Today, we caught up with award-winning author Inbali Iserles to discuss her new vivid, imaginative and spellbinding magical fantasy middle grade adventure Foxcraft: The Taken, the first in a trilogy. In book one (The Taken) fox cub Isla searches for her family and discovers the ancient hidden secrets and powers of foxcraft.
What inspired Foxcraft?
I fell in love with foxes when I saw them prowling around my home in central London. They seemed to materialise from nowhere a flash of deep red pelt, a white tail tip only to vanish into the night. I started to read about the fox’s role in folklore. From ancient myths to fairytales, the fox was always the baddie selfish, untrustworthy and cunning. I was struck by how this beautiful animal had been misunderstood for thousands of years. I wanted to give the fox a voice: to let her tell her own story.
Why write animal fantasy?
Animal fantasy feels very natural to me. I am a huge fan of magical stories, of that silvery gateway between the real and the imagined, and I have always loved animals. I was that kid who would stop in the street to greet cats and dogs. I was drawn to forests, rivers and the curious beasties that lurked under rocks. As an adult, that fascination with the natural world remains. My first book, The Tygrine Cat, was told from a feline perspective, and I have written as part of the Erin Hunter team on Survivors. I am at home when surrounded by animal friends, be they real or imaginary!
You created the art on the end pages and at the beginning of each chapter, what was your process like?
The chapter illustrations are pen drawings. They represent elements from the series, such as different types of foxcraft (fox magic). For each of these, I thought about how the magic works and the clearest way to show it in a single image. So for wa’akkir, the shapeshifting foxcraft, we see a fox who has disguised himself as a dog. As the dog gazes at a lake, his reflection in the water reveals his true form.
The endpapers are much larger, so I could really go wild! I used a mixture of Indian ink and brush work alongside the pen illustrations, to give them some texture. I tried not to second guess the imagery too much so it could evolve on the page. I guess you could say that the endpapers are snapshots of my (rather chaotic) mind!
What are three things you want readers to gain after reading Foxcraft?
I would love readers to come away from Foxcraft with a sense of understanding for the fox, who has been so poorly treated, both in life and in our stories. I hope they will root for Isla – that they will run with her as she searches for her family. Most of all, I hope the story will encourage readers to see our own world with new eyes, and to experience excitement, fear and wonder, just as Isla does.
Inbali Iserles is an award-winning writer and animal lover. She is part of the team of authors of the bestselling Survivors series writing under the pseudonym of Erin Hunter. A lover of all things feline, her first book, The Tygrine Cat, won the 2008 Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year Award and its sequel, The Tygrine Cat: On the Run, was listed among The Independent’s “50 books every child should read.” Inbali Iserles attended Sussex and Cambridge Universities and she currently lives in Islington, London. Follow her on Twitter @Inbali_Iserles.
Watch for book 2 The Elders coming Fall 2016.