Published May 2021
Deep inside the mountain known as Devil’s Peak, a group of misfit scientists’ amazing plan to solve ecological problems is threatened by an elemental menace with dangerously different ideas. As Tom Allenby tries to stop this new threat to mankind, he faces the most serious peril of his fifteen year old life. Things will never be the same again. In his toughest, most personal adventure yet can Tom save the world and those closest to him? Or will humanity fall to the storm of the century?
It’s been more than two and a half years since the publication of Blue Sky Black during which time the world has faced a real life crisis, which is still ongoing. Although the series is set more or less in the present day I decided not to include the pandemic in this or any of the forthcoming Heart of the World novels so I would say that all the books are set no later than 2019.
I would caution that some younger or more sensitive children may find parts of this book upsetting but I believe that children’s fiction should not back away from some of the realities of life otherwise kids will be totally unprepared for what awaits. Maybe in the current pandemic situation this may not be an issue.
Whatever things are like at the moment we still need some adventure and this novel has plenty of that plus it links to current concerns over global warming and climate change. I really wish that elemental solutions suggested in these pages could become a reality but unfortunately we have to look to our own behaviour to try and solve that issue.
Hopefully readers young (and older) will enjoy this fifth in the Heart of the World series and maybe check those clouds next time you’re outside…
John Connors (May 2021)
Nb Major spoilers- to be read after the novel!
Blue Sky Black
Published in August 2018
When Tom Allenby, the 14 year old boy who can control the elements, sees metal objects and cars rising into the air one night he knows he is facing a powerful enemy. The trail leads to stolen magnetic stones, sinister experiments in an old country house, and a village hiding a secret. As each of his friends faces challenges of their own, can Tom fight a force which knows all about them? Somehow they must overcome what divides to stop the world being plunged into crisis.
Paperback and Kindle version available here
An introduction to Blue Sky Black
It’s been nine months since the events of The Spectres of Winter and during that time Tom Allenby has turned fourteen and is now in his second year living in Rooksbourne. We re-join him in November as his year’s football team lose a match 5 -0. This is soon the least of his worries however as he witnesses a night-time incident which causes cars to rise up into the air and metal objects to whirl around in a vortex. This is the first of several magnetic disturbances affecting the area which Tom finds are almost too powerful for him to deal with. What is causing them?
Meanwhile there is plenty of activity in the supposedly abandoned Ravensthorpe Hall. A team of environmentalists, a girl floating in a bubble and overgrown animals are encountered by Jake and out of towner Emma as they look to take valuable items before the place is demolished. Both Amber and Kyle face challenges of their own while the trail leads Tom to the village of Marston Hill whose inhabitants protect secret abilities.
Tom and his friends have to face birds that fire light, a deadly mist and a powerful stone circle as they struggle to prevent an astonishing plan that threatens the whole world.
The Spectres of Winter
Published in October 2016
In a thrilling new adventure Tom Allenby faces a double threat. In the depths of a freezing winter, Harrow Hill school is overrun by a force which can control ice. Meanwhile a super evolved subterranean group emerge with a plan that threatens the whole world. Trapped and isolated can Tom and his friends overcome the dangers in time? Or will the Spectres of Winter win?
Available on Amazon in print or kindle version
Introduction to The Spectres of Winter
There is something incredibly beautiful about a snow covered winter yet it can also be a dangerous season and I wanted to capture this in the book. I’ve had the plot for a long time- probably since around 2005- so I’m pleased to finally have released it into the world. I wanted to go back to the sort of winters we don’t get as often now, at least not where I live. I remember as a child trying to make my way through knee deep snow and everywhere was covered in it!
The season in this book is full of serious snow, slippery ice and frost covered woods. It’s a story about a group of characters caught in a dangerous situation doing their best and having to rely on each other. Who can they trust? Who is behind the whole thing? And can they run quickly enough?!
For Tom Allenby it presents a new challenge just as he is learning to use his powers more easily. Whatever he thinks he knows about the elemental world, he discovers there is more he doesn’t know.
I wrote the final draft during the winter of 2015-6 which wasn’t actually that bad but there were certainly some very cold days so it was easy to conjure up the freezing conditions depicted in the story.
Hopefully whatever time of the year you read it, the novel will give you some chills as well!
The Spectres of Winter – Under The Ice
NB Best not to look below here until you’ve read the novel unless you want to be well and truly spoilered!
Other titles considered for the book were: The Wolves of Winter, Under the Midnight Snow, Icebound
The subterraneans are based on evolved badgers who have grown taller, slimmed out and become quite agile as well as being dangerous. And if you don’t imagine a badger could be scary then take a look at a picture of a honey badger!
The idea for the ice wall was inspired partly from an old Doctor Who story The Deamons where a village is cut off by a heat barrier and also the Pink Floyd tour The Wall where the band gradually built a wall between themselves and the audience as the show progressed.
Malvane was originally going to be called Screer then for a long time he was named Rascallion.
He is enormous fun to write because unlike the other antagonists in the previous books or even in this book, he is thoroughly evil! It was his gloved hand that picked up the crystal weapon at the end of Elemental during one of his early trips overground.
Danny Pryor has been briefly in the other books but has a much bigger role in this one. He was Jake’s sidekick earlier and in fact appears in the very first chapter of Elemental. Since Jake has turned his back on the gang, Danny has taken over. I wanted to develop the idea that they had been friends since they were five so have a sort of bond that events since cannot break. Danny is not as clever as Jake and worries about life after school.
