To celebrate book lovers everywhere, this month we have a series of Author Takeovers. The first comes from the hilarious Maz Evans, whose book, Who Let The Gods Out?, is a new, exciting, and brilliantly British, Percy Jackson-esque adventure – the first in a series centered on the Olympian gods. But alongside excellent puns, laugh-out-loud dilemmas, and brilliant escapades, Who Let The Gods Out? has a serious theme of an insurmountable problem. Much like Harry Potter, Elliot’s dream is to save his mum.
Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. Can they solve Elliot’s problems too?
Maz is a former TV critic and creative writing lecturer and founder of Story Stew, an anarchic creative writing program that has visited primary schools and literary festivals. Maz is also the newly appointed ambassador to Spurgeons, a charity supporting young carers. They are currently raising funds to help young carers attend the Young Carers Festival at YMCA Fairthorne Manor in Southampton.
You can help donate here.
When You Can’t Wave A Wand: Writing Difficult Truths for Kids
Ask most children “Who is Harry Potter?” and you will receive one of the following answers: “a wizard,” “a boy who goes to Hogwarts,” “a kid with magic powers,” “an elephant” (there’s always one).
What you probably won’t hear is: “the victim of a double homicide.” And yet this is the aching heart of the Harry Potter series. Harry has everything a child could want – a magic wand, a broomstick, an invisibility cloak… Yet all the magic in the world cannot give him the one thing he truly craves. Harry will never get his parents back.
This, for my two Galleons, is one of the many manifestations of J.K. Rowling’s stone-cold genius. As the books – and Harry – develop, his grief goes through all seven stages, from initial shock to eventual hope. As a younger reader, I desperately hoped that J.K. would return Harry’s parents to him. As a writer, I know she was absolutely right not to.
This difficult, raw truth at the core of Harry’s world was a huge influence on me as I developed my debut children’s fantasy series, Who Let the Gods Out? My hero, Elliot Hooper, is a 12-year-old boy who becomes embroiled with the chaotic world of the modern immortals. After 2,000 years in retirement, the Gods have lost their mythological edge and are far more likely to be found solving crosswords than world problems. Much chaos ensues, and I hope that my readers will enjoy my anarchic imagination and all the fun that it brings.
But Elliot is also a young carer. His mother, Josie, has begun to act very strangely, forgetting things she just said or did, becoming very confused about daily life, and wandering off without remembering where she lives. Younger readers will share Elliot’s concern that his mum isn’t well. Older ones will recognize that Josie is in the grip of early onset dementia.
When I created Elliot, I wanted my hero, like Harry, to have a real-world problem that no amount of magic could solve. Even when Elliot encounters the omnipotent Gods, they are clear that they cannot heal his mother. Over the four books, darker elements in the story will claim they can give Elliot this one thing he so desires – but their price will enslave mankind. Ultimately, Elliot faces a choice: does he save The World, or does he save His world?
Who Let the Gods Out? was not an easy book to pitch, nor an easy book to write. “It’s a really funny story about a kid whose mum has dementia” is not the world’s greatest elevator pitch. Like J.K., I suspect, I wanted to present children with a view of the world that is magical and enchanting but also contains a difficult truth: sometimes, the world is incredibly unfair.
Elliot has a long and difficult journey ahead of him – and I’m afraid that at moments, so will my readers. There are no easy solutions to Elliot’s problems and – without too many spoilers – I’m not going to provide them. Just like the character who inspired me to pick up a pen, Elliot will face seemingly impossible odds if he is to face the difficult truth in his world – not to mention save us all from certain doom.
But there’s another truth for Elliot to discover too. Yes, the world can be cruel and unkind. There are always dark forces that threaten our safety. Sometimes, no matter how good and heroic we are, we simply cannot have the thing for which our heart yearns. But as Harry can assure him, the world is also full of magic. Some might come from a wand. Some might come from Mount Olympus. But none can hold a candle to the most potent force the universe can provide – the love of the people around you.
Donate to help young carers reach their goal, help here.