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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author John Hughes talks about the inspiration behind his new children’s book, The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed John Hughes about his life and career, what inspired him to write his children’s book, The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee, and his creative process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am John Hughes, a multi-genre writer and author of folklore and fairy tale children’s books.
I was born in London to Irish parents and spent many childhood years living in rural Ireland in a farming community. My first job was as an apprentice security engineer based in the west end of London where I had the opportunity to experience the splendor and wonder of working in such a privileged position.
My youth was surrounded by such an array of famous customers (I would be boasting if I mentioned them) and the lavish west-end shops that boomed in the eighties like the vaults of Garrards the Crown Jewellers, Mappin and Webbs, Asprey, Cartier, etc. I then had a job offer in West Africa for a three-year duration that just added to a young person’s experience of other wonderful cultures, storytelling, and traditions that make up this diverse planet.
When did I first want to write a book?
My first inclination to writing came at around the age of thirteen when I won a few short story competitions at school. But in later years my inexperience in life held me back from pursuing that path because I felt that I had not learned enough about life and people to qualify me to do any story justice. Anyway, who would want to read my ramblings? And so the writing bug remained dormant for another thirty years.
When did you take a step to start writing?
My fictional stories started around the age of thirty-five when I realised the only way to control my children was to invent fantastical creature tales when I was left in the hot seat by my wife to entertain them at weekends when she was busy.
My wife said to me one day that it was my turn to be pulled from pillar to post. From that moment onwards I would invent stories about mystical creatures and goblins to pacify the kids. It worked a treat as there was not a peep out of them when we sat down for storytimes. So I suppose the folklore story writing re-emerged then.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
From conception to release with publishing constraints was two years due to the pandemic.
What made you want to write The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee?
It is based on Irish folklore and the stories told to me by my wonderful grandfather and uncle. The stories captivated the younger me and made me wonder if there are actually creatures beyond our imaginings that do exist in plain sight but we are all too busy to notice.
What were your biggest challenges writing The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee?
I would say the biggest challenge was the flow of the story. Although it is fiction in concept you still have to know how to use the corruptions of say, the quirky Boglun language or the story about the individuals doesn’t ring true. I invent the characters and heroes, that’s the easy bit. But making them interact to entice the reader to turn the page is the hard part. So beware folks when attempting children’s fiction, kids are very astute when it comes to a good story!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
My protagonist in the Boglun book series is Little Murf Muklefinn the Boglun. My inspiration for Murf comes from my young nephew Shane. Shane was always a mischievous boy and got up to some hilarious stunts as a lad, but he was a very kind and caring little chap, so I base Murf on him.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
In my mind, children’s books always have a hero and anti-hero, good over evil, etc.
My Antagonist had to come in the guise of many other characters that interacted with the Boglun race of creatures. But the main antagonist involved is a mythical creature called a Plook ( A mythical monster from Scandinavia ) who would eat a Boglun, but also dogs and badgers who could equally do the same to a Boglun. Dogs and Badgers exist, so no big deal there, but when you are faced with the mythical Plook who originatesfrom over the cold north ice waters, then that’s a serious Antagonist to deal with!
What is the inciting incident of The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee?
Murf the Boglun takes a necklace from a human girl’s bedroom as Bogluns do not understand that it is wrong to steal things. If it glitters they take it. Little does he know the little girl had already stolen it from a fairy princess.
The story then encompasses the creatures correcting what has already happened by banding together for a common cause and showing care and love to all living things. But the Plook is an exception in their book, as he is very nasty!
What is the main conflict in The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee?
Understanding what is right from wrong. It is very important to nurture values in our children, such as equality, and a caring nature in all things, from kindness to a little humble caterpillar right up to our fellow humans. It is also important for our younger generations to understand the fragility and balance of nature and to respect the ecology of the planet.
In the Boglun book, the creatures collect junk and live in the wonderful ecosystem of the peat bogs. Another habitat that is under threat. So I think one of the main conflicts that are addressed in the book is to show love and kindness to all living things and respect our planet.
Do you plot The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I could easily say I plot and plan the storylines but in the immortal words of Stephen King, “I’m a total pantster!”
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Bog Bogluns Of Ballinalee need?
No matter how great you think you can write, your book requires professional editing. I submitted my scribbles confident in the fact my efforts were nearly faultless, then came the big wake-up call. So my advice is always to use a professional editor to polish and remove inconsistencies. You don’t realise it at the time, but up to 20% of the words in your manuscript are not required.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
My advice to anyone who wants to write is “Just do it”. Forget about your grammar and choice of fancy words trying to sound clever, just write and bring out your inner you. We all have life experiences and stories to tell, so just do it and correct it after using a professional editor if required. I know this costs money, but anything that is of quality costs in this world. It’s your baby, after all, so do it right.
In saying this, it is also quite important to find an editor that works in your genre of writing eg; romance, science fiction, etc, as this can make all the difference because they are tuned to that particular topic or genre. I was very lucky to find my editor Candida Bradford who is a fiction editor that crosses a broad spectrum from romance to fairytales. Without Candida’s guidance and mentoring, I doubt my writing would have come up to what is required these days.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I currently have two more children’s books completed. The sequel to the Bog Bogluns of Ballinalee called “The Crone of Balwicca Woods” and another light-hearted children’s fiction called “Things You Didn’t Know About Chimneys” Both books are now professionally edited by the delightful Candida and ready to go. Both books try to inspire friendship, togetherness, and family unity, plus there are a few villains in the mix to muddy the waters!
Finally, a YA novel set in 1740 about a highwayman that is nearing completion called “ Isaacs Corn”
And finally are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Most definitely I am very proud. It has not been easy at times and long hours, but it has been a rollercoaster of a ride. Most of all the fantastic people in the writing and publishing industry who have provided invaluable support and friendships made along the way. Plus the magical assortment of my wonderful family and kind sister Kate to which I owe a lifetime of love and friendship.
Pop all your book, website, and social media links here so the readers can find you.
My website is www.johnhughesauthor.co.uk
The latest book “ The Bog Bogluns of Ballinalee” is available through Amazon, Waterstones, Hatchards, Better World Books, Barnes and Noble, WOB.com, Booktopia, and many other book outlets online and across the world.
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