Thomas Taylor introduces his latest and possibly last Eerie-on-Sea adventure, Mermedusa. Will the mysteries of Eerie-on-Sea finally be resolved?
Thomas is an award-winning author-illustrator for children. His work includes picture books, graphic novels, and the previous novels in this series: Malamander, Gargantis, Shadowghast and Festergrimm.
He lives with his family on the south coast of England, where he can often be found combing the beach for ancient or lost things.
Mermedusa (Eerie-on-Sea 5) (Walker Books)
Thomas Taylor introduces his latest and last Eerie-on-Sea adventure, Mermedusa. Will the mysteries of Eerie-on-Sea finally be resolved? Will Herbie and Violet resolve the mystery of their pasts - and how far will they go to uncover the Deepest Secret of Eerie-on-Sea... Read our Q&A with Thomas Taylor to find out more.
Review: 'Mermedusa is a stunning finish to what has been the most enjoyable series of books.'
Q&A with Thomas Taylor
1. What brought you into illustrating, then writing, children's books? What have been your career highlights to date?
I started in the world of children's books at Art School, where many of my tutors and mentors were successful artists and illustrators in their own right. Initially I wanted to illustrate picture books, but soon I was writing them too, with a growing ambition (actually secretly harboured since childhood) to write longer fiction.
I realised another lifelong ambition, to create a graphic novel, when I worked on Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter with author Marcus Sedgwick. My first professional commission, however - which I landed a year out of art school - was the cover illustration for a book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling.
2. What gave you the initial idea for your Eerie-on-Sea adventures?
I moved to the seaside about 12 years ago, to live near the ancient coastal town of Hastings. Living here all year round allowed me to see just how very strange and quirky seaside towns are in the winter months, when the tourists are gone, and the gaudy fun-fair attractions are folded away, and the weather turns wild and alarming. Understanding who is still in such places out of season inspired the characters in Eerie-on-Sea, and my discovery of beachcombing - and the weird and wonderful things that wash up in winter - gave me many of the idea for the stories.
"Seaside towns ... just seem like the perfect settings for mystery stories, with their 'end-of-the-line' feel, and populations of washed-up and quirky characters."
3. Has there always been a special place in your heart for run-down seaside towns?
Yes, very much so. I have always lived near the sea, or at least frequently visited seaside towns. They just seem like the perfect settings for mystery stories, with their 'end-of-the-line' feel, and populations of washed-up and quirky characters. And I've washed up in a seaside town myself now.
The main inspirations for Eerie-on-Sea are Hastings and Cromer, but there are also elements of Lyme Regis, Dieppe, Rye, Aldeburgh, and Tenby there. The one seaside town I have never visited, but which seems very 'Eerie-on-Sea' in my imagination, is Whitby.
4. Can you give us a brief overview of the Eerie-on-Sea series, and a glimpse into what to expect in the final book, Mermedusa?
In the 'Eerie-on-Series' we meet Herbert Lemon - Herbie to his friends - who was washed up on the beach years ago, with no memory of his past, and who is now the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. And we also meet Herbie's best friend Violet Parma, who was herself lost, as a baby -12 years ago in the hotel - and who now wants to be found. But as Violet and Herbie explore the mysteries of their missing pasts, they start to discover that the famous legends of Eerie-on-Sea - and the magical creatures they feature - are a lot more real than anyone expects. And some of the townsfolk know more than they are letting on.
In Mermedusa, the last book in the series, Herbie and Violet finally come face-to-face with the truth about themselves, as they race against their arch enemy to find something called 'The Deepest Secret of Eerie-on-Sea'.
"This was the hardest book to write. I was determined to give my readers a satisfying conclusion to Herbie and Violet's adventures, but without wrapping up Eerie-on-Sea so completely that there couldn't be more adventures"
5. So a lot of loose ends are tied up in Mermedusa - did that make it a hard book to write? Were you always clear what the ending would be?
This was the hardest book to write. I was determined to give my readers a satisfying conclusion to Herbie and Violet's adventures, but without wrapping up Eerie-on-Sea so completely that there couldn't be more adventures, even if those future adventures only exist in the readers' imaginations. With four previous books, and a lot of recurrent elements, there was a great deal to take into account, whilst also adding new things. I had to mostly rewrite the book after the first draft, so yes, very tough to get right.
As for the ending, yes, I mostly had that in my head from the start, but I also revised it several times, too, as the series unfolded. I'm not much of a planner, and I paid for that with this book!
6. What did it feel like finishing a series you have spent years writing? Which characters will you miss the most?
I will miss Herbie and Violet hugely. Especially Herbie's voice, which I have used to tell stories for five years now. It's an emotional moment coming to the end of a relationship with fictional characters, but at the same time they are still there in the books, and can be met again by simply opening the pages and reading. And they will still be there when I am gone.
In the meantime, I am excited to explore new ideas. So, finishing the series is a bittersweet moment for me.
7. Have any of the Eerie-on-Sea books stood out for you?
I don't think so, though I would say Shadowghast - the story set at Halloween - is perhaps, very slightly, my favourite.
"In Eerie-on-Sea I would make my writer's shed in a beach hut below the promenade. I would sit at a desk made of washed-up bits of old boat, and heat a kettle over a driftwood-burning stove."
8. What would your writer's shed look like if it was built in Eerie-on-Sea? How would you spend a free day in the town?
In Eerie-on-Sea I would make my writer's shed in a beach hut below the promenade. I would sit at a desk made of washed-up bits of old boat, and heat a kettle over a driftwood-burning stove. Around me windchimes made of shells would plink in the sea breeze, and I would look out at the waves washing on the sea glass beach, and dream of stories.
And when I'm not writing, I would go up into the town to visit my friends in the funny little shops, browse a bit in the Eerie Book Dispensary and throw a coin in the mermonkey's cap, then head down for fish and chips and a mug of black tea at Seegol's Diner on the pier. Feel free to come too!
9. Do you have any plans to revisit Eerie-on-Sea?
I'm working on something new at the moment, and it's Top Secret, but I do also have another Eerie-on-Sea story in my head. I wonder what might happen in 'Cheerie-on-Sea', when Eerie dresses itself up as a normal tourist town for the summer months. Could the strange nature of the place really stay hidden? We might find out one day…
10. How do you most enjoy a day away from your desk, in the everyday world?
I like to visit new places, and explore old things, and find unusual books, and comb life like a beachcomber combs the beach, and if I can do any of this with friends, and friendly dogs, then I am happy.
Thomas Taylor introduces Festergrimm, an earlier Eerie-on-Sea mystery!
In Festergrimm, we discover that Herbie and Violet's arch-enemy Sebastian Eels is back! Look out for a network of tunnels beneath the town, the extraordinary Festergrimm's Waxworks, and the legend of a lost robot with a heart . . .