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Talking Location with James Haddell, author of Tales of Truth and Treasure – Britain

23rd January 2022

#TalkingLocationWith James Haddell, author of Tales of Truth and Treasure – Britain

Tiny TripFiction is thrilled to welcome children’s author and primary school teacher James Haddell to the blog to tell us about the beautiful British landscapes and legends that inspired his middle grade children’s series, Tales of Truth and Treasure.

James HaddellWhen I first sat down to write a children’s treasure-hunting adventure novel set in Britain, I was living in Thailand, where my wife and I had been working for seven years. Writing this book became an almost therapeutic hobby as we waited to complete the long administrative process of adoption for our second child, and I’m sure that sitting in a tropical climate whilst writing a story steeped in mystical ancient British legends made me romanticize the locations I was writing about much more than I would have if I had been sitting in drizzly windswept Britain.

I channelled the memories of a lot of childhood seaside holidays and the thrill I felt at exploring castles as a boy, but also did some extensive online research into stories and places that were important in ancient British history and legend. Every time I included a place that someone could search out for themselves It felt like I was burying little treasures of truth within the story for my readers to find.

I mention artefacts that can be found in a few different museums around the country, and the book ends with the main character, Tia, in the British Museum viewing the treasures she discovered in the climax to her adventures. I spent a long time searching for a real-life treasure in a museum somewhere that fitted with a genuine British Legend. I was so excited when I found the Kirkburn sword and couldn’t quite believe how well all the artefacts discovered in the archaeological dig that unearthed this magnificent iron age sword fitted with the legend of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain as recorded in the Welsh Triads.

James Haddell

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

Everything I needed for Tia’s treasure hunt fell into place perfectly soon after as I trawled though some photos of the parish church of Kirkburn. I had genuine goosebumps when I saw the symbol carved onto the font in the church and knew I had found the mysterious symbol I had been looking for to put on Tia’s pendant.

The final piece of the puzzle that marks Kirkburn as the hiding place of the Thirteen Treasures in the book is Tia’s discovery of a set of coordinates that point to the church. As a young reader I would have been delighted in discovering that a set of coordinates in a book I was reading led to a church with a font exactly as described in the book. I’ve only had one reader so far tell me they went to find the church and put their hand on the symbol on the font to see if they could open the secret passage, but that one person made it all worthwhile!

Portland Bill, Dorset

Probably the most important location to The Lost Child’s Quest, and indeed the whole Tales of Truth and Treasure series yet-to-come though, is Stormahaven: the village, along with its school set in the ancient castle itself, where Tia finds a home and a family who support and encourage my heroine in her search for answers. 

Stormhaven was a joy to conceive, and my imagination was fed by several costal locations. The iconic views of St Michaels Mount were never far from my thoughts, and Portland Bill in Dorset was a big inspiration for a community situated on a peninsula that is virtually an island. After Stormhaven was very much solidified in my mind I also learned of the castle near the town of Stonehaven in Scotland which also sits on a promontory, but this a purely coincidental similarity. 

The biggest inspiration for Stormhaven Castle was undoubtedly Tintagel in Cornwall. The site that boasts millennia of settlement and is so inextricably linked to the medieval legends of King Arthur had an irresistible draw, even as I sat halfway round the world. So I took this mystical place, super-sized it to something like the size of Portland Bill, and imagined that it had never fallen into ruin but had become as picturesque as St Michael’s Mount.

James Haddell

Tintagel, Cornwall

I retained some elements that would honour the source of my inspiration, such as Merlin’s cave, and based the name for this ethereal location on Tintagel’s sheltered bay: The Haven. If you lay the map at the beginning of The Lost Child’s Quest over a map of Tintagel the similarities in geography (albeit at very different scales) are plain to see. 

As the series continues Tia will visit various other historical locations around the country, including the Tower of London, Glastonbury Abbey and several mystical sites shrouded in centuries of myth and legend. 

As I sat writing this story at such a distance I was looking forward to the time when my wife and I would be able to return to the UK with our adopted children. Travelling around the country in my head and visiting the places I was writing about invoked a great feeling of nostalgia. I hope that seeps out of the pages as others read of Tia’s adventures.

James Haddell

James has always loved stories and adventure. He spent most of his childhood in Kent reading and daydreaming then went to university in Durham. Four months volunteering for a Thai charity for children with disabilities in Bangkok after university changed everything.

He trained as a primary school teacher, working in schools in London, before getting married and moving back to Thailand for seven years. After adopting two children and beginning writing The Tales of Truth Treasure, he returned to the UK and worked in primary schools and nursery settings as a teacher and Special Educational Needs and Disability Co-Ordinator.

James now lives in Somerset with his wife and three children, where he spends his time writing, teaching and being a dad and husband… though he still finds time to do a little reading and daydreaming now and then.

For more about James and his books check out his website at truthandtreasure.com, or follow him on Twitter @JHaddell.

The Tales of Truth and Treasure series is published by Emira Press.

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