It's not just a book thing!
Owen Morgan’s Tales from the Black Book is a cracking good read, and has the added appeal of being steeped in the tradition and folklore of Guernsey. I caught up with author and illustrator Owen to find out more.
How would you sum up Tales from the Black Book? A fairytale? An adventure? A love story?
It’s all of these really. The developing relationship between Guernsey girl Nerine and Fairy Prince Ryn was the keystone that held the plot in place, but the story is filled with fantasy, adventure and comedy – and linking it to real events that took place in Guernsey’s history helps to ground the plot and make it, not necessarily believable, but more relatable.
Where did you get your ideas from?
The good thing about Tales is that all of the ideas already exist! I researched the folklore and fairy tales of Guernsey as much as I could – the tricky bit was stringing them together into one flowing narrative.
There have been a number of books written about the Occupation; did you make a conscious decision to focus on a different period in Guernsey’s history?
Yes. The Occupation is probably the most important event in Guernsey’s history….but it isn’t the ONLY thing that’s happened. So many events have been lost to obscurity, like the Civil War, the Witch Trials and the age of Privateering. I wanted to give the people of Guernsey (especially younger readers) a sense of identity – so that they can say, ‘Look at this, this is OUR history and OUR culture.’
To whom do you think the book will most appeal?
This has been the surprising thing – I initially wrote Tales for a more adult audience; I don’t like the stereotype that magic and fantasy ‘must’ be for children. After it was reviewed by a few people, we decided it would be best to aim it at the teenage audience (ages 14 and upwards). However, after the release of the first 100 copies, I discovered it was those in their 20s who most enjoyed it – they liked the way the fantasy blended in with real places they could visit.
Is it the sort of book you like to read?
Of course! In fact, the best advice I ever got was: ‘Don’t tell the story you think other people want to hear. Tell the story YOU want to hear.’
Why did you decide to write a trilogy?
Tales was only meant to be a one-off story, but when I finished writing it I genuinely missed Ryn, Nerine and the other characters. I would daydream about what new adventures they could go on – and so I decided to write The Pocques Trilogy.
Can you give us any hints about what to expect from the sequel?
The Hunt for the Black Book takes place five years after Tales. It’s now the age of Privateering and the plot mainly focuses on the pirates of Sark. The story will be much darker: the heroes don’t trust each other as much as they once did, and the villains will do all they can to exploit this.
What’s next for you?
After a recent trip volunteering around the world, I have become very passionate about wildlife conservation and so have signed up to do a degree in Ecology & Wildlife Conservation at Bournemouth – it will be a huge challenge, but one I can’t wait to start. And of course, I’ll be coming back to Guernsey for the Literary Festival.
Tales from the Black Book is currently available for Kindle, but Owen is hoping to have more copies printed in time for the Festival. Look out for my review in the August edition of Gallery! Caroline