Isla’s search for her missing brother, Pirie, has brought her to the vast Wildlands. The forest is a treacherous place for a fox cub, but Isla is talented in foxcraft — ancient arts of cunning known only to her kind.
Skilled though she is, Isla’s grasp of foxcraft is still new. And she’s not alone… A cruel and mysterious fox stalks the forest, with the power to enslave others to his will. In order to survive, Isla must learn to trust in the rustic Wildlands foxes.
But there are tales of others — a council of Elders who are masters of foxcraft, and who warily guard its most potent secrets. If Isla wishes to master her gifts and find her brother, then the Elders may be her only hope.
Writing A Trilogy by Inbali Iserles
Foxes divide opinion. Are they captivating wild creatures or disease-ridden vermin? Being an animal-lover, I was sympathetic to foxes – always an outspoken critic of fox hunting – but beyond the battle against blood sports, they scarcely entered my thoughts.
All that changed when I moved to central London. Suddenly, I saw foxes everywhere: cubs gambolled at the end of our street; courting couples met at twilight in our communal garden, screeching their serenades; inquisitive, fleet-footed neighbours watched me walking my dog under cover of darkness. To see a fox close-up – to meet that mysterious amber gaze – is to glimpse the wild in the familiar. To tread between reality and something magical.
I became enchanted. I fell in love.
In developing the plot, the magical facets of foxcraft and the overarching quest narrative, it quickly became clear that Foxcraft would be an epic. It took in three distinct locations: the Greylands (the rumbling metropolis), the Wildlands (the vast countryside) and the Snowlands (the frozen realms of the snow wolves). What I was looking at was a trilogy.
I’d never written a trilogy before. My first book, The Tygrine Cat, had a sequel – but that was penned some time after the first book came out, with an intervening (and unrelated) book in between. For Foxcraft, it was vital that the plot was planned over the three books. It wasn’t easy! I always know where I’d like the story to start, and how it should end. It’s the middle that’s tricky – and there is a lot of “middle” in a trilogy. I needed to identify the overarching narrative of the story, which all plot strands would ultimately feed, building towards the ultimate climax and resolution.
Yet each book must also work creatively. In each, the characters should encounter challenges. They must learn and grow. There should be a satisfying climax, and some kind of resolution… although, rather cruelly, Foxcraft: The Elders ends on something of a cliffhanger!
I drew up a short series summary in advance, then – book by book – developed longer summaries as I went along. When it came to what to include, I was fairly brutal: if it didn’t serve the plot, it had to go. Revisiting the series summary now, I’m interested to see that a majority of the major plot points remain the same. But much of the detail has changed. Characters are killed or spared; allegiances shatter. That’s fine too. Plotting should never silence a character’s impulses – and few are more impulsive, or harder to muzzle, than the fox.
Inbali Iserles is the award-winning author of The Tygrine Cat novels and one of the authors behind the bestselling Survivors series under the pseudonym Erin Hunter.
She lives outside Oxford.
Saturday 8th October
Tales of Yesterday
Sunday 9th October