KidLit Classics

Karen Ginnane talks The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, KidLit Classics Podcast Episode 2

November 15, 2022 Karen Ginnane Season 1 Episode 2
KidLit Classics
Karen Ginnane talks The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, KidLit Classics Podcast Episode 2
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

About this episode’s KidLit Classic:

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is a children's fantasy classic from legendary English author Alan Garner. Published in 1960, two books in the same world followed it, and it was adapted into radio plays, a musical, and has been cited as one of the most important and influential works of British fantasy for children. In his writing of it, Garner was influenced by the folklore and landscape of Alderley Edge, where grew up.

In this episode we discuss what The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is about, why guest Karen Ginnane chose it, its deep ties to landscape, myth, and folklore, and end with a dramatic reading.

About this week’s guest, Karen Ginnane:

Karen Ginnane is a Melbourne-based author for middle grade and young adult readers. Her latest series, Time Catchers, was published in 2021/2022 by Penguin Random House. It is a YA historical fantasy set in Victorian London and a parallel city. She has also worked as a copywriter, marketing director, and English teacher.

Connect with Karen Ginnane: Instagram: @ginnanekaren / Website: 

Connect with host Sam-Ellen Bound: Instagram @samellenb / Website

Find out more about Alan Garner here 

Buy The Weirdstone of Brisingamen here.


Opening and Outro music:

‘Funny Whimsical Music’ by MoodMode, accessed via Storyblocks. Purchased and used under Storyblocks’ Royalty-Free Individual License Agreement.

Sound files:

'Dark Sitar' by SamuelFrancisJohnson. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement. 'Scary Horn' by Scream Studio. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.

'Dark Wind' by tec studio. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.

'Paper Pom Pom Dragged Around' by Production Now. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.

'Dark Ambience' by CaCtUs2003. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.

'Barren and Bleak (Horror Ambience)' by Coastal Paul. Storyblocks.

Thanks for listening!
Stay up to date - Instagram @Samellenb

Transcript of KidLit Classics Episode 2: Karen Ginnane talks The Weirdstone of Brisingamen


* this transcript has been edited minimally


SEB: Hello and welcome to Kid Lit Classics, a podcast where children's authors, booksellers and publishing professionals share the children's books that they love the most, and that inspired them to follow their own path into the kid lit industry. I'm your host, Sam Ellen Bound, and today I'm chatting with Karen gna.


KG: Hello, Sam.

SEB:. Hello. It's so lovely to have you, Karen.

KG: So lovely to be here. Sorry to jump in ahead of my time.

SEB: Absolutely. No problem. So Karen, you are a Melbourne based author for middle grade and young adult readers. And your latest series, The Time Catchers, was published in 2021 and 2022 by Penguin Random House. It's a YA historical fantasy set in Victorian London and a parallel world. And Karen, you've also worked as a copywriter, marketing director and English teacher.

KG: I have indeed.

SEB: So perfect. You're the perfect person to have on Kid Lit Classics.

KG: I'm very excited to be here.

SEB: Lovely. So Karen, today, I just absolutely love you so much because you have chosen one of my favorite kid lit books ever and that book is The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

KG: Yes, it is by Alan Garer. I'm so excited to be here and to be able to read about this book because it's one of my all time favorites as well. Yeah. 

SEB: So Alan Garner is a British author, an extremely talented man who is best known for his children's novels, many of which retold British, particularly Welsh folk tales. The weird stone of Brisingamen was Alan's first book published in 1960. Karen, can you please share with. The weird stone of Brisingamen's opening line.

KG: I can indeed. This is from the preface, um, the legend of elder. At Dawn one still October day in the long ago of the world, across the hill of Orderly, a farmer from Mobilely was riding to Mc afield Fair.

SEB: Lovely. And what I love about that is because The Weirdstone of Brisingamen has a real connection to landscape and also a lot of traditional folklore of the country. And I think that really sets up the atmosphere for what we're about to. Dive into.

