I’m delighted to be welcoming Beth Webb today. Beth is chatting to us about Fleabag and The Ring’s End – the final story in a trilogy.
A delightfully illustrated new edition of a much-loved classic, Fleabag will enchant ages 7-11 with talking cats, powerful magic, and a heroine with girl-next-door appeal (and enchant adults too!).
“I’m the author of fourteen much-loved titles for children and teenagers. You can read the opening chapters here.
My home is near Taunton in Somerset (UK) with two disreputable moggies who rule my life. My four grown-up children are often around, demanding home-made bread and cats to cuddle.
I’m an author and a storyteller, an illustrator and a workshop leader. I visit schools, universities, festivals and events, and I’m happy to craft a day, a weekend or even something longer to suit you.
I’ve run a writing holiday in Sicily, and events and workshops for the British Council in Cameroon. I’ve done storytelling in Orkney, Cork and Younde, and knee-deep in Glastonbury Festival mud.
I like a challenge!
Get Social with Beth Webb
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Fleabag and the Ring’s End in 20 words or less.
Kids’ fantasy, a talking cat with cattitude, fleas, a riddle, a fiddle, and a boy who isn’t what he seems.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wanted to write a fantasy book for the 7-11 age group (MG), but a solid idea was eluding me. I had a quest in mind, but there was no substance or originality to my ideas. Then I went to visit friends and met their black (sort-of) Persian moggie called Kapone. He really did have three legs and trillions of fleas. The cat’s owner was a ‘one of’: kind, fascinating, but opinionated – so I put his voice into the cat (yes, he does know) and the Fleabag trilogy was born.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be?
Oh Fleabag definitely – he gets all the best lines, the warmest places to sleep, and he’s a hero to the last.
Please tell us about the characters in your novel Beth.
Ring’s End is the end of a trilogy, so the characters have all developed before this book starts.
Fleabag is the hero – of course. He enjoys observing humans messing up, waiting for them to turn to him for his mouse-flavoured wisdom. He’ll help them if he feels like it – and if he’s been stroked enough and served fresh salmon on a silver dish. He sees what others miss and he understands the deepest secrets of the Ring Fire.
And he has a BIG score to settle!
Gemma’s a 12 year-old orphan who’s always lived rough in the streets. Because of her skill at reading the Ring Fire (a fiery glow in the Queen’s royal ring), she rises to the highest office in the land – and she hates it. She’s tried running away, and now in book 3 she’s doing her best to step up to her duties, only to be told she’s overbearing. She struggles.
Phelan is about 18, the son of shopkeepers who were were put to death unjustly. He was raised by a Aelforth, a wise old man. As a teenager, Phelan rebelled and was almost killed when he robbed Gemma and her bodyguard, Rowanne de Montiland – only to be bested by Fleabag. Phelan overcomes his feelings of worthlessness, destroys a five-eyed dragon and becomes King – but he remembers everything Aelforth has taught him.
Rowanne de Montiland is a cat-hating lady knight in shining armour. Through all the books she tries to solve most problems with the blade of her sword, only to be told, ‘Fighting isn’t the answer.’ Frustrated and hurt, she takes things into her own hands and learns magic – with disastrous consequences.
Kern is 10, a fiddle player with a grudge and a mission. He is not what he seems (but it’d be a BIG spoiler to tell you how). He’s running away from his own magic and responsibility. For most of the book, he’s trying to find his mother who’s disappeared.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
The fire dancers – definitely! One Dec 21st, I was invited to a midwinter’s party and I saw fire jugglers who tossed burning torches into the rafters of a really old building – probably rather dangerous, but I didn’t care. I was awe-struck! I have never forgotten it!
I think I’ve used the experience more than once in various books!
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your novels were optioned for a movie?
I’m useless at remembering actor’s names, and having a three legged cat as a hero makes things a tad tricky. Can I opt for a Studio Ghibli version please? (anime would work much better wouldn’t it!)
How do your characters come into existence Beth? Do they have a bio?
Well, you know how Fleabag appeared, but yes, I always create a strong back story for all my characters otherwise they come across as rather cardboard and shallow. The back story may not even be mentioned in the book, but it makes all the difference in the world to me as I write.
Panster or plotter?
I used to be a panster but now I’m a combination.
I start with a couple of vague ideas and possible characters, then I send them out to play in their special world. I watch and listen to them carefully, make notes, decide how they could be developed, tweak them and follow the process again.
Once I have a rough outline, I then sketch out a plan, and see how it works within the setting and characters I have.
I have been known to tear up the lot and run screaming to the pub at this stage…
Do you have a book trailer? What do you think book trailers achieve?
No, I don’t have any trailers. If they are well done, I think they can grab new readership. But it’s the ‘well done’ part that matters! However, I always put the first three chapters of all my books up for free.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far Beth?
Having that contract cancelled because the books weren’t earning their royalty back after two years.
… and the best part?
Signing a £400,000 contract with Macmillan children’s books for my Star Dancer series.
Finally, are there any tips you could share with new writers that have worked well for you?
Lots of tips here: http://www.bethwebb.co.uk/advice-for-writers
To be honest, I’ve always struggled with overwriting – I think (hope) I’m improving. How? By being ruthless with myself. Teaching creative writing helps me see my own faults better.
Wishing you success with all your creative projects Beth.
He’s got three legs, millions of fleas and serious cattitude. He’s FLEABAG whose wit, wisdom and love of naps save the day – again.
The evil wizards of Porthwain issue the Great Challenge to win the crown and the Ring Fire for themselves, but Rowanne, bodyguard to Gemma Fire Wielder and King Phelan, deserts her post and flees to Porthwain. There, she becomes the most powerful wizard of all. She says she’s doing it all for the Ring Fire, but is she? Can she be trusted? And who is Kern, the penniless fiddle-player whose music can send even wizards to sleep? It’s for Fleabag to know and the others to find out! But first, the friends must find the Ring’s End.