Writing ‘The Malichea Quest’ Series: History, Science, Adventure and the Paranormal, by Jim Eldridge
After my first two blog posts about writing for teens, which were mainly “writing background” and “philosophy”, we come at last, fellow writers and readers, to a practical one: writing my latest book for teens (or YA book, as the trade calls them), “THE INVISIBLE ASSASSIN”, the first in my new series of action-adventure thrillers (with a “paranormal” undertone) called “THE MALICHEA QUEST”, published by Bloomsbury last month (April).
As I said in my first blog post, I don’t just write for teens, I write for all ages, from 3 to 113 (and for anyone who lives longer than that). So, when I first get an idea, I toy with it for a while, and then think “Who should this one be aimed at? Children? Teens? Adults?” And then, once I’ve decided that, I start to work out how to put that idea into concrete form.
In the case of “The Malichea Quest”, I was reading a book about censorship, and how the Church in about the 8th century destroyed all books that were deemed to be heretical, if they were written by non-Christian writers, or questioned the Church’s view of the world. Galileo was later to fall foul of this same orthodoxy when he proposed that the Earth went round the Sun, and not the other way around, as the Church insisted. This same orthodoxy continued well into the 20th century, with the Roman Catholic Church banning certain books, and the Nazis burning those books that offended them. This same attitude to “unorthodox thought” still continues in the 21st Century: ban the books and stop people reading them.
At the same time I read that in AD793 the Vikings descended on Holy Island in Lindisfarne off the east coast of Britain, and destroyed the monastery, and all the books in the library. As the library at Lindisfarne at that time contained most of the learning which scholars from across the known world had brought to the monastery in the form of texts and scrolls, all that knowledge and learning literally went up in smoke. These two acts in the 8th Century destroyed much of the scientific knowledge of the time. It has been said that if these two destructive acts hadn’t happened and the scientific knowledge had been allowed to spread instead of being destroyed, humankind would have been on the moon 500 years before we actually were.
And, as I read this, I thought: what if these scientific texts hadn’t been destroyed, but had been hidden for protection – and had remained hidden? (If you want to know more about all of this, then there is a page devoted to “The Legend of Malichea” on my website.)
Once I’d got the basic idea, I mulled over who might be the most receptive to this, and I felt that the older teen/YA readership would be. So, next: who was going to be my hero or heroine to tell the story of the search for the hidden books? If you remember, in my previous blog about teenagers, I said that teens, to a great extent, invent themselves, once they leave childhood. They create their own persona, their own identity. So what about taking this to its logical conclusion: a hero who has created himself because he has no family. He was abandoned at birth; then taken into care. He doesn’t know his genetic background, he has no family role models. He has invented himself. As a result, he has no apparent advantages – he comes from a very poor background, and he is dispossessed of family identity. But could that not be an advantage in itself? A young man who battles against his mysterious background, and the social norms, to creates his own life. It could make him emotionally tougher, a surviver.
And so Jake Wells, the 19-year old hero of “The Malichea Quest” series was born.