Anna Goodall’s debut novel Maggie Blue and the Dark World, an inventive and original, sharply written fantasy, with memorable scenes and characters was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award in 2021. The sequel, Maggie Blue and the White Crow, is out now and sees Maggie return to the Dark World to face more dangers. Anna answered our questions on her new book.
We first met Maggie Blue in Maggie Blue and the Dark World. How has she changed in this new adventure?
Maggie has got much more to lose… At the start of White Crow, nothing is truly resolved, but she has found some much-needed contentment and a makeshift family, and with it some stability. The Dark World is no longer a personal challenge; it is something she wants to forget about, a trauma she has no desire to revisit. Something has hardened in her, too: it’s a form of self-defence. But, you know, ignoring things doesn’t usually work, does it?
How much did the story develop as you expected? Were there surprises along the way?
In my first draft, I tried to allow for exactly zero surprises… Was it ‘difficult second novel’ syndrome? Well, probably. But whatever the reason, I tried to control the story way too much and only succeeded in boring myself to tears. I started again, knowing mostly where I was going, but not really, and feeling more excited and scared. It was good for me to understand that I need to feel curious (and scared, or at least uncertain) before I can write.
Where did the idea to give Hoagy a love of eighties romcoms come from?
Ha! I think Hoagy’s experiences in the Dark World allowed him to relax into his previous auteur-driven art-house tastes… He needed to feel the witty joy of the best eighties films. Just as he accepts that he is no longer top ’burbs tomcat and has shifted to the role of revered older mog, so he’s allowing himself a little fun. I can’t entirely explain his deep affinity for Billy Crystal and his oeuvre – you’d have to ask him about that.
Maggie, her friends and family, face danger and violence, both physical and psychological, and it is indeed a dark story. How do events in the Dark World allow you to explore ideas about how we live now?
In the books it is especially the shadowy figures of the Fathers who would rather let their world burn as long as they are safe within the Magic Mountains… dominance, greed, power and isolationism, the preference for war and suffering rather than simple choices that would benefit many. Seems crazy, but it’s our own very recognisable reality.
You’ve said that writing is a way you connect to the world. Are there similarities between you and Maggie (who can move between this world and a different one)?
I love that idea, but I hadn’t ever thought of it that way before. But yes, writing is a way of going somewhere else, or, of translating darkness. But for me, it’s also a way of being grounded, a feeling of being more in the world. I find it mysterious and inexplicable: why does writing words with a pen on paper give me such a buzz? No idea. In terms of a similarity between Maggie and I in that regard, I don’t know: perhaps that Maggie’s ability to cross between worlds plays a large part in her understanding of who she is.
When can we read book three in the trilogy (soon we hope!) and can you give us any clues as to what will happen?
I am working on book three now. All the pressures that have been building are going to converge, and it’s going to be explosive (!). It’s also about, not just facing but being all the things you’ve tried to block, a kind of alchemy. And, don’t worry, Hoagy is going to be there, too.
Maggie Blue and the White Crow is published by Guppy Books, £12.99 hbk.