Eleven year old twins Alfie and Rosie Tanner had always lived with their grandmother believing her to be the only family they had. But, on a rare school trip to the local castle they would discover that not only did they have a much bigger family than most, but also one more powerful than any.

After the twins, along with their best friends Billy and Emma, are chased through the castle by the school bully, Charlie Benson, they are guided to a distant magical land. Once there, they are met by a mysterious woman who tells them that their father is lost but that their mother lives. Although alive, she has been bound by spell and now serves the most perilous of wizards. A tyrant of a wizard, who, in order to rule, had dispensed with his entire family, has invoked a law whereby only a certain level of magic is allowed and is protected by four white faceless guardians.

With no idea where they are, but determined to free the mother they had never known from her bind, the young travellers go on to experience the many wonders, and dangers, of this strange and magical land. Along the way, they are taught magic, make their first ever magical trade, and come face to face with wizards, witches, dragons and giants. They discover that there is much more to their lives than they could ever have possibly imagined.


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Having received a request from a reader telling us how good she thought Alfie Tanner and the White Circle was, and requesting a Q & A session with the author, L.J. Hodgson thought it would be fun. The following in-depth interview was conducted over a Skype call, and after Sarah graciously creating the transcript, we thought it would be a good idea to display it here. So, here it is:

Sarah: I'd like to go into more depth about you as an author later, but for now, I'll start with... What made you decide to start your writing career with Alfie Tanner and the White Circle?

L.J.: That's a good first question. I think, because of all the stories I have thought of over the years, this one has always stood out for me. I love the story, the characters. the places, the familiarities, and the messages it brings.

Sarah: And that's a good first answer. So, what gave you the idea for the story?

L.J.: Oddly enough, it was a solitary coin that gave me the idea. One that has been my favourite since watching Half a Six-Pence with Tommy Steele as a child. It's also the reason why the main characters names are Tanner.

Sarah: An idea of a book from a coin. That's extremely interesting to know. You've left the story open. Why?

L.J.: It's not that intended I to leave the story open, but more because there was too much of a story to put into one single book. If I'd have finished this story in one book, then it probably would have become the longest book in world history.

Sarah: Cool. So how many more books will there be to complete the story?

L.J.: Well. I had originally planned for six, as I have outlines for six. Although, depending on its following, I shall probably condense it down to a trilogy. So two more books, unless people want more.

Sarah: Well I've just finished the first and absolutely loved it, so I'd be very happy with six.

L.J.: Thank you. That's very kind of you. I'd happily write five more, but as I've said, it all really depends on the following it receives

Sarah: So how did you go about writing this book? Did you start it and see where it took you?

L.J.: Not at all, no. With this one, the characters and the ending came first. I then thought about how I would get the characters to the end. Plus, there were always things and places that I wanted to include along the way.

Sarah: Do you think it's easier to know the ending before you begin?

L.J.: Absolutely. It's always easier to get to a place if you know where you are going. If you do it the other way around, then you could find yourself at a crossroads and not know which road to take. I personally think that this is where the term 'Writer's Block' comes from. I don't know, of course, but I wouldn't mind betting that it is.

Sarah: So you don't suffer from writer's block?

L.J.: I haven't up until now, no. Though that's not to say that I won't experience it at some stage. I like to think that I won't, because I probably won't start a book until I've played the story out in my head, but you can never say never.

Sarah: How do you like your environment when you are writing? Do you need peace and quiet?

L.J.: That's a good question. Actually, quite the opposite. I like to write while watching / listening to comedy shows. I always have comedies on when writing. All the old classics, like, Man About The House, Porridge, George and Mildred, Only Fools and Horses and Friends, but lately I've been playing a lot of Plebs - Love that show!

Sarah: Those are some great shows. Okay, so, why Alfie Tanner and the White Circle? Why not Rosie Tanner and the White Circle? What makes Alfie special?

