Evening all! As you know, in addition to writing about history’s biggest mysteries and conspiracies each week — and working on the Million Eyes Trilogy and the Million Eyes Short Stories — I’ve been writing a series of children’s books for the last five years called The East Pudding Chronicles. I’ve just released the fifth and final book in the series, The First Christmas, which is my swansong in the children’s books arena. For now anyway.
The stories are about the ‘alternative’ origins of Christmas and Christmas traditions. Each one is framed as a story that a grandmother tells to her two grandchildren on Christmas Eve, and each story is set in the village of East Pudding. In East Pudding, the evil witch Murmur is bent on destroying Christmas, but her actions keep inadvertently bringing about the traditions we hold dear.
The first book, The Christmas Monster, shows how Santa Claus came to be. The second, The Merry Mrs Mistle, is about why we kiss under the mistletoe. The third, Tale of the Twinkles, explains why we pull Christmas crackers. The fourth, Plight of the Witch Watchers, reveals why we put up Christmas trees.
And the final book, just released, is about why we celebrate Christmas itself. Hint: it’s nothing to do with Jesus.
The story follows three sisters — Maz, Chris and Mary — as they go on a journey into the sky to find out why it won’t stop snowing. They meet a creature called the Lady of the Skies, who is harbouring a sad secret. Along the way, new secrets are revealed about East Pudding, West Pudding, Murmur and the wizard Mumble, and the shocking true origins of Christmas are revealed.
And while most stories entitled The First Christmas have something to do with the Nativity, I’m afraid there is no baby Jesus in sight in this book. (Having said that, there are a lot of people who argue that Christmas is a pagan festival that was completely hijacked by Christians anyway…)
The stories are inspired by the works of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton (particularly The Nightmare Before Christmas). I’ve tried to create stories that are dark, magical and touching in equal measure. And I do not shy away from the dark aspects either. Children like to read about despicable characters who do awful things to people — as Roald Dahl demonstrated repeatedly. These days too many children’s stories are safe, light and conservative.
I’ve loved writing them (partly because I’m obsessed with Christmas). I’ve had great fun working with Emily Harper, a frankly awesome illustrator who has brought my writing to life beautifully. I remember that one of the books made it into the newspapers a few years ago for having a gay couple and their adopted child as the main characters. Why on Earth not, I say. Homosexual couples in children’s books — portrayed as a normal, ordinary thing — are few and far between and there’s no reason for it.
Anyways, it’s time to say goodbye and to concentrate on Million Eyes. These books have enjoyed a very warm reception over the last few years and have been popular with children, which I’m very grateful for. I hope that children (and their parents!) will keep enjoying them for many Christmases to come.
The East Pudding Chronicles: The First Christmas is available to buy from Lulu.com for £4.99. It will be available from Amazon soon. The first four books are available on both Lulu.com and Amazon. (See my Books section for links.)
This Thursday: what happened to David Kelly?