KG: yes, this is such an Epic book, as you say, it's just so deeply entrenched in the landscapes of Cheshire, which is where Alan Ghana grew up and still lives in a very old house, um, in a family that have lived there for many generations.


And in this story, um, the farmer that the children's staying with is, is also a farmer from many generations. And that's one of the things I love about this story is the way that Alan Garner is obviously, it is very personally, He's sort of like, you can feel that it's his sort of traditional connection to the landscape comes through really strongly in the story and the folklore and the way he pulls in various aspects of folklore, not just based in Cheshire, um, to, to give these Really rich layers to the exciting adventure, but underneath that adventure, there's just so much more going on. Shall I tell you a little bit, maybe I should talk about a little bit what the book's about?

SEB: Yes, absolutely. For all listeners, what is, what happens in it? What's the story about?

KG: Okay, well, as I say, it’s set in Chesire which have settlements going right back to the Bronze Age and it. Two children, Colin and Susan, and they're on a summer holiday where they're staying with farmers who are family, friends of, of their parents. Susan has this bracelet, which is given to her by her mother, who in turn was given it to by the family friend they're staying with, who was given it by her mother and sold back, you know, on for generations. So they're staying there for the summer. They go exploring when they arrive and then they, uh, there's a lot of copper mines - in real life but also within the story in this region - they've been warned away from the copper minds cause they're obviously dangerous with, with deep shafts. And they, they sort of do explore a little bit. Not not much, but. While they're around the copper mines they're pursued by these mysterious creatures and then they're lost in a fog and, and they have no idea where they are. And they're unexpectedly rescued by a wizard who is the, the wonderful Cadelin SIlverbrow who takes into safety through these underground caves when he, where he watches over the enchanted sleep of 140 knights who are waiting the time when, to quote, England shall in dire peril when they will rise and fight again.

But Cadelin faces dangers of his own. He has lost the weird stone of Brisingamen The stone, which seals the magic, protecting the knights and the forces of evil are already starting to close in. So it turns out that this pretty stone with the blue fire that Susan wears on her wrist has powerful old magic. It is the weird stone. But of course, Susan doesn't realize this and Cadelinn doesn't know that she has. Until she doesn't and the adventure begins and so can the children help Cadelin regain the weird stone before it's too late. So that's the story. It's very exciting adventure and, and, but as I said, there's just so many other levels going on there as well.

SEB: There really is, but I actually read this book as an adult, so I always appreciated the deeper levels. But for a child, it's such, just such a great adventure across landscape and all the elements of folklore, all the creatures that come in that all have such distinct personalities and they're so lively and they're so as well engrained in history. And it's just this really atmospheric, good, fun adventure across this beautiful countryside. Um, And then, yeah. Then of course as you do get older, you start to see, yeah, those more subtle layers, but just on the surface, so much fun. So much fun.

KG: Mm. Yeah, so much fun. And what I really love about it is that I, I re reread this really recently in preparation for today, but I first read it when I was, I don't know, 13, 12, 13, something like that. And I loved it for the adventure. And I also loved it for this sense of, this sense of otherness that's really strong in the book. It has this sense of, this undertone of something unfathomable, something you can't quite get a grip on. But also it's okay that you can't get a grip on it. And that sort of allowed, that it's given space within the story doesn't feel like it has to be explained away. So that captured me. Not that I could have articulated it back then, but, but. The adventure and, and like the way they're in the minds and they, he describes these, um, sort of twisting, turning passages that go on for miles and connect and go down and there's water and there's sand and having to squeeze through these little sort of, he describes tunnels like windpipes and, and it's just so clear and concrete. And I Realized reading it again is how simple the language is. And it's written in 1960 and often fantasy, you know, sometimes can be a little overwritten, it can be quite florid, some fantasy books. But this is so spare and it's just vivid descriptions. Very concrete, not, not much given, but enough and more than enough to sort of like bring it all to life. And it’s aged really well. And I also love the way he sort of, sometimes when you read an old book, those social, um, attitudes that you have now are different to the social attitude you have back then, and it's dated in maybe the way a sexist reference or, or something. And, and I didn't find anything actually like that. And, you know, Susan and is often the ring leader and you know, for its time. That also struck me this time upon the rereading. But yeah, that's what I love about it. I love it that it works really well just as a story, a really brilliantly told and evoked story, but then you've got this sense of. Just wonder, really deep wonder, which is sort of matter factly, interwoven with the everyday life and it feels like the sort of sense of, and it's much bigger, um, just underneath the surface of it all. Yeah, I absolutely agree that this is one of the reasons why I do love it, especially in my own writing as well.

