Christine Brodien-Jones loves dreaming stuff up. That’s probably what makes her a successful writer, specifically a writer for young readers.
“I write for middle-grade readers because I remember so vividly when I was that age — climbing trees, reading under the covers with a flashlight, getting teased at school,” Christine told Cracking the Cover. “I remember, too, the excitement of reading books, the way they transported me to far-off worlds. So I write the kinds of books I loved reading at that age.”
Christine’s latest book, “The Glass Puzzle,” is the story of two cousins who discover a glass puzzle and unleash ancient forces are that threaten their town in sinister ways.
“The Glass Puzzle” has its in the 1950s classic movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in which humans are taken over by aliens and nobody realizes what’s happening.
“When Zoé’s granddad takes her and her cousin Ian to see ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ Zoé begins to understand why some people in Tenby are behaving so oddly,” Christine says of the plot. “Frightening winged creatures called Scravens are escaping through the glass puzzle and invading Tenby: one by one, they’re taking over the townspeople.”
Christine’s book is set in Wales, which isn’t necessarily a familiar location for American readers, but Christine isn’t worried about cultural differences — she took them into account.
“An avid writer, Zoé delights in phrases and words that are unique to the United Kingdom, like elevenses and torch,” Christine explains. “Granddad, Pippin and Bron use expressions you wouldn’t hear in America. I was aware that readers might be unfamiliar with certain words and with many of the Welsh cultural references. Keeping this in mind, I tried to convey their meaning within the context of the story.”
“Setting allows the reader to visualize what’s going on in the story and helps them connect with the characters; it also conveys the mood of the story,” the author says. “Wales is where my husband, Peter, grew up: we were married in Pontllanfraith, south Wales, and we’ve often returned there over the years. I’ve been to Tenby several times and it’s a magical place, steeped in Welsh folklore, with a colorful history of pirates and smugglers. Once I plunked my characters in Tenby the story took off.”
In addition the setting, Christine says her book stands out because she tends to choose unusual, somewhat unreachable settings where my characters find themselves in situations that could only happen in a foreign place.
“I’ve always sensed that place is critical to a story and I think my young readers pick up on that,” she said. “Using actual places and real events, I try to weave a fantasy/adventure into that fabric, in much the same way as a historical fiction writer would do. … I’ve simply expanded those realities and invented a portal to a similar yet imaginary place.”
Christine says the makeup of her books — fantasy missed with Indiana Jones-style action — is what appeals to her audience. “I think young readers enjoy the fast-paced action and adventurous characters, the unique settings, the humor and eccentric characters, and the supernatural dangers they face that keep the pages turning.”
Christine is currently working on her next book, another middle-grade adventure fantasy, which will be set in the north of Spain on an ancient medieval path called The Camino where the author visited last October with her husband. “I’ll just say this about it: There are shadowy characters, dark forests and stone villages, a curse and a gargoyle or two … stay tuned, there’s more to come!”
*Learn more about Christine Brodien-Jones and her new book, “The Glass Puzzle” in this complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.