JIM BECKETT | AUTHOR INTERVIEW
South London secondary school English teacher and multitalented creative Jim Beckett is releasing a project into the world that, he tells Karla Brading, “most excites him”: a children’s novel where we learn that controlling a portal to the underworld is serious business…
Beautifully illustrated by Olia Muza, Jim Beckett’s The Caravan At The Edge Of Doom is a heart-in-your-mouth middle-grade adventure full of monsters, ghosts and against-the-clock, life threatening challenges. When 12-year-old Harley discovers that her grandparents have died and suddenly left her in charge of the portal to the underworld, Harley can hardly wrap her head around her new responsibilities. To make matters worse, her brother goes missing somewhere in the beyond and she has no choice but to dive right into the unknown to rescue him. Time is against her. Will they make it out alive?
Beckett has a catalogue of writing experiences across the board, from producing short stories, plays, poetry, sitcoms, standup and more. How does writing for middle-grade compare? “It’s more fun!” he insists. “My partner suggested I write a children’s book, and when I began reading more of the funny and adventurous MG stuff that had emerged in the 21st century, I was excited and inspired.
“I love the imaginative freedom in funny middle-grade fiction – the space for surrealism and anarchy. I think as a younger adult I’d have felt less qualified to write for children, though I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps post-adolescence, we lose – or deliberately sever – the connection with our inner child a little?”
If Beckett could meet a famous person in the Land Of The Dead, who would it be and why?
“I’m going to say David Bowie – although judging from that last album, he may not have gone all the way there – might be in some kind of artistic visionary limbo state. Or maybe Joan Of Arc. See how it panned out for her after the burning at the stake business. What’s the view Beyond about her dramatic exit/entrance? Is martyrdom a transferable skill?”
Protagonist Harley had an ‘imaginary friend’ when she was younger, and gets to reconnect with them later in life – or rather death! But did Beckett have any imaginary friends or ghostly sightings as a child?
“Not that I know of,” he admits. “I made my sister’s teddies talk to amuse her. I’d make anything talk to amuse anyone, to be honest. I loved chatting to my cat. Though, come to think of it, I was talking to my mum about Tigger the other day, and she said we’d never owned a cat…”
So, what inspired The Caravan At The Edge Of Doom?
“We went on holidays in a little campervan when I was growing up. It was cosy, but no one ever exploded in the toilet (as far as I remember). I wanted a story with a quest narrative, and I was intrigued by the prospect of entering and exiting the Land Of The Dead. That whole life and death business – it’s an emotional and philosophical rollercoaster!”
We couldn’t agree more – and are left wondering: what’s next for Jim Beckett?
“There is a sequel,” he promises. “The Caravan At The Edge Of Doom: FOUL PROPHECY – out in early 2022, January hopefully. And I’ve got a couple more middle-grade books lined up. So I’d like to carry on like this for the time being. Grow an audience, find out what they think, what they like. Keep learning – and keep writing!”
The Caravan At The Edge Of Doom is published by Farshore Books. Price: £6.99. Info: here
words KARLA BRADING photos NICOLA LINTERN