My Dreamsnatcher Playlist
1. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
2. The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden
3. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
4. Skellig by David Almond
5. The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy
6. The BFG by Roald Dahl
7. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
8. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Top 10 Desert Island Reads
Inspiration for writing
My siblings and I used to camp under the stars up the glen, play monkey bars from the rafters in the farmyard barns and fish our pond for giant beetles. And when we weren’t getting up to all that, we were scrambling over the moors in search of eagles’ nests and hidden waterfalls and careering down the river on lilos. I didn’t have to create Moll’s outdoor world; it grew out of my own.
And when I thought about writing a book years later, I started thinking about people who might live in the wild landscapes of my childhood – away from the noisy clatter of houses and cars – and it got me thinking about Romany gypsies. Before I knew it, I was knee-deep in research of this fast-disappearing culture: of colourful wagons tucked under the trees, of superstitions handed down over the years, of protection charms and half-forgotten recipes.
One of my all-time favourite books is Philip Pullman’s 'Northern Lights' – and I knew that with my own book I wanted to create a heroine as punchy as Lyra. And so along came Moll – hopelessly flawed but filled with courage and adventurous spirit. Little by little, her world was born and before long, it was filled with a cast of invented characters: a wildcat, a fortune-teller, a witchdoctor, tree ghouls and vapours. Once I’d written the words of the ancient Bone Murmur, Moll’s adventure had begun...
When I’m not writing, I travel the world looking for my next story, work as a volunteer for a charity called Beanstalk, and as a patron for the brilliant Grimm & Co (video here), campaign hard for Authors4Oceans, do star jumps on the top of mountains and remember the good old days when I used to dress up as a unicorn.
I grew up in Scotland where weekends were spent building dens in the woods, jumping into icy rivers, hiding in tree houses and running wild across highland glens. School came as a bit of a surprise (lots of ‘being inside’ and ‘listening’) but English lessons were great. I loved stories – reading them, writing them, listening to them – and it was back then that I discovered worlds behind wardrobes, teachers called Trunchbull and shape-shifting daemons...
I got through school, despite being branded as ‘unteachable’ and ‘prone to spasmodic outbursts of silliness’ by my headmistress, and after an English degree at Bristol University and several years as an English teacher in Africa, Berkshire and London, I am now back to hiding in tree houses and building dens – sometimes in real life, mostly in my books.
1. To get me fired up for a day of writing: Let it Go from Disney’s Frozen
2. When I want to introduce a bit more magic into the plot: Flying by James Newton Howard – from the most recent Peter Pan movie
3. The last few chapters of my book are pretty tense and I wrote them to this song: Narnia battle theme – from the more recent Narnia movie
4. I reward myself with this song after I’ve written a good chase scene: Septimus by Ilan Eshkeri – from the Stardust soundtrack
5. When I’m editing the book and need all my concentration to get it just right: Silence (anything else is distracting)
6. When I want inspiration: BBC Narnia Aslan’s Theme by Geoffrey Burgon (possibly the most magical sounding thing OF ALL TIME)
7. Standard writing day music: anything by Ludovico Einaudi
8. When I’m tired but know I have to write anyway: I’ve Come Home from the Spirit movie
9. When I’m willing Moll on to be brave against Skull: Spark Inside Us from The Princess & The Goblin movie
10. If I were ever to write a kissing scene (at the moment I can’t imagine my characters getting to that point!) I would write it to this song: Storybook Love by Mark Knopfler – The Princess Bride
Abi Elphinstone Q&A
Abi answers your questions about her inspiration for The Dreamsnatcher