Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meet MG Fantasy Author Daniel Nanavati

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes one of the UK's prolific authors Daniel Nanavati and his middle grade fantasy novel Midrak Earthshaker.

First, a bit about Daniel:

I was born in London, UK. We have mostly lived in Cornwall. My mother is an author; she wrote the first social study of drug taking in the UK in 1967. I knew I wanted to write for children when I was 14 and started when I graduated at the age of 22. I have had two agents and nearly been taken twice, by Heinemann and by Penguin. I started FootSteps Press in 2010 with the intention of bringing well designed books to market through digital publishing. I have been heartened by the broadly excellent reviews our authors have received, some of which the big six would be delighted to have for any of their authors.

Why did you pick to write books for children and MG?

I had a blissful childhood. Though we never had a stable home or much money, we were surrounded by a loving mother. I can say, knowing it is a privilege, that I was loved, but being brought up by an artist (professor emeritus Butler Breton has called my mother 'one of the world's finest living poets) it rubs off. I started to learn to type at 4, started collecting my childhood poems when I was 8 and she gave me a small book to write them in. Talk was about art of all forms, and the centre of the world seemed to me to be creative. Writing for children reflects the high degree of happiness in my own childhood and the love I have for so many wonderful authors for children. It also reflects my own belief that the ideas you put into a child's head stay with them for their whole lives. That marriage of high imagination and deep responsibility suits my character.

What types of books do you like to read?

I have read hundreds of the classics and know to the year when I read most of them. Of course studying Theology and Philosophy at college means I enjoy a good deal of non-fiction, but I am endlessly interested in any writing that explores our boundaries of knowledge and takes us one step further. I couldn't understand most equations or the mathematics, but I can read explanation of science theories and delight in those that show me my observations are inaccurate and that there is something going on mere day-to-day experience cannot explain. I like being challenged. I also enjoy political philosophy. Occasionally I will take up a fiction book, but I rarely get drawn into the hype surrounding books. Trawling secondhand bookshops for treasures unknown is my hobby. I also read poetry.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

I live a country life so I spend a lot of time out in the fields walking my dogs. I often go for walks to think through my stories and have had some good ideas when I've been up to my ankles in mud or sitting on the limb of an oak tree. I really enjoy typesetting and designing books with artists. For fifteen years I did a lot of fund raising for arts and environmental projects. Since my mother became very ill, I have stayed at home mostly being her carer.

Tell us about Midrak Earthshaker and how the story came to be.

Midrak Earthshaker is about a group of elves, magicians and children, who journey to the centre of the earth, where the tree of life is hidden, to save it from being stolen. It is brilliantly illustrated throughout by John-Thomas Pryor, a very talented American artist.

When I started writing I sent my manuscript to Rosemary Bromley, a top children's agent in the UK, and she said I had potential but needed to find my voice. She also told me to write shorter books. I wrote a series of three books during that year, and I really liked characters in each and began to see how they could be linked. That link is the much longer fantasy novel Ruzniel which will come out at the end of 2014. The actual idea for Midrak Earthshaker follows how I write everything. I have a first page and then just start writing. The story is as much a surprise to me as the readers. All I know is I enjoy putting my characters into impossible situations and asking, 'how do they get out of this?' and then going for a walk and coming up with some ingenious plot device to help them.

Here's a peek at Midrak Earthshaker:

The Ruzniel Wipple, companion to the magician Midrak
Earthshaker, unexpectedly falls to Earth right into the laps of a family of elves who have a pressing problem. The guardians of the Tree of Life have been attacked by Girval, a creature of immense age and power. So begins their adventure to save The Tree of Life which has remained hidden at the centre of the Earth. They are not alone, assisted by two children and the rock people, but since the beginning of his life,

Girval has never been defeated!

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

I published Blueskin the Cat about a highwayman who is reincarnated as a cat. Illustrated in watercolours by Gabriela Sepulveda, it is the first of ten books. The following two are finished and the fourth is in draft. The reviews have been glowing.

The Exalted Gate
came about because I love the artwork of Annie Ovenden. She kindly allowed me to choose ten of her paintings, and I wrote a modern day fairy tale for each one.

Mr Binks, Sweetly illustrated by Welsh artisi Nia Ellis is due out this year and follows the adventures of three children caught up in the spells of an alchemist who managed to give himself and the woman he loved eternal life.

I have about fifteen books for children from save adventures to environmental disaster, all of which will come out in the next couple of years.

The Love Poems of Daniel Nanavati is not for children, nor is the essay A Brief History of Lies, on the habits and genetics of lying with great cartoons by Calvin Innes.

What's next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Ruzniel is almost finished, and we are just getting early readers to give feedback. This takes as its theme the big bang and is set in the last three days of universe. Here there is a titanic battle that spans all time to stop evil surviving into the creation of the new universe. Although a marriage of science and magic, it is also a love story and a way I have found to explain our lives:  giving an argument for destiny existing, why we have choice is how ethical we choose to be - you know, the small themes -

What advice do you have for other authors?

The one thing that has always annoyed me when listening to anyone who has success is their fatuous advice. All I can say to any artist anywhere is that if you give up, you are lost, and just because you give your whole life to your art, you are not guaranteed recognition of any kind. This is the life you choose, that is the chance you take.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I have just spent an hour looking into my soul. What I have found there gives me pause for thought.

I am also writing this on January 2nd, so to everyone I offer my respects and warm wishes for 2014, may it bring you peace, fulfillment and joy.

Where can readers find you and your books?

All my books are published by FootSteps Press and are part of the ISBN system so you can order copies online and from your local bookshops or through your libraries. They are all in English, but I am open to suggestions about how to translate them into other languages. The web page for FootSteps with links to all their books is

Also: We are offering voucher prizes for children to draw their favourite character. The end date is August 1st 2014 and full details are on the FootSteps web site.

Readers may also connect with me on Goodreads where I am giving away for a signed copy of Midrak Earthshaker. The giveaway ends June 10, 2014.


  1. WONDERFUL interview!! These are some great questions, and I loved his responses!

  2. Love the sound of this book. Onto the to-read list with it!

  3. What a great cover and this sounds like a book I will enjoy. Magic, elves and all the elements I enjoy seem to be right between the covers. :) Wishing Daniel the best of luck! I can relate to long walks and hikes with my dog. I do my best thinking then!

  4. Thank you. The cover is by Ann Arnold an excellent painter which, when I saw it, looked just like the elves' cottage. I have been very fortunate with all my covers, they are paintings and the works of fine artists and photographers. Enjoy your walks.

  5. Another inspiring interview! This was a fun read.

  6. Sounds perfect for kids who like fantasy but are a little too young for Lord of the Rings. Thanks for linking up to the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  7. Definitely not Lord of the Rings but Ruzniel is for the older child and adult so I hope you keep an eye out for it this Christmas :)