When books are born out of the needs of children something very special happens.
Today, I interviewed Philip F Webb about his debut novel, Lily of Atlantis.
Originally, Philip had been writing horror screenplays and short stories for adults, but decided to try his hand at writing for children when - and this is one of the reasons this book is close to my heart - I told him about how much my youngest daughters were struggling at school. With one daughter on the autism spectrum and the other with anxiety from being relentlessly bullied, I was desperate to find a way to lower their stress levels. Something different. Something to capture their imaginations.
Philip wanted to help, so he set to work outlining a book of myths and legends for ages 9-12. The protagonist, Lily, was a brave little girl but everyone knows you can’t be brave all the time, and sometimes, we need a little help. As well as stories, Philip incorporated spells that children could do with their parents. Not spells to turn someone into a frog or put a boil on your least favourite teacher’s bum, Philip’s spells were created to help boost confidence and tackle anxiety.
We were the first to read LILY OF ATLANTIS and not only were the stories charming but the spells really did help. We cast all of them! The ritual of doing the confidence spell, the action itself, and the little gem stones for extra protection, made a world of difference.
I’d had to pull my youngest out of school because the bullying had become intolerable. Philip’s spells gave her the confidence to go back and confront her bully. The girl stopped bullying her and they now get along well. A similar thing happened with my autistic daughter. She was struggling with being in a school that only really caters to neurotypical children but after doing the spells and reading about Lily’s adventures, her confidence blossomed.
Now we know how this wonderful children’s book came to be, let’s hear from the author.
Q1. How would you sum up the book?
A: Lily of Atlantis is a “self help book with ‘pop-psychology’ exercises for children, cunningly disguised as a fantasy story with spells”. The ‘spells’ are deliberately designed to encourage the children to be proactive in dealing with their problems. The description of magic as being "inside you, all your thoughts, feelings etc" and spells as only something to help focus your thoughts and magic, are all meant to encourage a child's self confidence.
Q2. My children call you ‘The Wizard’. If you could do a spell that would change the world, what would it be?
A: If you mean "fantasy" magic, it's tempting to say "world peace" or "end world hunger" or something big. I'm not sure either would last long, even if it was possible. I think a spell to increase everyone's empathy, but not to the point where they become too giving, we need a selfish streak as well, or we neglect ourselves possibly to the point of self harm.
Q3. Has there ever been a time in your childhood that a spell from your book would have helped with?
A: In my late pre-teen and early teen years (along with the usual turmoil) I would lose my temper at the drop of a hat, so the 'Calm Stone' would have been useful. In the book I outline a real car accident I was in as a young child, the 'Obsidian Stone' spell would have been good to know. Actually ALL of them would have been useful at different point, but the 'Calm Stone' is the key one, it backs the others up. Is that helpful?
Q4. What are your favourite myths/legends?
A: I grew up reading and watching different versions of the Arthurian Legends, very rich in symbolism and just plain exciting adventures. I enjoy some of the Robin Hood stories. I find Celt and Norse myth fascinating (The Norse especially, the amount of their tales that really do take the micky out of their gods... especially Thor.) Sumerian Culture and mythology and seeing how it's directly influenced most European myths and culture. Also Dracula and Vampire lore...
Q5. What are you working on at the moment?
A: A spec film script called VAMPIRE: A FAIRY TALE, the title is pretty self explanatory. A spec TV series called THE INFECTED, a zombie apocalypse with a few (I hope) interesting twists on the genre. Also in the mix is a novella called RUNNER, based on one of my short stories. And (of course) a sequel to LILY OF ATLANTIS, dragons may be involved!
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to do this interview, Philip. Very much looking forward to your next children’s book.
BIO: Philip F Webb writes horror stories for adults and fantasy for children. When he’s not writing he’s busy looking after a cheeky cat and dreaming up new spells. He’s also a photography enthusiast. He lives in Leeds after moving there many years ago from Surrey. Now forever known as Wizard of the North!
Catch Philip on twitter @tangledwxwebb
Buy Lily of Atlantis direct from the publisher here:
Also available from Amazon and any good bookshops.