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I’d like to thank Jack Meggitt-Phillips for joining us in the VIP Reading blog to talk about his third beastly book in the Beast and the Bethany series, Battle of the Beast.
Firstly, congratulations on another brilliant story. I am a huge fan of the series and was delighted to get the opportunity to not only read Battle of the Beast but attend your fantastic launch party! Thank you!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little bit about the story?
The series is about a young 500-year old named Ebenezer Tweezer, a hungry beast named beast, and a rebellious child named Bethany who’s going to be eaten. In this book, the beast claims to have changed its ways. After centuries of scheming, feasting, and generally being the most despicable dribbler in the universe, the beast claims that it wants going to use its powers for good.
Bethany is convinced that the beast is lying. And she will sacrifice everything she holds dear to prove it. Even if this means doing something unspeakable.
If you could be one of your characters for the day, who would you be and why?
Well, Ebenezer is the most like me (even though he has much nicer hair, and a lovelier tea set), so it wouldn’t be much fun to be him. And I worry that if I became the beast for a day, I might develop a taste for poor, defenceless parrots – so I guess I’m going to have to be a Bethany.
Also, I was such an insufferable goody-two-shoes as a child, it would be quite fun to be a prankster and shove some worms up people’s nostrils.
I love seeing how the characters evolve across the series. In this book in particular, we see a bit of a change in The Beast’s personality, due to memory loss. Bethany, quite understandably, has a grudge and highly sceptical of The Beast’s transformation. How often are you thinking about these characters and their evolution in your everyday life?
I love reading and watching series where characters evolve. And, because Ebenezer, Bethany, and the beast started the series as such rotters, their evolution has felt quite organic so far.
I think about them most days – imagining how they would react in various situations. So for example, when I’m in a coffee shop, I’m imagining how each of them would order their drinks. Ebenezer would give extremely specific instructions on how he wishes his tea to be brewed. Bethany would pretend she has some terribly rude name, so the rest of the shop would laugh when the barista calls it out. The beast, meanwhile, would probably eat the coffee shop and everyone in it.
The three of them have essentially built an apartment in my mind, and I’m not quite sure how to evict them. When I write the final book in this series, I genuinely think I will be bereft.
Did you always want to be a writer and who was most influential to you growing up?
If it were not for a certain Mr Snicket, I would have never taken up reading, let alone writing. His tales are dripping with misery, woe, and sheer terror – all the essential ingredients needed to captivate readers, and show them that reading can be as exhilarating as the most dangerous and ill-tested of rollercoasters.
My two main goals since the age of 10 have been to be a writer, or to be Spider-Man. I think there’s still time for me to learn how to climb some walls.
Your writing is so distinct, often compared to ‘Lemony Snicket’ and Roald Dahl, and having watched you perform an extract, I can almost hear your voice narrate the story. How long did these stories live inside your mind before finding the light of day?
Oh well thank you kindly – I definitely try and write my books so that they’re fun to read aloud! The actual writing of the books doesn’t take that long – it’s more coming up with the big idea that will drive the story. Something that’ll be fun to read, but also make lives as tricky for the characters as possible. Working on this book in particular, I’ve learned that the longer that a story can cook inside my head, the easier the writing process.
What advice would you give to children about writing their own stories?
You don’t need a fancy computer, or a splendid pen carved in the Himalayan mountains. If you want to write, all you need is time.
Write constantly – every day of the week if you can. Write episodes of your favourite TV shows, write sprawling made-up histories about the secret life of goats, write about your Aunt Mildred’s disgusting habit of chewing other people’s fingernails. All of it will make you better.
Everyone starts out rubbish at first, but if you write often enough, then you’ll find your voice, and hopefully the kinds of stories that no-one else can tell.
Isabelle Follath’s illustrations throughout the series brilliantly depicts the storyline. What are your thoughts about the illustrations? How much involvement do you have in them?
They’re fab, aren’t they? And I think the ones in this book might be my favourite yet. She has such a talent for producing genuinely funny illustrations – but ones which always stay true to the characters. Whenever I write the books now, I can’t do so without Isabelle’s illustrations dancing across my mind.
Isabelle’s based in Switzerland, so, with the ongoing apocalypse and whatnot we haven’t actually met in real life. Our relationship at the moment consists of a rather lovely series of emails where we essentially bombard each other with compliments – frankly I wish more of my friendships were like this.
What can you tell us about the next book in the series, coming in 2023, called The Beast and the Bethany: Child of the Beast?
It features a genuinely terrifying new villain, a secret which infests friendships like poison, and readers will finally receive an answer to a question that has been burning throughout the series.
We would love to know whether you are currently working on any other books. What are you allowed to tell us?
Don’t tell the beast, because it will throw a strop, but yes I’m working on something new which I’m quite excited about. It’s a supernatural thriller for children, set in an alternate Victorian London.
Can you describe Battle of the Beast in three words?
Dribble. Chomp. Buuuuurp.
Buy copies of the book or a VIP book box to attend Jack’s FREE live author event on Friday 9th December!
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