I’m thrilled to welcome author Phil Hickes to Scope for Imagination with a special guest post about the books that had an impact on him growing up. I wonder how many spooky books featured on his reading list!
The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, sequel to the brilliantly scary The Haunting of Aveline Jones is available now.
About the book:
Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them. Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late?
Guest Post from Phil Hickes
Books I loved growing up
From an early age I can vividly remember the thrill of books. It began with my mum reading a chapter of the Famous Five to us every night in our cold, dark house in Rochdale, UK. That sounds so quaint and twee now, but I really do remember the terrible angst when the chapter would finish on a cliffhanger and we had to go to bed. (First note to future author self: leave the reader wanting more.)
Once I began choosing my own books, my dad stepped up and introduced me to C.S. Lewis and Narnia. For me, these books typify all that’s good about kids’ stories: a moment when magic suddenly becomes real; characters you love; villains you fear: a classic good v evil conflict that’s almost unbearable when it’s not going the way you want it to. (Second note to self: there needs to be a very real uncertainty that good will ultimately triumph.)
Then I was introduced to Alan Garner via a terrific teacher called Mr Armstrong. I can’t thank him enough for reading The Weirdstone of Brisingamen to us. Teachers really do change lives. I then relocated my imagination from Narnia to Alderley Edge. (Third note to self: create a palpable sense of place, one that’s soaked in magic, myth and history.)
From there it was Susan Cooper and the magnificent The Dark is Rising. (Fourth note to self: wintry conditions create the ideal setting for a story that’s magical and scary yet also cosy.)
Then a major turning point, my road to Damascus moment, when I discovered the joy of horror. James Herbert’s Shrine terrified the bejeezus out of me and The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley was another firm favourite. The notion that there were people walking among us, who were dedicated to evil, was a horribly fascinating possibility. (Fifth note to self: villains are often the most effective when their true nature is slowly revealed.)
There were countless other hugely influential books. Lord of the Rings. The Mists of Avalon. Stig of the Dump. A Christmas Carol. A huge helping of Roald Dahl. But it was to ghost stories and horror that I was ultimately drawn. All of these many influences, I think, I hope, are lurking somewhere in the Aveline Jones series.
I have always been fascinated by standing stones but I’m not sure I want to visit the ones in Norton Wick! The Bewitching of Aveline Jones is another deliciously creepy adventure – every page overflowing with suspense and that spine-chilling feeling that nothing is quite as it seems.
Aveline is on holiday with her mum in Norton Wick near Bristol. Their cottage is right next to ‘The Witches Stones’ – ancient standing stones with a dark history. Always curious, Aveline is determined to find out their real story. Were there witches in Norton Wick? Are there witches there now? And what is the purpose of the strange bottle she finds buried at the end of the garden? The village is full of paganism, folklore and a history that leads to more questions than answers.
When Aveline meets a mysterious girl walking among the stones, she is drawn to her intriguing ways. At first, Hazel is fun and friendly but the more time Aveline spends with her, the more unsure she feels. Thankfully, her good friend Harold is coming to visit with a stack of books from his uncle’s shop. Hopefully, these books will hold the answers, even if it means discovering something that doesn’t want to be revealed.
Phil Hickes is the king of middle grade spooky thrillers. Layer after layer of mystery is unwrapped as readers are carried along with Aveline right into the heart of a ghostly connection. The anguish of those who are trying to connect with the human world is so real and positively eerie. When my copy arrived, the pull of the storytelling was so strong that I had to drop everything to read it immediately. I can only imagine the effect it will have on young readers.
Thank you to Usborne books for this brilliantly creepy book!
Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.