Good morning everyone!
Today, I have the utter joy of kicking off the blog tour for Ross Montgomery’s brand new book, The Midnight Guardians. Now I was VERY LUCKY and I read this book MONTHS ago… and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s an incredibly special book and I hope EVERYONE reads it.
The brilliant Ross Montgomery is here today to talk to us all about the inspiration behind his characters. I loved the good guys in this so much. The characters are ones that I think everyone, young and old, will love!
“When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must race to Blitz-bombed London to save his sister. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.”
When I finished this book, I was quite bereft. I just didn’t have the words for what I’d read in that really bloody magical way that some books just do. They just transport you to a different time, to a different dimension and put you in the shoes of someone else. It made me cry quite a bit. It’s jam packed full of friendship and magic and meaning. It tells a battle between good and evil. We all know that I really love a book set in WW2, so this was already in a winning place for me, but my gosh, did it do so much more than be just a WW2 book. It’s caring for each other and learning about differences. Its full of incredible characters and incredible messages. Just amazing. There are some amazing scenes in this depicting strength, love and family. I just wanna wrap this book up and hug it. Absolutely incredible.
It’s strange – when I look back over the notes I scribbled down for this story, the first thing I came up with was the characters of the Guardians: Pendlebury, Mr Noakes and the King of Rogues. Usually I do loads of edits and changes with characters and their names, but these ones just seemed to pop into my head fully formed! That does happen sometimes, but it’s pretty rare for me.
For Pendlebury the tiger, there was one key change I made – when I first began writing the first draft, she was made of porcelain, and the Guardians had to feed her plates to keep her strength up! My agent told me this idea was weird and very stupid, advice that I’m glad I heeded. However, that porcelain idea shows me where the character first came from – as a child, I had a tiny porcelain mouse, no bigger than my little fingernail, which I bought with my own money (when I told my Dad that it cost 99p, he suggested I name it RipOff). I loved the idea of an imaginary friend who could shrink to such a small size and then tower over trees the next second – it just had to be a tiger. As for the name, I stole that off two children I used to teach – it’s just got the nicest ring to it. Pendlebury! I could say it all day!
For Mr Noakes, a waistcoat-wearing badger, the inspiration is less clear, but I think it was probably from memories of my grandparents’ home in Northampton. They had lots of ornamental stuffed toys of animals wearing clothes around the house – including a human-size fox wearing a fox hunting outfit, which used to sit bolt upright on a chair at the top of the stairs, an idea I still find bafflingly creepy. I think out of all the characters, Mr Noakes is the most “Narnia”: spiritually aligned to Mr and Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I also stole his name, this time from a Headteacher that I used to work with – apologies Mr Noakes, wherever you are!
Finally, the King of Rogues – the inspiration for this is fairly obvious, at least to me! I was raised on the film Labyrinth, and I think there’s a vein of it that runs through the whole book (especially in the key line “you have no power over me”, which was a big deal in my family and which I hope that people notice). The King of Rogues is pure Sir Didymus, the blustering chivalrous sheepdog-riding knight with a foul temper. I have absolutely no idea where I got his name from, though – I think I liked the idea of one character having a title rather than a name, and it was the first one that popped into my head.
As for Col – he’s lots of things. He’s part me (all my main characters are), part some people I know. He’s massively inspired by Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage: I loved a central male character who was so quiet and practical, a gentle boy who comes alive in Michael Sheen’s narration in the audiobook. His experiences – which I won’t spoil here – are also based directly on things that happened to several of the people I interviewed for research. My mum’s boyfriend’s dad talked to me about living in Bethnal Green in 1940, and many of the things he said set the foundations for Col’s character.
The character that I worked the most on was Ruth – for reasons that will be obvious once you’ve read the book. I had the privilege of interviewing three original kindertransport refugees, who were kind enough to talk me through the character and their own experiences – it’s incredible to think that we’re on the verge of losing this generation.
A massive thank you to Ross for this piece – it is my absolute joy to be kicking off the blog tour for this book! A massive thank you also to Rebecca and Walker Books for inviting me to kick off the blog tour: it is an absolute pleasure!
Please check back daily to the other stops on the blog tour – I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought of this book.