SEB: In my own writing landscape is very important to me and the natural world and I think, I saw a lot of that in this book when I first read it. Just that deep, you know, if you could be wherever but you see something that is so Beautiful in the natural landscape. And it does feel like it's not of this world. You do feel like it's from another time and another place, and that to me is amazing. That's a, that to me is really magical and this is what the weird stone just has in spades and, and really reverent as well towards the landscape, especially in the way that, you know, all the people in the village, it’s Quite a, a small, like a very close knit community and I guess you'll maybe call it a sort of a farming village, and just all those connections to the land as well. It's just, it's just so beautifully done with a real, real deft touch, I think.

KG: Yes, absolutely. And it was really interesting because Alan Garner came from a, on his father's side, They were, he, he was the first to go to be educated beyond primary level. And his father's side were all manual laborers. They were, um, skilled craftsmen. They were stone cutters and it was oral. They could read, but they didn't. And so he was raised in this working class oral tradition. And then he was the smart one. He was, you know, um, sent to uni. First, first of his family to go to university. And then he, he describes in an interview, he describes how that took him away from his oral tradition and how, um, academia obviously was intellectualizes things and you stand apart from that sort of culture that he also described really well as deep in culture and narrowing vision. So it goes very deep, but it doesn't go very wide. And how he turned his back on academia to come back to his roots to write these stories so that, that sense is very much. There in the books, All of his books actually, but especially these ones. 

SEB: And also the way that he draws on, um, just a variety of folklore. I know in a lot of his other books, he was Welsh Folklore a lot, which are also amazing. Um, but in this book, there's Irish, um, folk mythology, Norse, Welsh, and all done so seamlessly and all done the same respect. So the, just, yeah, it's, it is a, it's a book that has so many layers and so much depth because it draws on so much tradition, paying respect to those traditions, but also creating something that is so fun and, and quite fresh. It's just 10 out of 10 .

KG: 10 outta 10, Alan Garner. Yeah, absolutely.

SEB: So I think you mentioned that you read it when you were an early teenager. Do you remember, did it have an impact on you then maybe in terms of just the way you saw the world or then what kind of books you wanted to read, or even the kinda books you wanted to write?


What kind of influence did it have on you?

KG: . I think I, I think I read this one before I read Ursula LeGuin, who was my other great childhood,  influence. I think I, this one has been around for a long time in our, in our library at home. And when I first read it, I think it was the first time I, I realized a book could do that. And as I said before, I, I wouldn't have been able to articulate it, but it was like there was this exciting adventure, but also there was, This sort of feeling of something much bigger that you were touching on, but you weren't really getting the whole thing. Um, but that was fine because you probably couldn't get the whole thing. And so, and I'm talking about that sort of old deep magic that he, he evokes so well, and it's a very ancient tradition that. Probably, you know, um, sort of is in our collective unconscious, so that's why we respond to it. But, um, I think it was that sense. That's the first time I've always read everything and I used to just read literally everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid. But this. This is a small book, and it was quite a simple book, you know, in terms of, um, wasn't like a huge tome with, with lots of worlds and lots of characters, but it really stuck in my head. It was so vivid. I, I can just close my eyes and just visualize the world so accurately. I've never been to, hadn't been to Cheshire,  or Alderely edge, I have since, but, um, Yeah, I, I think it was that sort of mix of the every day, vivid every day and, and magic and, and the landscape. Also the landscape, the way the landscape was a character was perhaps the first time I'd seen that being done, um, as a child. So, yeah, it just, it just made me realize, I mean, I didn't realize then that I was, you know, in the company, in the presence of a master when I was reading. It was just another book at the time.

