I discovered Fletcher Moss on Twitter, though I can't remember who followed who first. Anyway, I was intrigued because he was about to be published for the first time as a result of winning the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition.
So I checked out his blog and we got talking. His book, The Poison Boy, sounded as intriguing as the story of its publication, so I was super pleased when I discovered that Fletcher Moss and I were both going to be involved in an event for looked-after children in Derbyshire.
After the event, I managed to get my hands on a signed copy (well, there have to be some perks for doing a free event!) and tucked the book into my holdall to read on holiday. And I was not disappointed. It's an absolute cracker!
From the first page to the last, The Poison Boy is packed with action, mystery and adventure. It tells the story of orphan, Dalton Fly, and his best friend Sal Sleepwell, as they try to find out the truth behind the horrific death of Benny Jinks, their friend and fellow food-taster.
All three boys were part of Oscar's honest dozen - a group of children trained to detect hidden poison in the food of the upper classes. When Bennie is killed, Dalton Fly and Sal Sleepwell are sucked in to a dangerous hunt that tests their wits and courage to the full.
Fletcher Moss weaves a complex but rock-solid plot that ties together beautifully by the end of the story. His characters are strong and believable and his prose exciting, clean and purposeful.
I have to say, I was slightly put off by the cover illustration, as I think it makes the book look like a horror story, which it is not. Perhaps it's because I'm a girl! Anyway, cover aside, Fletcher Moss has created a real page-turner so if you like an exciting edge-of-your-seat adventure, look no further!
The Poison Boy is published by Chicken House and I've heard Fletcher is now working on a sequel! Can't wait!
Interview with Fletcher Moss
Fletcher very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me about his writing and about the book. Here is what he says:
What inspired you to write this book?
I visited a garden up in Alnwick in the North East - it was a poison garden. Every plant in it was deadly poisonous - you had to have a guided tour in case you accidentally fell into a killer shrub or something. It was the names that got me - Doll's Eyes, Clotbur, Heartbreak Grass, John Crow - great names for such deadly plants.It all started there; I dreamt up a kid called Scarlet Dropmore who was going to be a poisons expert working in the kitchens of a great castle; Dalton and Sal soon followed, then the whole premise changed when I thought up poisonboys and sentaways.
Is it the first novel you have written or have you written other stories too?
This is my third completed novel - but the first I'd publicly put my name to; the others are awful!
Did winning the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Award changed you in any way?
It was so strange, being plucked from this big pile of over a thousand entrants. Doubly weird because in a way Dalton's story - going from obscurity to relative prominence - mirrored mine. I knew how he was feeling! The other day at work, I said to a colleague, "I was having a chat with Melvin Burgess recently and he said..." Then it struck me how my life had been suddenly transformed. I still feel incredibly lucky.
Do you have another job as well as being an author? If so, what do you do?
I'm an Assistant Headteacher in charge of the Sixth Form of a comprehensive school in Greater Manchester. Long hours, hard work...
Some of them are linked to plants I found when researching poisons; Scarlet Dropmore is just Dropmore Scarlet reversed; there's a plant called Speedwell that became 'Sleepwell' when I misread it. But Dalton Fly's origin is seedier, I'm afraid. There's a beer called Blandford Fly that I enjoy a pint of now and again.
You use several made-up words in the book, for example, a wine glass is called a "flicker" and "Kite" is used as a name for God and as an expletive. Why did you decide to do this?
Ah! Well; I wanted a semi-feral gang of street-kids, so they had to be pretty coarse in their language. But I didn't want too much swearing (there's two swear-words in the whole book) so I went about making up a list of alternative swear words that sounded almost rude. 'Flogged' for broken, 'dreck' for rubbish, 'kite almighty' sounds pretty blasphemous, and things like 'scut and feathers', whatever that means. The rest I got from canting dictionaries, which you can find online. I teach A level English Language now and again so I've done lessons on cant, argot, other forms of slang before. I think 'flicker' is a real canting term for a wine-glass. I had to take a few of them out during the editing; I had different types of pistols, more about getting 'ruined' on 'fever-tea'... it was a bit too adult, apparently.
If The Poison Boy was made into a film (which I hope it is!), who would you like to play Dalton, Sal and Scarlet?
Good question! As they're so young, we'd need a gang of talented unknowns. Being plucked from obscurity would be fitting, I think.
I hear you are writing a sequel to The Poison Boy. When is this going to be published? Can you give us any clues about the plot or is it top secret?
I was planning on setting off on a sequel straight away, but something else caught my eye. So my next book will be entirely unconnected. I fancy a trip back to Highlions sometime soon though...
Are you planning any other books in the near future?
My next one is pretty much plotted and planned, due to be OK-ed by Chicken House (I hope!) so I'm ready to write. I'll hopefully have it done by Spring of next year, but I don't expect it will see the light of day until early 2015.
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