Martin Stewart

Martin Stewart

Bridget Vanderpuff Ghost Train Instagram Two

Bridget is back in this spooky new adventure filled with action, mystery and some incredible sleuthing skills!  

Bridget has finally found her home with Mr Vanderpuff in Belle-on-Sea and has even been reunited with her best friend, Tom. But as the town gets ready for the Night of the Hungry Ghosts, strange things keep happening. For one, Bridget’s hair is acting strangely and then Captain Lufty gives a warning that something terrible is coming to Belle-on-Sea. 

When Captain Lufty’s warning appears to come true, and a ghost train rattles into town and people start to go missing, Bridget and Tom must put their detective skills to the test to save the town before it’s too late! 

Another truly splendiferous tale from the wonderful Martin Stewart. Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train is drenched with enough mystery and suspense to appeal to both girls and boys. Beautifully crafted characters burst from every page and make this story an absolute joy to read. 

With beautiful illustrations by David Habben, this is a book that makes you want to sit down in a cosy room and just become lost in its pages. A truly special series with layers of warmth, and a huge sprinkling of heart, Bridget Vanderpuff is sure to capture imaginations for generations to come.

Author Q&A with Martin Stewart

Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train

Hi Martin! Thank you so much for joining us on the VIP Reading blog and for answering our questions about your second instalment of the Bridget Vanderpuff series: Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train!

Congratulations on another incredible book filled with adventure, mystery and action! Having been a huge fan of the Baked Escape, I couldn’t wait to read about Bridget’s next adventures. 

Thank you so much! I’m really glad you’re enjoying the series. 

1. In this new book, we see the inhabitants of Belle-on-Sea preparing for the Night of the Hungry Ghosts. But things start to go amiss when a ghost train is seen rattling into town and people start to go missing. Without giving too much away, what else can you tell us about the story? 

It was great fun having Bridget settling into life in Belle-on-Sea, and I was able to unleash my love of spooky mysteries! We learn more about the people in the village, see Bridget and Tom teaming up to crack the case, and witness another abominable bake – Molten Baklava! It was important to me that Bridget is completely safe and secure in her new home. Although her confidence wobbles as she once more plunges the bakery into chaos, there is no risk of her losing the security and happiness she wins in the first book. The love between her, Mr Vanderpuff and Pascal is an essential ingredient, and the platform for all her rooftopping, nosiness, and adventuring!

2. Bridget is a wonderful character: brave, determined and loyal. Where did you get the inspiration from, for her character?

As the series goes on, I find myself growing ever fonder of Bridget. I wrote the first draft for my daughter, when she was born. I expanded and revised the narrative, and my son was born – my children are so fearless with certain things, and I wanted to make Bridget the epitome of the courage and self-belief that small children can possess. 

My first introduction to that self-belief was a conversation with my niece, then aged three: I asked her what she was good at, and she proceeded to list everything she’d ever done! Singing, check… dancing, check… baking, check… um… climbing! Laughing! Sleeping! Those of us who’ve spent time with small kids know they’re like wee batteries of positivity – time in their company charges the soul. I wanted Bridget to feel like that for readers. 

And the final inspiration was Terry Pratchett’s character, Granny Weatherwax. She always does the right thing. She always knows a little bit more than she’s letting on. And she always wins. As a reader, I loved the cast-iron certainty, and the comfort, of reading a character like that, and that’s exactly who Bridget is (this is why the footnotes detail Bridget’s unwitting witchy ancestry – and the footnotes themselves are a nod to Pratchett!)

3. Both books are centred around Mr Vanderpuff’s amazing and delicious bakes! It is clear that baking is important to you. I love that you watched the entire series of The Great British Bake Off when your daughter was born. How important was this time is planting the seeds for your story?

Completely essential! My years as a teacher made me want to write for younger people, but becoming a dad made me want to write for younger children in a way that just hadn’t previously existed. I see my role as a parent as the pre-eminent part of my existence, and I write the books consciously thinking about my kids reading them when they’re able and being proud of their association with them. My daughter will be seven in a few months, and her reading is developing so well, which I love. 

I don’t actually bake very often, and I’m not particularly good at it! Not as bad as Bridget, thankfully… but it is something we enjoy as a family, and something I did with my mum and my gran. Those core memories of licking the spoon and wearing a too-big apron are something I felt we all sharedand I thought it could be the perfect way of expressing the love I wanted at the heart of the story. 

