Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx
It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit.
Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing. She has just completed her PhD at the University of Warwick studying the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature.
Interview with Laura Wood
Why did you want to write the Poppy Pym books?
The first book started off as something I made up for my niece. She was nine at the time, and I wanted to write something that would make her laugh, about a girl who was strong and funny and clever – just like her. Once the character of Poppy was there in my head it felt important to write the books, somehow, because I really cared about her and I wanted to give her a voice.
How to you build the mysteries? Does it start with one idea and developing it or do you have everything worked out beforehand?
I read a LOT of mysteries so before I wrote my first one I made the mistake of thinking it would be quite straightforward to write one! Mostly I have to work things out beforehand, at least broadly speaking, but quite often clues and things pop up as I’m writing. In Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx there was a clue that I didn’t realise was a clue until I was getting near the end and I had an A-ha! moment where it slotted in really neatly. (Then I was grateful to past-me who had no idea she was being so helpful! Usually past-me is the worst and leaves notes like ‘sort this out later’ or ‘make this better’ for future-me to worry about.) Mysteries can be really unwieldy and quite often I will start off with something ridiculously complicated with a million red herrings before tearing my hair out and stripping it back to something more manageable.
What did you do the first time you saw one of your books in a bookshop?
Burst into tears. It was amazing.
Follow up, do you ever re-arrange bookshop displays?
I’ve been known to turn a book face out, but in my defence I come right at the end of the bookcase after Jacqueline Wilson, so I like to make sure people can see me!
What happens next?
Lots of writing. I’m working on a bunch of exciting things and I can’t wait until I can talk about them!
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
When I was fifteen I wrote a play about shoes. It was performed at the Birmingham Rep as part of their young writers’ season.
Tea or coffee?
Tea, all day every day.
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
If you want to be a writer, then be a writer. Don’t be afraid of your crappy first draft if you feel like you have something to say. For a long time I couldn’t write the first Poppy Pym book because I knew I wasn’t good enough to write a perfect first draft, and that fear was really paralysing. So, as you’ve given me a platform, I’d like to share one of my favourite poems by Mary Oliver here. I find it really inspiring in lots of different ways, and my boyfriend had the first line engraved on a pen for me. You do not have to be good. It’s a great sentiment when it comes to writing down those first, wobbly, fledgling thoughts.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
What’s the perfect cure for a bad day?
A big mug of tea, a fat slice of cake and a really great book would be my prescription. You’ll be right as rain in no time.
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
Can I introduce you to my friend, Kenneth Branagh?
Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse
The extraordinary story of a little girl raised in a circus who is about to embark on a boarding school adventure. Featuring an ancient Egyptian curse, two best friends (one who wants to be taller and one who knows everything), secretive teachers, dangerous accidents, a mystery to be solved and a menagerie of circus characters.
Saturday 3rd September
Sunday 4th September
Tales of Yesterday