SEB: But that’s what we were saying they, now we can articulate why we love them and we can realize the impact they had on us. But you know, when you first read them, uh, it's like you're not gonna give them a critical analysis. You're probably gonna be like, Oh, that, that was cool.

KG: No, you're not. The dwarves are cool. Oh, I liked the Wizards.

SEB: Yeah. Write, It doesn't work. But these are the kind of books that burrow into our subconscious. That is why they're so amazing, because then we come to appreciate the layers of them as we get older, as we have rereads and, and everything then, so, yeah. No one will hold it against you, Karen, if you didn’t write an essay on it.

KG: Yes I couldn't have written an essay on it at the time. No, no. I thought it was a cool book and I loved it, and I read it and I reread it. And I reread it. Yeah. As well.

SEB: Yeah. So is there a particular character or scene that did make a lasting impression?

KG: Oh gosh, theres so many. Um, I think the one that really stuck in my head was, it was their underground descriptions of those mines.

SEB: Yes, my favourite too.

KG: I'd never encountered anything like those mines that, that sort of whole, that whole escape scene and then just the way it's, so when they're stuck in those. You know, they're stretched out hands above and feet below them, and they have to sort of wiggle like earthworms because there's no room to even bend your knees or bend your elbows and those scenes. But, but I suppose within that is the svart moot, which is the, the svarts are these kind of, uh, goblin creatures who, um, they're night loving and day loathing, I think he describes them as, and they, they're underground and they, they, you know, they turn into dust if you shine a light on them.


I, I seem to think, or no, maybe that was the sword that turned them into dust anyway. They didn't like light. And the Svarts are chasing, they want the weird stone. So they're chasing Susan and they're chasing  the kids and, and, um, yeah. So there's a description of them. In underground when the farts are gathering, they're all being called to arms and they're being rallied into battles so that they can chase these kids and the dwarves who are actually in the cave too, even if they don't know it. So I just have this sort of image of this huge cavern and there's big lion's, head stone, lion's head, which is sort of in the cavern and it goes up really high above them. And there's these farts which are like gathered just like clinging to the walls and just everywhere and sort of hissing and whispering. And that scene really stuck in my head. Yeah. But the whole underground adventure and the whole underground escape and yeah, there's so much of that in this book.

SEB: To me, it always is like those hidden landscapes that we maybe don't see in the human world, but everything that's going on underneath that we can't see. Yeah. And I that scene in the mine shafts cause they are being chased, um, and, you know, they're kids as well. So that lends a sense of urgency in a sense of horror because I, when I read it I think I was in my early twenties, I, their safety was not assured for me. They might have been caught and the claustrophobia and the, and the fear and it's done so well. And I actually think, I would say probably in most of children's literature, that is one of the best written action scenes. It's so effective.

KG: So effective. Yeah. It’s simple, it’s not hyped up. Yeah. Uh, no, because it's just the description. It doesn't sort of dramatize it at all. Just describes what's going on. You know, they're under the ground and they have to go on their back at one point because the tunnel is flooded and there's just an inch at the top, but their noses get squashed against the rock at the top, so they sort of have to squash their nose so they can get air and just these details. And it's just like, you feel it, you feel the sand, sort of like. Getting up their nose and it's just so well done. It's so well done. I mean, I really was so excited reading it again. It hasn't lost any of that preciousness.

SEB: I actually often, you know, when I'm writing my own action scenes, I will often, think about this and even reread it. Just to sort of get, you know, learn the tricks of the trade because it's, and also you were saying before that Alan Grner’s language is not, you know, extremely forwarded, is quite simple. But what he can do with that is, worth 500 more words. He just really can capture, very succinctly those emotions and those, and those fears and, and that action of what's going on.

KG: Yeah, it's so exciting, isn't it?

SEB: It really is. And what about characters? Were there any characters that really stuck with you?

