Interview with Helen Moss – Author of The Adventure Island series
Helen Moss is our July Author in Residence.
Please tell us a little about yourself
Thank you very much for inviting me to Bookbabblers. I’m thrilled to be Author in Residence for July!
I live near Cambridge with my husband who is a computer scientist, and my two teenage sons, who are all incredibly clever and funny and handsome (and they might read this!) We have a collection of animals – two border collies, gerbils, lots of hens and a bearded dragon called Frankie. Frankie eats locusts and we’ve just discovered he goes crazy for fresh basil leaves!
I’ve always loved anything to do with language. I like to collect new words. My current favourite is salmagundi, which means a mixture or hodge-podge. I’m just waiting for chance to use it in conversation! So you can imagine how much I enjoyed studying psycholinguistics – which is all about how people produce and understand language – at university when I was younger. After doing a PhD, I worked for many years researching how the brain accomplishes the amazing feat of understanding and storing the meaning of language.
Now I write for children full-time. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have not one but two careers that I’ve absolutely loved. I only wish I could get hold of Hermione’s time-turner device and fit some extra hours in the day so I could do both! In fact, I’d be greedy and try to squeeze in some hours to be a tree surgeon as well, and a jazz singer (although I’d Hermione’s magic wand for that too, as I am quite possibly the worst singer in the world!)
Tell us about The Adventure Island series and your inspiration for this
The Adventure Island series is set on a fictional island off the coast of Cornwall, called Castle Key. It follows three friends, Emily, Jack and Scott (well, Jack and Scott are brothers, but brothers can be friends too – at least some of the time!) and Emily’s dog Drift, who are kept busy investigating all kinds of dastardly deeds and murky mysteries.
I adored Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books when I was younger – I loved reading about a group of kids going off by themselves all day, looking for clues, tracking down baddies, exploring secret passages – not to mention scoffing enormous picnics – all without the adults getting in the way! When I was nine or ten, I spent a lot of time looking for suspicious footprints and tapping walls to see if they were hiding a secret passage.
The Adventure Island books have all those traditional mystery-busting elements, but I’ve tried to bring the adventures right up to date – Jack, Scott and Emily are twenty-first century kids who use modern technology as well as good old-fashioned sleuthing to get to the bottom of all the shady shenanigans taking place on Castle Key.
I never did find that secret passage when I was ten but now I can have just as much fun inventing my own!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on four more books for the Adventure Island series, which will be published next year – so I’m very busy coming up with lots more baffling brain-bogglers and perilous predicaments for Emily, Scott, Jack and Drift. The first two of the new books will be called The Mystery of the King’s Ransom and The Mystery of the Black Salamander.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
I love going for long walks in the countryside with my two dogs, Storm and Maia. They are border collies, so they need a lot of exercise. I also like playing badminton, taking photographs and, of course, reading. My favourite books are detective novels (surprise, surprise!), big fat Victorian books that go on forever, and books about mountaineering. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever done is to climb Mount Hood in America – it’s over 11,000 feet high and we had ropes and ice axes and everything. I’d love to climb another mountain but there aren’t many near Cambridge!
My favourite holiday is to go skiing with my family – what could be better than spending the day outside whizzing down mountains, then polishing off an enormous well-earned dinner (and even more enormous pudding, of course), having a heated family debate over a game of Articulate, then falling asleep on the second page of a really good book?
To celebrate the publication of Helen’s tenth Adventure Island book, there is a fantastic competition with some great prizes running on Helen’s blog. The competition is open until 23rd July. For more information and to enter, please visit: http://www.helenmoss.org.uk/p/operation-diamond.html
We also have the first three books in the Adventure Island series to giveaway. The giveaway is open to UK entries only and will close on the 31st July at 5pm. To enter, re-tweet this interview or leave a comment. Good luck!