Really, I just love cakes and bakes. Love them. The best cake in the world is made in a local café – Bloom, in Troon on the west coast of Scotland: lemon and coconut sponge with blueberry icing. I also love pastry – croissant and jam, pain au raisin, Danish, I’m not fussy – and doughnuts, a crème brûlée filled fromTantrum Doughnuts in Glasgow, classic sugary ring doughnut straight from the oil in the Barras market when I was wee. Also Bakewell tarts, and pancakes, and Yum Yums, maybe a wee empire biscuit if there’s one going…

4. The Suction Cupcakes are one of my favourite things that Bridget accidentally bakes – how handy would they be?! Which is your favourite of Bridget’s bakes and why? 

Oooh. The Suction Cupcakes come in very handy in book three, and they are a lot of fun I think maybe the Scream Cream. It was the first one I came up with, and there was something about the sheer chaos of it running around making so much noise that began to bring Bridget’s new home with Mr Vanderpuff to life. There’s a special place in my heart for it!

5. Did you always want to be a writer? Which books did you love reading as a child?

Yes, I did. I remember realising that Roald Dahl was a human person and that he had made Matilda up. The idea that it hadn’t simply been dug out the ground, or existed forever, like the Bible, really struck me, and I wanted to perform the same trick of having something from my mind live in someone else’s head, and make them feel and dream and laugh the way I did. I read all my mother’s old copies of The Famous Five, all of Roald Dahl, Asterix, Narnia. I also repeatedly re-borrowed books I can no longer remember from the local library (one sticks in my mind, which was called Black Belt) and I think rereading was an essential part of building my storytelling instincts – reading not just for what happens, but how it’s done. 

6. We know that the next adventure for Bridget will be released next year and will be called Bridget Vanderpuff and the Great Airship Robbery. This sounds very exciting! Can you give us any sneaky insights into the story? 

Bridget goes to Paris! Mr Vanderpuff is scheduled to compete in the Grand Prix De La Profiteroles – but while they’re enjoying patisserie aboard the airship, someone steals his golden whisk.

Bridget has only a matter of hours to solve a series of perplexing puzzles, or Mr V will never mix again!

It was a lot of fun to spend time in one of my favourite places, and we get to see Bridget teaming up with a new friend – Stacy Yuen, the teapotters’ daughter – while Tom and Pascal have their hands full back in Belle-on-Sea…

7. Bridget Vanderpuff is filled with wonderful details which make both books an absolute joy to read. What does the writing process look like to you? Do you start with the character or the plot?

The writing process has changed a bit writing Bridget: all my other books have been stand-alones, and required a new set of mental rules and structures. Now I’m going back to find familiar spaces and familiar furniture, and so I’m able to get straight into the story. With Bridget, the bones of the thing come from where she is, what they might be eating, what time of year it is… and the plot begins to emerge. 

try to write a fast draft then revise, but I’m an inveterate reviser-as-I-go, and I’ve made my peace with that! It’s a kind of two steps forward one step back process, during which I constantly badger my wife, Julie, for her opinion, andthat eventually leaves me with a first draft that’s in reasonable shape, to which I then add what I think of as the filigree: lots of wee details and jokes and connecting footnotes that I hope add to the reading experience, and reward rereading! Then it’s off to my editor, Lauren, with whom I’ve developed a shared Bridgettian language that helps us polish the narrative really quickly. 

8. What advice would you give to a young person wanting to write stories? 

Finish what you write. The difference between writers and people who simply like the idea is that writers write. It’s that simple. You can write by making notes in a notepad, or simply by thinking through your plot – it all counts – but you must do it

Most people who say they want to write really mean they want to have written: to have the finished thing in their hand. Being a writer means loving the process, enjoying spending time in your imagination, and recognising each failure and rejection as a necessary part of developing your craft. 

9. Both books are filled with beautifully delicate, detailed illustrations by David Habben. How much involvement do you have with illustrators when writing a book? How does that process work for you? 

More than I expected! I love it – illustrations in a book are really important to me – I’m one of those people who go back to the cover when a new character appears halfway through a book and try to figure out which one they are! The publisher sends David’s initial sketches, and we go over the details we like, andsometimes suggest tiny tweaks that might help capture the character. I’ve also chatted back and forth with David over email, and I really enjoy the sense of working on the series as part of a team. It’s an isolated job, but my involvement with David and Zephyr makes me feel more connected, which I really value. 

10. Can you describe Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train in three words? 

Spooky – Mysterious – Fun!

Q&A hosted by
Krystal McCann