L.J.: Actually, it could quite easily have been Rosie Tanner and the White Circle. For marketing purposes it would probably have been a better way to go, as I don't think there's a book like that, is there? But, I wanted my main character to have a big sister (even though Rosie is only 3 minutes older than Alfie), and I always wanted the twins to be a girl and a boy. So, it was the story that dictated the title. Alfie is the youngest, and that's what makes him special. Had Rosie been the youngest, she would have been the special one - Although Rosie is very special anyway, so it's only in the title that she loses out.

Sarah: Why did you choose Alfie and Rosie as names?

L.J.: Because those are the names of my dogs. Rosie has sadly passed, and Alfie hasn't got too long left, so I thought it would be a good idea to immortalise them. And, the more I thought about it, the more I loved those names for the twins.

Sarah: I really like that. This story is about the twins, so what was the need for Billy and Emma? Were they also dogs you owned?

L.J.: No. My thinking was that everyone needs to have a best friend, and so Billy and Emma are Alfie and Rosie's. Billy and Emma are an integral part of the entire story, and without their friends, Alfie and Rosie could never complete their task. And no, no dogs called Billy and Emma.

Sarah: I must admit that Emma did grow on me, but I simply adored Billy.

L.J.: Right from the start I wanted Emma to be almost insignificant. A character that can grow. She does begin to come into her own, but there's more in store for her, trust me on that (smiles). Billy, however, was a character that I wanted everyone to relate to. I think that we all have a bit of Billy in us, and, he's also a character that you would want as a best friend.

Sarah: Would you like Billy as a best friend? I know I would.

L.J.: Oh absolutely. Billy is the best friend that I never had, and always wanted. Someone you can totally trust, and someone you can totally rely on, regardless of the situation.

Sarah: Were any of the characters based on you, or your life?

L.J.: If I am totally honest, they probably all are to an extent. I think I can take certain traits from everyone mentioned in the book, with the exception of Grave, of course.

Sarah: What made you choose Grave to be the name of your evil character?

L.J.: Grave chose his own name believe it or not. I had already decided on the name of Arterian's five brothers, and those were the five letters their first name began with. I thought it quite amazing really, especially as I'd thought long and hard about a name that represented a little fear, and a relation to death. I amazed even myself with that outcome.

Sarah: So what is Grave's real name?

L.J.: Ah, now that would be telling, wouldn't it? You'll find out if you keep reading. What I can tell you, is that you would have heard his name before.

Sarah: Okay, that's intriguing. So. Staying with the characters. Eve is very mysterious. Can you tell us more about her?

L.J.: Eve is VERY mysterious, and as much as I would love to tell you, her mystery must remain a mystery (smiles). What I will say about her though, is that I don't think that she will be who you think she'll be.

Sarah: And Professor Inglebaum. Why is he a squirrel?

L.J.: That will be revealed in the second book. Of that you can be absolutely certain.

Sarah: Because this book has children and magic in the title, are you concerned that people will instantly think that this book is just another Harry Potter clone?

L.J.: I expected this one (laughs). Yes, I think people will initially think that, as you literally cannot say the word magic these days without people thinking of Harry Potter. And if they didn't think of it with just that word, add the word children in the same sentence and it's pretty much a given that people will think of it. However, I could never compete with the popularity of Harry Potter, and nor would I want to! But, anyone that reads this book, and the books that ensue, will know that this is nothing like Harry Potter in terms of story, or anything else really for that matter. In fact, I've done everything I can to ensure that everything about this book is as unique as can be, and I will be going to places where no-one has ever been.

Sarah: So you've read the Harry Potter books?

L.J.: I haven't actually no. But, I did see a couple of the films a few years back, and when commencing this story, I thought I'd better watch them all, to ensure that I didn't copy anything from them. I did contemplate reading the books, but I just didn't have the time.

Sarah: Good idea to keep things original, because originality is always good. So then where do your magical ideas come from? Oh, and I especially would like a Deeper, and a few bottles of Wishy Washy.