KG: I loved The Dwarfs when I was a kid. Uh, I still love the Dwarfs actually  because they're so, they're great characters. I mean, I think I read somewhere saying Alan Gar saying something that his characterization wasn't brilliant in these books cause it was all about the landscape. You know, that's sorts where he put his energy and that's where he was sort of focused on. It's kind of true in that, you know, the characters, you don't go really deep into their thoughts and desires and fears and all of that sort of stuff. Um, but they're enough. They're enough of this story and, and you sort of get enough of a sense for it. But the dwarves I love because they're just funny.

SEB: They have a great rapport.

KG: They've got a great rapport. Yeah, there is humor in these books as well. It's very, it's that very dry, kind. My mum is actually from this part of the world, but, and a lot of the language I sort of, you know, the way the dialect, you know, mither, he says, Don't mither me, which is kinda like bothering, you know, my mum would say, Don't mither me. And, and you know, any road, any road. And my mom still says that. So, so yeah. So there's that familiarity. But, um, Yeah, I love the dwarves cuz I think they're very funny and they, um, but, but they're also heroic, but quietly heroic and they just sort of turn like to, to whatever the moment needs that they're there and, and it's very undramatic and it's very, they, they feel very much of that landscape to me. It’s not overblown, but just, but they can sort of do what they, what needs to be done. They'll, they'll be there and they'll do it. Um, yeah, they're very vivid. And of course Cadalin, I mean of course he's the favorite, isn't he? But, um, But also Selena Place, who is the, um, the Morrigan. And she turns into a crow and she's like the lead witch and Yeah. Yeah. All of them actually. There's not many characters, but they're really well drawn. And you know, Colin and Susan, you're very, they, they're just very matter of fact, kids. Even though they are from the, so long ago, are you actually, obviously you can read the book and you know, it's from that time, but, not overwhelmingly. It's done at incredibly well actually considering, you know, um, they're not that different. And obviously it's convenient cause there's no mobile phones or any technology.

SEB: I love the books where that just doesn't exist! But also what I really love. About the dialogue is that, I remember in a lot of writing classes, we were always told, you know, don't write in people's accents. Don't write the way people speak, but Alan Garner actually does. It's not over the top, but like you said, there are certain phrases and certain words and a certain way of speaking and he certainly does write it like that. And I think that it's fantastic. I actually loved, it was the same. If you've ever read the Redwall books, those characters also spoke in accents and I loved it. Like, whether or not it was accurate. I, I love that part of character.

KG: Well, I think it is accurate. Yeah, I think it is. And I think, um, the way he does it, as you say, it's cause they're quite a light touch, so it's the odd words, so you just know how he pronounce certain words, but it's not every single word. It’s not thick dialect cause that would make it unreadable. But there's just enough in there. And it does give you a sense, it gives you an ear for what it sounds. Cause otherwise I would just read him with an Australian accent. Yeah. You know, you don't, you don't hear the cadences, you don't hear the rhythms of of, of that. And I think that's really important when it's so much of the landscape and people are there and those languages have been developed. You know, those dialects have been there for many, many hundreds, thousands of years. 

SEB: Yeah. No, it's just as with everything, it's always just done respectfully and very deftly.

KG: I think deft is a good word.

SEB: Yes. So what contribution do you think Alan Garner or the weird stone of Brisingamen made to children's literature?

KG: Um, well, he follows in the tradition of, I, you know, he says that Tolkien is the master and he looks up to Tolkien. And suppose he follows a few years after Tolkien and um, he follows in that tradition. But for me, and this might be heresy and this might be a trigger warning for some people, , he does that fantasy thing very in his own way, which is quite unique. And it's not Tolkien. It’s not, because Tolkien is, is a much higher fantasy. And you have the cast of thousands and you have, you know, the, the great, great worlds and, and sort of, whereas Alan Garner also does that, but somehow it's much more grounded. It's, um, much more in the landscape. It's not as full, it, it's a smaller world, but it's much deeper I think. And for me, he's all about sort of many oral traditions, and landscapes and those traditions that go with those landscapes in these stories. It's almost like an homage to that way of thinking. And, and those, um, stories and those traditions that have come down orally from, from the working class. And so I think he's done that within a story, which is also a great story, but, but it's so embedded. It couldn't be anywhere else really. Where his story is, is very much come coming out of the land. And that to me, that groundedness, I think he's the master of that. I can't think of anybody who he matches him. Maybe Susan Cooper, but, but even, you know, for me he is, he is the one. It's just that quietness and the power of his stories under that are un underpinning.

