Sydney writer Frank Gauntlett has just published his new work, Alicorn (New Holland Publishers), described as a tale of “magic, monsters, mystery and mayhem.” He chats to The Starfish:
What’s it about, in a nutshell?
When the Old World stopped believing in good leprechauns, centaurs, yetis and such, these characters headed to Australia and established a community in huge caverns under the central deserts.
Their traditional enemies, led by Spindox Corp CEO Nick Unseely, steal their emblem – the Alicorn – and attack.
The Good Guys bring people young and old plus some very strange creatures into a spectacular battle atop and beneath the Spindox Corp’s giant glass pyramid HQ in the outback.
Do the goodies overcome evil in the end – or is that giving it away?
Do we ever entirely vanquish evil, Grasshopper?
But to address your question with slightly less dishonesty, a great many Baddies get a pretty thorough drubbing in Alicorn but they’re a slippery bunch of rotters and I wouldn’t put anything past them.
Any parallels with the world today, or is it all just fantasy?
In this day and age it’s hard to imagine, in Australia of all places and on a 24/7 basis, anyone really believing that a long-established multi-national corporation could be a front for full-scale evil, ancient wickedness and sinister conspiracy, let alone that a motley mob of ordinary, unqualified, ill-equipped humans and other iffy creatures could unite and rise up hoping to trounce such a well-established foe.
Anyone claiming that Alicorn is, in fact, an account of recent history blotted from the public mind by the hypnotic gestures of sinister figures who look like men in suits is clearly stark raving bonkers, in the pay of something or other or mischievous to the max.
The sibling protagonists are called John and Kate – after anyone we know?
I can totes assure you that it is a complete coincidence that I have a half-share in two youngish Australians called, on a good day, John and Kate.
It is also important to stress that this little black duck is not to be held responsible for any debt, real or imagined, incurred by either party, real or imagined.
Furthermore, I won’t go bail for either person nor perjure myself on their behalf . . . unless I really have to.
Having people biffed by sinister associates is right out.
Who will love this book?
My Mum’s keen as mustard!
That’s really a tough question because although we henchdudes of New Holland Publishers bang on about Alicorn being for ‘young adults’ I’d really like it to be loved by every human bean, alive or not, a few bears, all the apes and several species of monkey.
There a charming Staffordshire Terrier just down the street that I’m desperate to impress.
What age group were you targeting?
Insofaras I was aiming at anyone but my better self, I suppose was aiming for readers in their mid-teens but I’m coming to the conclusion that my aim might have been a bit rubbish.
As far as I know the first person at New Holland to read Alicorn was Sam. His comment and opinion was enormously important and, at the time, I believe he was 12.
On the other hand, not literally, I do know a lady in her 80s – not my Mum! – who is reading it.
She hasn’t actually passed judgement yet but consistently grins like a maniac when we meet, amiably assures me of her progress through the pages, implies continued physical and mental well-being and a determination to persevere.
How would you describe this story? (Is it the Hobbit meets Mad Max? or whatever.).
It’s The Ten Commandments meets Fast and Furious III.
No. That can’t be right.
How about The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Leningrad Cowboys Go America but totally blanks The Man From Snowy River?
Ummm . . .
Who are your favourite kids’ authors, and do any of them have an influence in how you wrote Alicorn?
I’m sure just about every author I’ve ever read feeds into it somewhere – perhaps that’s why my first novel was called No Stopping Or Standing*.
As a kid I absolutely loved The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, read them over and over and never looked at cupboards the same again. Still love ‘em. I remain convinced that mice can talk.
It’s strangely embarrassing to admit it but I also loved the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge.
It’s embarrassing because weirdly old-fashioned wee Jennings went to weirdly old-fashioned Linbury Court Preparatory School, a kind, green-and-pleasant posh school for posh pom kids, and I grew up in London’s East End which was fairly preparatory but not very posh, green nor pleasant at all.
I still worship P.G.Wodehouse.
*This is a total lie!
How long did it take to write? What was your daily writing ritual?
I’ve never worked on anything quite like Alicorn before and it honestly took many years from go to woah – probably more than 15 years.
This is one of the few things I’ve written that was never really considered for publication or performance – I’d often take refuge in Alicorn writing when things looked crook in my (ahem) relationship with The Theatre. (Mon, Weds, Fri, weekends and alternate Tues).
What would you do for inspiration before hitting the typewriter?
Tell us about the book’s fabulous cover. Who did it?
It is terrific, eh? I couldn’t be happier with the Alicorn cover and feed-back has been relentlessly positive – that’s a first!
It’s pretty convenient that I do like it so much because it was made by my daughter Kate’s partner Clint Bautista, an artist and tattoo artist.
I already totter through life with one of Clint’s seriously spiffy tatts draped down my left flipper and we’ve seen and liked a lot of his outstanding work on skin and paper.
I thought Clint could do a good job for Alicorn but he surpassed all expectations.
I think it was William Shakespeare who said it best: “I’m dead chuffed!”.