It all started back in 2010, when I read my son Sam The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It reminded me of how much I used to love stories like that when I was growing up, and made me wonder if I could do one of my own. So I started writing a long, rambling comedy adventure which I read to Sam in instalments as a bedtime story.
There are marshes and tunnels, woods and water, cloud maidens and catapults, and always some strange new creature just around the corner
One of the things that always slightly troubled me about The Lord of the Rings, even as a boy, was the way that all the orcs and goblins are evil. All of them? It seemed a bit unfair to me: surely there must be some who were just fighting in the armies of the Dark Lord because they’d been conscripted, and would have preferred to lead a quiet life somewhere given half the chance. That gave me the idea for the hero of Goblins, who is a goblin (of course) named Skarper.
In the first version, Skarper and his goblin tribe lived in a cave on top of a mountain, and when Skarper was thrown out he set off to seek his fortune and met an ill-assorted bunch of companions who wandered around… and around… and around… Eventually I realised that what this story lacked was one of those PLOTS you hear so much about, so I decided that they were all heading for a sinister ruined fortress which had once been home to an evil enchanter called the Lych Lord. I even found a name for this fortress: CLOVENSTONE… which I saw on the front of a bus while I was heading into Edinburgh from the airport for the 2010 Edinburgh Book Festival (I’ve just remembered that it was on THAT VERY SAME EVENING that I first met Sarah McIntyre, so that was definitely an Important Day).
Once Clovenstone had a name, it started to take shape in my imagination. Soon I realised that it was by far the most interesting thing in my story, and that it would make much more sense if the whole book took place there. Rather than trekking off in search of Clovenstone and reaching it in the final chapters, the story would open there, and the characters would either live there, or arrive in search of treasure and adventure. And of course it wasn’t just a fortress any more: it was an entire ruined city, dominated by the black Keep where the long-gone Lych Lord once lived, and by the seven towers which still house the remnants of his savage goblin armies. Here’s a not-very-to-scale map which I drew for the front of the book…
Of course, without the Lych Lord to keep them in line, the goblins have become even more savage and feckless – all except for Skarper, who is a bit brighter than the rest. Among the overgrown ruins he meets a young would-be hero, Henwyn, who has come to Clovenstone in search of adventures – and there are always adventures of some sort to be had at Clovenstone. There are marshes and tunnels, woods and water, cloud maidens and catapults, and always some strange new creature just around the corner.
I had such fun with the goblins that I ended up writing two more books – Goblins vs Dwarves, in which Skarper and his mates have to deal with a bunch of dwarves who are trying to tunnel under Clovenstone, and Goblin Quest, where they get to venture forth and see some more of the world which lies outside its walls.
So welcome to Clovenstone – I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I did!