SEB: That's a great way to describe it. A quiet power. Yeah, I absolutely agree. Very earthy. We've said, very connected to landscape, even though we've said that yes, it has so much folklore and mythological influence, you never get the feeling that he's, that's what he's, he's trying to show off about it. It's always very grounded. 

KG: Not at all. And it seems seamless because it is seamless. I mean, folklore comes from the ground, comes from the earth, and comes from the, It's all connected. It's not like one thing is is separate to another and you have to pull them together. They're already together, and I think it's that sense of Cohesiveness that, that he, um, evokes so well.

SEB: Yeah, absolutely. Do you still hear Alan Garner or this book being talked about today?

KG: I do because he, um, has just released a new book that was shortlisted for the Booker. So there's been a lot of, you know, talk about Treacle Walker which I'm dying to read actually.

SEB: No, me too.

KG: He was the oldest person to be shortlisted for the booker, apparently.

SEB: Really? Love that for him. Yeah. Go Alan.

KG: Go Alan. Finally about time too, but um, yeah, so there has been some talk about, because obviously this is the book that made him famous. It was his first book, so, so because of that, … other than that I think a lot of people have read it. I don't hear it being talked about it. Um, other than that so much. But there are a lot of people who go, Oh my god. You know, it's one of my all time classics. Maybe a slightly older generation, though. Perhaps the kids of today, I'm not sure if they're familiar with him. They might be now because of, you know, new conversations around his latest.

SEB: That's what we're here for!

KG: That's what we're here for. We're picking up Alan Garner. Not that he needs us, quite frankly, but we're gonna do it anyway.

SEB: he doesn't need us at all, but you know, we're doing our part.

KG: He's doing alright.

SEB: So what modern sort of - because we do want to entice everyone to kids and adults to pick up the The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – What current books would you compare it to?

KG: Okay. I did struggle with this one a bit because Alan Garner's got such a distinctive voice and style that, that obviously's nobody quite like that out there. But the thing that sprung to my mind, which is not exactly modern, but but is really close for me, is Susan Cooper's, The Dark is rising.

SEB: Absolutely.

KG: Which is more, more contemporary than, than Alan Garner but still not modern. But she, again, is brilliant at, at that sort of like everyday sort of people Intermingling with this darker magic, you know, Earth magic. She's really good at that. Another one I thought of, which is not an obvious comparison, it's The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, just because it's, um, a bit more humorous and a bit lighter, but there's something about it, there's something about the poignancy, There's something about the adventure of this boy in a graveyard who sort of comes into contact with these. Otherly creatures. It reminded me, so that, that's a great book in itself. But it also reminded me of Garth Nix.

SEB: Yeah, his most recent one.

KG: Yeah, the Left-Handed Booksellers of London. Now that's much more funny, but I mean it’s got humans in it, but Garth Nicks is more obviously playing into the humor of, of his characters. But there's a lot of similarities in terms of the, um, the modern world, which is eighties London, which is great actually, but, but also connecting with this mythological world of, of England. And the other book that is contemporary that, um, I thought of when I was rereading The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Is Samantha Ellen Bounds, uh, latest book?

SEB: Oh yes.

KG: Well, it's actually her first book,  in this series. Seven Wherewithal Way. And the reason I'm choosing this is because of the way You approach folklore and you, you get inspiration from folkloric traditions and beliefs and characters and creatures, um, from all over the world, and you treat 'em really respectfully, importantly, which is what, um, as we were saying, Alan Garer also does, and you know, you have a rollicking adventure with some fantastic characters, um, with a lot of humor and representation, which I am also, you know, which was very pleasing to me. So, yes, so those are some recommendations that I think in different ways compare to Alan Garner.

