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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Marcus Alexis talks about his new children’s book, Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Marcus Alexis about his life and career, what inspired him to write his new children’s book, and the story of Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Marcus Alexis on The Table Read
Marcus Alexis

I am a graphic designer, so quite a visual person. Someone for whom the real world has never lived-up to being read Tintin as a child! And a history-lover of course.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

2013. I was amazed that there was not a storybook about the topic.

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When did you take a step to start writing?

Embarrassingly I started work then! But there were interruptions and other books! As I worked on it, I discovered it really wasn’t very straightforward.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Nine years (in mitigation, I do have a day job).

What made you want to write Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London?

I wanted to show storybooks could deal with dark themes and explore danger. I have two young boys and their idea of ‘dressing up’ is to grab a sword, their favorite part of the animated film BFG is when the soldiers and helicopters arrive. I wanted to write a children’s book that contained those sorts of elements. The Fire of London offered an opportunity to do that.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

What were your biggest challenges with writing Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London?

Being faithful to the real story while conforming to the 32-page format of a picture book. I did not make it any easier by choosing to write it in rhyme, but I enjoy the discipline and it gives the story pace.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Publishers and editors usually caution that one prerequisite of a successful children’s title is having a child or animal as the central character; but I find something compelling about a hapless adult character. So, although the Great Fire offers a rich cast of true-life characters including King Charles II, Samuel Pepys, the Mayor of London and Christopher Wren, I chose the poor baker, Thomas Farriner; a character who wouldn’t warrant a footnote in history if it were not for his tragic luck that late summer’s night.

What is the inciting incident of Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London?

The fire provides the drama and is also villain of the piece, and it has its own story arc as it grows from one tiny spark on page six to consume an ever-increasing proportion of the next twenty pages. Luckily from the point of view of creating an exciting climax to the story, the fire was ultimately stopped by using explosives to blow up houses and create fire breaks.

Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London on The Table Read
Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London

So, my favorite and perhaps the most exciting spread is probably the soldiers rolling barrels of gunpowder from the Tower ‘as if for war’.

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What is the main conflict of Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London?

I think really its moral; quite understandably most people’s immediate reaction at the time – and in most cases their only practical course of action – was to run away. Yet some people did fight the blaze and enormous sacrifices of effort and property were made – and some ingenuity brought to bear – in halting the blaze and protecting other parts of the City. There were spectators observing the fire from the safety of the south bank of the Thames, and history affords us all that opportunity retrospectively, but I think inevitably you wonder: what would I have done?

Did you plot Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

Because children’s picture books conform to a strict 32-page format you must have a very strict plan. Of course, it never works first time, but with each revision you must re-cut your cloth to fit: one page in, one page out!

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Thomas The Baker And The Fire Of London need?

Yes, throughout I relied on ‘listeners’ who patiently heard many revisions and argued over rhymes, and then the final professional edit was by Victoria Richards at Cranthorpe Millner, who was kind enough to say it did not need too many revisions by that stage; but with a fresh pair of eyes, she was able to finesse a few unresolved issues I had with some of the spreads.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

I could only offer advice on children’s picture books, which would be think very carefully before you choose rhyme! It can be quite maddening.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you are planning to write?

I have finished a companion manuscript as I wanted to show that other stories from history could be treated similarly. The follow-up Colonel Blood & the Crown Jewels is another dramatic true story from the Restoration period set at the Tower of London.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment?

Yes, I frequently found the redrafts and rewrites exasperating, but ultimately hugely satisfying.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Book details (Waterstones)

https://www.waterstones.com/book/thomas-the-baker-and-the-fire-of-london/marcus-alexis/9781803780535

Author details

Website: marcusalexis.co.uk

Instagram: marcusalexispic

Twitter: @MarcusAlexisPic

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