Fellow Spooky Middle Grade Author Janet Fox has a new book coming out soon called THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS! It arrives August 25th and I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this wonderful and spooky tale. Let me just say you’re in for a treat! Janet was kind enough to answer some questions about her book, but first, here’s an official description to whet your appetite:
With tensions in Prague rising at the height of World War II, Isaac Wolf is forced to leave home with nothing more than a small backpack and a pendant in the shape of an eternity knot. His parents believe the pendant will keep him safe–if he can discover what it really means.
This clue leads him to Rookskill Castle, home of the Special Alternative Intelligence Unit where gifted children can learn to harness their powers to support the Allies’ cause. With the help of his new friends and an antique watch that allows him to travel through time, Isaac must unlock his own powers and uncover the true meaning of the eternity knot. The only way he can do that, though, is by hunting for a series of magical artifacts that are scattered throughout the past . . . and Isaac isn’t the only artifact hunter. Soon he finds himself in a race against a threat just as deadly as the war itself–one that his parents had been trying to shield him from all along.
TANIA: The Artifact Hunters is a spooky and thrilling adventure that blends historical elements with fantasy and mystery. What was your inspiration behind the story?
JANET: Thanks, Tania! The Artifact Hunters is a sequel to The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, but my editor and I wanted to do something different. But I also wanted it to be in keeping with the earlier book, and I loved how the chatelaine played such a crucial role there. While I was mulling ideas I came across an article about something called a Death’s Head Watch.
Well, as you can imagine (this is a spooky book, after all), that name alone made me sit up and take notice. And then I saw it and I was hooked. These watches were made in the seventeenth century – basically, they are pocket watches – and made to remind the bearer of their mortality. The one I read about belonged to Mary Queen of Scots, who was beheaded for treason.
I put the watch together with my new protagonist – Isaac Wolf – and wondered, what if the watch was a time travel device? And was one of many “artifacts” with magical properties? And what if those artifacts were in danger of misuse, by Hitler, or something else?
TANIA: The book takes place in multiple places across time including Prague and Scotland during WW2, Ancient Greece, and Pre-Columbian Bolivia, to name a few! That must have taken a lot of research. Did you get to visit any of these countries in person?
JANET: It was a lot of research, and took me a while to write. But yes! I have been to all those countries. Just not those times (though wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe?) My most recent trip was in the fall of 2018 to Prague, which is a beautiful city with a rich history. The Astronomical Town Clock is a wonder.
But I think Scotland has my heart. My ancestors are Scots/Irish, so perhaps it’s the draw of the past…
TANIA: The Artifact Hunters is a companion to your earlier novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, which features a lively cast of characters with magical powers. If you could have a magical power, what would it be?
JANET: Oh, what a great question. I think I would love to be able to fly. That way I could go anywhere I wanted at any time. (That’s the one thing about this pandemic that I’ve missed – being able to travel.)
I tried to give my characters magical powers that were just at the edge of believable. They can’t fly or become completely invisible (though, close), but they can talk to animals or commune with ghosts. That way a reader might feel that they, too, could develop a power with enough practice, even the power to find deeper meaning or understand the magic of science.
TANIA: As if Nazis weren’t scary enough, your book also features some terrifying supernatural villains based off of Scottish lore. Why do you personally think spooky stories are important for young readers?
JANET: I think young readers need a safe place to examine their fears. The world is a terribly scary place, especially now. When a reader feels the emotions of fear or horror or anticipation in a book, she can experiment. “What would I do if I met a monster?” “How would I deal with meeting a ghost?” “Who would I turn to for support?”
And I try to write teamwork and family into my books in these situations, so that readers learn to reach out to others for help. It’s awfully hard to be alone and scared. So adding the component of friendship in a scary book for kids is important to me.
TANIA: What is your writing process like? Was this a hard or easy book for you to write?
JANET: This book was hard in a way because I wanted it to live up to the first book, which did really, really well. And I wanted it to be different enough that it could stand on its own, but connect enough to answer reader questions about the things left dangling in the first book.
As to my writing process, I’m a dedicated pantser who is trying to plan more. I’m beginning to get a handle on a new process that works for me, to help me plan, rather than struggling to find my way through each and every new book as if I’m learning all over again, reinventing the wheel.
I’m actually teaching that process in September. https://montana.scbwi.org/events/webinar-a-new-way-to-outline-with-author-janet-fox/
TANIA: Without giving away any spoilers, the end of the book leaves open the possibility for more adventures with Isaac and the Artifact Hunters. Will we be seeing more of them? (I hope so!)
JANET: Maybe. My publisher doesn’t want one right now. They’re considering an entirely new, somewhat spooky but very different idea that I’m excited about, so keep fingers crossed. But I never say never, and in fact have a rough plan for a third and final Rookskill book that would involve taking my SAIU kids to different places, so…who knows?
TANIA: Where can readers connect with you online, and feel free to add anything else you’d like to say to our Spooky MG readers!
I’m also a book coach now, so if you are a writer in need of help, check out my book coaching biz at www.bigpicturestorycoach.com which is also linked on my website.