L.J.: (Laughs) Who wouldn't want a few bottles of Wishy Washy? How easy would that be? The idea for Deeper's came from a phrase - Short arms. Deep pockets. In fact, a lot of what I've written, and will write, are connected to sayings and phrases. Most of the magical spells, or items, will have a little back story to them. Though some will be just magical potions that I would like to have in everyday life, or if I was faced with tasks like the twins are faced with.

Sarah: The location at the end of the book - I didn't see that coming, at all. Especially not from the cover of the book.

L.J.: You weren't meant to (laughs). I wanted the ending to be a complete surprise, and I hope to the majority it is. Don't tell me, you thought it was the moon on the cover of the book.

Sarah: I did think that it was the moon, yes.

L.J.: I think most people will think that. Though it wasn't intended. When designing the cover I did think that it looked too much like the moon, but I liked the end result so I decided to go with it. But whilst the cover looks like the moon, it really is just the White Circle from a different perspective. I think everyone will get that once they've finished the book.

Sarah: I agree. I must admit, the cover really caught my eye. That and the title were what made me read the synopsis. Together they really intrigued me, and once I'd read the synopsis I just had to give this book a go. I'm REALLY glad that I did. Great job on that cover. I think it really stands out.

L.J.: Thank you very much. I really do appreciate that (smiles).

Sarah: You're very welcome. Okay, so, let's talk more about you as an author. Can I ask what you're working on now? The second book in this series I presume?

L.J.: Naturally. But I'm also writing another book along with it. But that one is not for children though. It is very much one for the adult market.

Sarah:You're switching genre's

L.J.: I'm not really switching, no. I never really set out to be a children's author, although I love writing for children. I do think that children are a little more forgiving than adults though, so I think that I am looking to really test myself as a writer. For all ages.

Sarah: I've no doubt that's a test that you will pass. Can I ask what the other book is about?

L.J.: Thank you. Oddly enough, witches are involved in this one too. Or rather, the accusation of being a witch. The difference being, that it is a mixture of historical fiction and, well, something else. I don't really want to give the game away just yet on that one, but it's an enjoyable, and challenging write.

Sarah: You like to write about witches then?

L.J.: Not particularly no. Well, no more than writing about other people, or things. The connection is purely coincidental, trust me (laughs). It's really just that my two favourite stories happen to include them. Though, I can assure you all of my other stories do not include witches.

Sarah: Wow. It sounds like you have plenty to be getting on with, if you're thinking 3 books in advance. So, you really don't suffer from writer's block then.

L.J.: On certain days I kind of do. But those are just the days where my brain isn't functioning quite so well, or I have other things on my mind. Most days I can reel something off without any problem.

Sarah:So, tell me. What were you like at school? Were you good at English?

L.J.: I wasn't very good at school at all, and I paid very little attention in English. I don't know why, but I always felt as though I knew more than what the teachers were teaching me. That sounds terribly arrogant I know, but I really did at the time. I couldn't wait to leave school back then, but now I'd jump at the chance at going back in time, doing it all again, and this time listening to what I was being taught. Hindsight can be a cruel thing.

Sarah: It really can. Do you write every day? If so, for how long?

L.J.: Not every day, no. Purely because it's nice to have a few days here and there to reflect on what you've written, and to give you ideas on what you're going to write. I think those days help you to make better decisions with the story you're writing. When I do write, it's probably for around three to four hours.

Sarah: What do you find is the hardest thing about writing?

L.J.: For me, impatience. Impatience to get to the next good bit whilst I'm writing the current paragraph. My head moves along quicker than my fingers do, and that is not a good thing.(smiles).

Sarah: And finally. Do you have any tips for other writers?

L.J.: Since I'm not yet published I'd say don't listen to me (laughs). But, if I were to give any tips, it would be to always write your ideas down, to never be afraid of what you write, but ALWAYS question yourself. Can I make this better? If so, how?

Sarah: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. If it's at all possible I think I'm an even bigger fan. I can't wait for the second Alfie Tanner instalment and wish you all the best of luck for the future.

L.J.: Thank you so much Sarah! I thoroughly enjoyed that, I really did. I'll try to make sure that you have the first copy of the next book.

Sarah: Yes please!