Professor Andoh is a glaciologist who arrives to investigate the wall. This character went through several drastic changes starting off as an eccentric German man! I realised there were fewer female characters in the book so Professor Heinricke turned into Professor Andoh, a woman of African heritage with a very loud voice and enthusiasm for her work. She is an old friend of Professor Tyrell.
The idea for the subterraneans’ city was to have a mixture of the primitive and the more advanced to show how their `super evolution` had happened quite quickly. The dwellings are all made of materials produced underground or woven by the loomer spiders.
In an earlier draft they also had furnaces and workshops but I cut these out as they related to a climax that was also deleted.
Originally the power in the basement was going to be the remains of the custodian from Elemental after it had been separated again from Mrs Brackley. Then I changed it to be a different custodian who had been defeated in a battle centuries ago. In the end I decided having another child would be more interesting.
The final confrontation between Tom and Malvane originally took place in the subterranean’s furnace after the latter kidnapped Amber. However I realised this didn’t quite make sense as how would Tom know where to go and it also meant he had to undertake a return journey down below. So I changed it to the confrontation in the woods which also meant I could give Danny a strong moment too.
Will Malvane return? Well he’s out there somewhere and he is very dangerous….
Published in April 2015
“Have you ever looked at the bark of a tree and thought you saw a face then looked back again and the face isn’t there? Maybe it is there. Maybe trees are alive in ways we don’t understand, watching, waiting…”
Deep in Rooksbourne Woods an ancient power threatens humanity. Thirteen year old Tom Allenby is an ordinary boy who has been given an extraordinary gift that enables him to control the elements. In his second incredible adventure he and his friends face a new danger. Is the girl in his class who seems to have similar power a friend or foe? What has happened to all the wildlife in the woods? Who is the mysterious figure in a cloak made of leaves? What is causing pupils at School to become violent?
Tom faces danger at every turn as he struggles to save the world.
If you stare at the bark of an old tree in a certain light it’s easy to imagine a face staring back at you and as we know trees can live for hundreds of years so you wonder what have they seen. This was the starting point for Living Things, the second novel in the Heart of the World series.
There have been a number of fantasy stories involving trees coming to life in various ways but I noticed a tendency for the idea of moving, walking or talking trees was quite prevalent. I wanted to suggest something more subtle than that, a dangerous force or energy that is somehow in the trees. I feel the idea of a root suddenly emerging from the ground or the suggestion of a branch reaching out is more potent than having trees walking about too much.
The other main focus of the book is Tom’s discovery of someone else his age who seems to share the same powers. This seemed an interesting area to explore as while Tom has some experience of elemental energy he is still very much a novice without any guide as to what he could or should do. He has to make his own decisions, a tough call for someone who is a few months away from being 14.
Though this is the second book, the plot is actually the last one I came up with while writing Elemental and planning the other books. I originally imagined it slotting in as the third book but decided the content was more suited to the second book in the series.
It is traditional to trumpet a new work in an ongoing series as being darker than its predecessor and I would certainly say that the issues raised by this book may be more challenging. Having focussed on personal loss and relationships in the first novel, Living Things is about responsibility, conflict, bullying and friendship. And, of course, trees!
Published in April 2014
What's It About?
After his parents’ unexpected move to the small village of Rooksbourne, Tom Allenby acquires a mysterious stone giving him powers over natural elements. He is soon under attack from enlarged animals, vicious plants and dead birds brought back to life. The more he tries to find out what is happening, the more dangerous his life becomes as he is plunged into an incredible adventure.
With new friends Amber – an older girl with a mystery of her own to solve- and Kyle – a lonely boy eager for excitement- Tom has to battle powerful forces to try and stop a threat to the whole world while seeking the truth behind the village.
Mixing adventure, fantasy and mystery Elemental is the exciting and incident packed first story in the Heart of the World books.
Join Tom Allenby at the start of an amazing journey in the most fresh and imaginative children’s fantasy series in years!
Background Notes (Spoiler Warning!)
Best read after you've read the book!
I started the first version of the book in 2003 and completed it in 2005. It was longer than the published version and had quite a different plot.
Since then there have been four completed versions, each one with variations to the plot.
To show how different they were the original versions didn’t include Kyle Marshall, Lord Pennington, Mrs Brackley, Ravensthorpe or Izzy. Tom was only 11 and had a younger brother.
In the later version Tom’s age was increased to 12 and then 13 so he was only two years younger than Amber and Jake. I didn’t think 15 year olds would really want to talk to 11 year olds!
The Earthstone is based on a real stone called Snowflake Obisidian which you can see and even buy at the Natural History Musuem in London.
In the first version, Tom’s father was a construction manager who moved the family to the village because he was in charge of building a large shopping complex which the residents did not agree with. There were also topiary hedge figures that moved around when nobody was looking. The mystery began when the Allenby’s neighbour was attacked by one of these which had started to come to life because of the elemental power in the area.
The name Rooksbourne comes from a real place called Ravensbourne which I liked the name of when I saw it on a notice board in a train station. I changed it to Rook which sounds more mysterious and then used the Raven bit to name the big estate in the book.
The house which the Allenbys move into is based on a real house in a village where I stayed several times back in the 1980s. It was built by an architect so contains a lot of unusual features.
The village itself is similar to the one described in the book except there were no woods and no large estate nearby.
The book had to be changed several times due to advances in technology; when it was first written not many people had a mobile phone and smartphones didn’t exist!
While completing Elemental I also wrote story lines for several sequels.
The book’s title has changed several times. It was going to be called Heart of the World but then I thought that would be a better name for the series. It was also called The Green Boy for a while.