SEB: And once again listeners, I did not put Karen up to that.

KG: Yeah she tried to tell me Not to actually, but, but it's actually a genuine comparison. Because in that way there's a real parallel. Yeah.

SEB: Well it's, I mean, not that I would compare myself to Alan Garner ever, but there is just such a wealth of beautiful, amazing material to draw on that, you know, I could write 20 Wherewithal books. The source material is stunning, and I absolutely agree with the Susan Cooper comparison. That would've been my first choice as well. Absolutely. She does the same. I mean, it's in the title, the dark is rising. That sense of ancient magic that lies just underneath the contemporary world. She does that.

KG: Yeah. And oh actually, and sorry, just somebody else who again, is not contemporary, but um, Diana Wynne Jones is another obvious one. Yeah. Again, her tone is quite different cause she has that very dry humor and she's much more humorous and, and sort of quirky I suppose. But she also seamlessly interweaves characters with old magic and new magic.

SEB: That's, I actually didn't think of that, but now it's so obvious to me and I'm really hanging out., Any people who are listening, I'm really hanging out for someone to choose a Diana Wynne Jones book.

KG: Oh, there's so many. There's so many. That'll be a perfect.

SEB: I would love to talk about that. Yeah. All right, great. There are some great comparisons there. For anyone who is wondering whether they should read Alan Garner or like we said …

KG: You should.

SEB: Yeah, you should, number one, but he does have the new, uh, novel – or not new, but it was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize – that’s called Treacle Walker, which also has a very strong grounding in myth and folklore. So if you're not sure about reading a Kids's book, you can try one of his adult ones.

KG: Mm. Yeah. Yeah. I'm dying to read Treacle Walker actually. It sounds, it sounds amazing. And the other, you know, he takes so long to write a book that he always says he's worried about – because he's 87 now – and he's worried about, he says, You don't wanna get a new idea at the age I am because it takes me so long to write a book that I don't want to leave anything unfinished. He says, But I just have to resign myself that it’s going to happen one day , but thankfully for us, he did finish this one and it's out there.

SEB: All right, lovely. So now I would really love it if you could read us, um, a little bit from the book. 

KG: I'd love to. So this was really hard and my book is bristling with Post Its cause I couldn't decide. So what I've decided to read is towards the beginning of the book. Um, when the children are first lost, they're exploring, they're near the mine shafts. They’re not allowed to go into the mines. They don't go into the mines. But they're also being pursued because obviously Susan has got this bracelet, which is. A lot more powerful than she's aware of. And so a mist has come down and they've been wandering around these dangerous sort of areas with, in this sort of damp fog and they've lost all sense of track of time and place.


The next few minutes, the children made their way in silence. Susan, concentrating on the ground immediately in front. Colin alert for any sight or sound of danger? All at once Susan halted. Hello? What's this? At their feet, lay two rough boulders and beyond them on either side could be seen the faint outline of others of a like size. What can they be? They lo look as if they've been put there deliberately. Don't they? Never mind said Colin. We mustn't waste time in standing around. And they passed between the stones only to stop short a couple of paces later with despair in their hearts cold as the East wind. Susan's question was answered. They were in the middle of a ring of stones. And the surrounding low dim shapes rose on the limited vision as though marking the boundary of the world. Facing the children were two stones far bigger than the rest, and on one of the stones sat a figure and the sight of it would've daunted a brave man. The three fatal seconds the children stared unable to think or. And as they faltered, the jaws of the trap closed about them. For like a myriad of snakes, the grass within the circle alive with the magic of the place, writhed about their feet, shackling them in a net of blade and brute tight as a vice. As if in some dark dream, Colin and Susan struggled to tear themselves free. But they were held like wasps in honey. Slowly the figure rose from its seat and came towards them. Of human shape It was, though like no mortal, for it stood near eight feet high and was covered from head to foot in a loose habit, Dank and green and Ill concealing the terrible thinness and spidery strength of the body beneath. A deep cowl hid the face. Skin mittens were on the wasted hands and the air was laden with the reek of foul waters.

