekick! And book three is a wintry adventure with lots of sparkly snow, shining frost, and a chaotic Christmas concert! They should both be published by the end of 2024, and there may be more adventures coming after that…

9.    Which magical creature would you love to find at the bottom of your garden?

I've always absolutely loved unicorns - there's something so marvelous about them, though in some of the stories I've read, they can be quite scary, too. But what a wonderful thing they'd be to see! Maybe one day I'll take a wander down to check out my bug hotel, and find a unicorn there instead.

10.    When you're not writing about magic and fairy forests, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing to keep yourself inspired and happy, and ready to write your next story?

Writing and reading are sort of tied for first place when it comes to my favourite things to do - and, luckily, they're linked together in loads of ways! I think I became a writer because I was a reader first, and I'm sure the same is true of lots of authors. So, when I'm not writing about magic and fairy forests, I'm probably working on one of my other books or putting together outlines for future novels in the hope of having them published one day.

If I'm not doing that, then I'm probably reading (the library is my absolute favourite place). And if I'm not doing that, then I'm spending time with my family - my husband and our Little Reader, who are so important to me. We love being out in nature, which is the most inspirational place to be.  I never come away from a walk among trees, or along a beach, or past a hedgerow, without coming up with at least ten new ideas. There's always something wondrous to see or hear or feel or smell, every time you go outside!

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