So there you are.

SEB: Great selection. Yes. Yeah. What a great scene and just the description. Actually, this is a great book to read out loud actually, because like the language is so simple, but so effective. Just so atmospheric.

KG: Yeah. Beautiful.

SEB: Okay, Karen, well, before we go, give us a quick rundown of what you are working on and your latest book or project and where we can find you online. 

KG: Okay. Um, well, I've just finished my duology, which is my two book series for of the time catchers. And I've actually got an idea for a third book within the world that I'm developing. Um, that's probably my main Project, but I've also got another idea, which is still in quite a nebulous stage, but is Not going away. So what I'm actually doing is, cause I'm very busy with non-writing work at the moment, is I've booked myself a DIY writing retreat, which I do every year, at least once a year, which is essential. So I'm just going away for five or six nights, just me and a box of food and my ideas and just, just gonna write and, and sort of immerse myself in that and see what comes. You know, some direction as to which, which project is gonna get my attention. Cause I've got a couple on the boil at the moment. Um, so I'm really looking forward to that. Cause I think that's just, an essential part of my process is just to sort of get away from just, just to sort of immerse yourself in, in whatever you're doing without any distractions from the domestic sphere or anywhere else. So, that's what I'm doing, which is nice. I love being at this sort of creative beginning bit of a book. Yeah. I love the first draft stage where you are exploring the possibilities and you just sort of seeing what will happen. I'm pretty much a pantser. When I first write was a bit of a rough idea, and then I just write into it and see what happens. So that's what I'm about to do and I'm really looking forward to that.

And where you can find me, well, I've got a website which is I'm on Instagram and on a Twitter, um, Karenginnane or ginnaneKaren, um, depending on where you go. But yeah, so that's where I am and I always love to hear from readers and other writers. So do get in touch.

SEB: Yeah, absolutely. And I should actually say now thinking about your time catchers series, and in terms of what we've been discussing about the weird stone, I think as well in your own writing you can see that um, you know, there is that sense of ancient magic with yours as well. And of course you also draw as well, really respectfully, On history, but also, you know, using that in new and fresh ways as well. But there is certainly that undercurrent and your writing is very atmospheric as well. So just, Yeah. Now that I think about it, you can, you can probably definitely see the influence of books like The Weird Stone and also Mythology and folklore even, on your time catches series as well.

KG: Yeah, well, I guess that's what, if that's what you love is what comes out, I guess. And I suppose that's, and thanks to books like this, you know, reading them at a such a formative age, I'm not at all saying that I'm anywhere near the level of someone like Alan Garner, but I guess that sort of, Appreciation of, of different levels. I mean, I love to read that, so it's gratifying to see that it comes out on the page when I write it to some extent as well. 

SEB: Yeah, it really does. And our readers, Karen's books are available in all bookstores, online, everywhere, so definitely check out her book. As well.

KG: Thank you, Sam.

SEB: You're welcome. And listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. If you are loving Kid Lit classics, please like and share and stay tuned for future episodes where we'll discuss even more wonderful children's literature. And if you are interested in being a guest and sharing your favorite book, please get in touch with me via socials or my website, Samantha Ellen bound dot com.

Thank you so much. We've had Karen Ginnane on the show today talking about The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner.

KG: Thank you, Sam. I've really enjoyed myself. Thank you for having me.

SEB: Absolute pleasure.

Karen Ginnane Introduction
What The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is about
Why Karen Loves The Weirdstone
Ties to landscape and country
Inspirations: History, Folklore & Myth
Influence and impact The Weirdstone had on Karen
Favourite Scenes and Characters
Alan Garner's contribution to children's literature
Similar contemporary books
Dramatic Reading
What's Karen working on now