... Barry Hutchison on »Invisible Fiends«, friends and moral

Barry Hutchison... Barry Hutchison on »Invisible Fiends«, friends and moral

zur deutschen Version »Invisible Fiends" is a youth book series published in Germany in the "Gulliver" series of Beltz & Gelberg, which is incredibly action-packed. It's exciting and scary and forgotten friends  become enemies and the world is on the brink of ruin. This is great. And so we were very pleased that the Scottish writer Barry Hutchison has agreed to answer our questions ...

Zauberspiegel: »Invisible Fiends«, a play on words that works in English only, is the title of your series. We Germans seem to love categories and drawers for sorting. So what genre is the series? What type of reader you want to reach?
Barry Hutchison: First and foremost, it’s a horror, but I didn’t want it to only be scary and nothing else. I wanted it to be funny, too, and I wanted there to be real, believable relationships between the characters. There’s a bit of a mystery thrown in there, too, so it’s a bit of a mix of things, but if you have to file it somewhere, file it under Horror.

Zauberspiegel: »Invisible Fiends« contains violence, people die. Thirty years ago this series wouldn’t have had the chance to be published as youth books, but – like the
»Borribles« – have to be sold as adultbooks. In the United Kingdom that had always been different. What do you think, is the cause for these different traditions in young literature? What can you tell us about British childrens’ books to say and how you see yourself in this great tradition?
Barry Hutchison: I don’t know if the UK and Germany are all that different when it comes to issues like violence in children’s books. Even now, some teachers and parents are uncomfortable with the idea of horror for children, and I’ve had to tone down some of the more frightening aspects of a couple of the books in case they were ‘too much’ for kids to handle. Even as recently as ten years ago there was no horror for children in the UK, apart from the GOOSEBUMPS books, but now it’s a huge market, and kids have a wide range of scary books to choose from. There’s a lot of really good stuff out there these days, although there’s plenty of terrible stuff, too!
Where do I see myself? I’d like to think I’m doing horror with a bit of intelligence to it. Strong characters and plot are more important to me than just filling the pages with blood and gore for no real reason, which is sadly the case with a lot of horror for both adults and children.
Long term, though, I’ll be branching out and writing a whole range of genres, although I won’t be abandoning horror completely. I’ve just sold two comedy/fantasy books to my UK publisher, HarperCollins, and I have ideas for everything from science fiction to historical adventure, so there’s plenty more to come once FIENDS is finished!

Zauberspiegel: Invisible friends are acutally nice contemporaries, that stand side by side with children. When they are no longer needed, they go without a murmur and never come back. Where do they go and what do they really feel? This must be one of the questions you've answered for yourself. So, the cute childhood friends have become embittered, hateful beings. How did you get this idea?
Barry Hutchison: My sister used to have an invisible friend when she was younger, who lived inside an air duct in my mother’s house. My sister’s invisible friend was a little girl, and so she could fit inside the air duct, all her bones had been broken, and her face was pressed right up against the metal bars of the vent. The idea of there being a little girl squashed in there like that terrified me, and it stuck with me for a long time. A few years ago I started wondering where the girl went when my sister stopped ‘seeing’ her, and then I wondered what would happen if she came back.
I guessed she would be unhappy at having been forgotten about and cast aside. And then I thought, what if she’d been sent somewhere really horrific – a Hell for imaginary friends – how furious would she be about that, and what kind of revenge would she try to take if she ever returned?

Zauberspiegel: What kind of place is this place of the discarded invisible friends and what do these discarded friends really feel? Will the reader get to know this place over the course of the follow-up books?
Barry Hutchison: In the books, forgotten friends find themselves in a place called the Darkest Corners. It is a frightening, terrible place, filled with all kinds of evil creatures. When they are there, those invisible friends strong enough to survive lose their minds and become twisted, wicked versions of themselves, eventually becoming little more than monsters.
Kyle visits the Darkest Corners in every book in the series, and you learn a little more about it each time. Almost all of book 4 is set within the Darkest Corners, and Kyle discovers just how terrible a place it is.

Zauberspiegel: The question comes to mind, if you had imaginary friends, and incorporated in the series. Is that true? How much Kyle is in Barry?
Barry Hutchison: I never had an imaginary friend, although I always quite liked the idea of having one. I think there’s quite a lot of me in Kyle, though – he’s a bit of a coward who somehow manages to be brave when his family really need him, and he’s not very good at talking to girls. That’s pretty much me summed up right there!

Zauberspiegel: The story begins on Christmas Eve, only 40 days before the end of the world. The second volume is placed 23 days before doom. How many novels are planned?
Barry Hutchison: There are 6 books in the series. Book 6 begins around 3 hours before the prologue – so 3 hours before the world is overrun by the inhabitants of the Darkest Corners. It’s fun being able to count down to that moment, and I’m looking forward to carrying the story on from there and finishing the series.

Zauberspiegel: A characteristic of the previous volumes of the »Invisible Fiends« is an incredible amount of action. The reader hardly has time to breath. How can an author keep up this speed? And, can we as readers, expect roller coaster rides in the books to come?
Barry Hutchison: Yes! My idea with the series was to write a really fast-paced horror, with some humour in it, and lots of action and excitement. This continues over the rest of the series, and things actually start getting worse for poor Kyle in books 3 and 4. When I was young I used to love books that dragged you along with them, forcing you to keep turning the pages until you reached the end, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, pulling you into the next one, so hopefully readers will find it hard to put down.
I’m quite often exhausted at the end of the day whenever I work on the books, as I throw myself into the story as much as I can. I’m right there with Kyle and Ameena, running away from Mr Mumbles, or facing an army of killer dolls. It’s tiring, but great fun!

Zauberspiegel: What is the moral of the story? What do you want the reader to take with him reading »Invisble Fiends«?
Barry Hutchison: The series is all about the relationships between friends and within families. It’s difficult to reveal too much about how I see the overall moral and theme of the series without giving away some of what happens, but let’s just say it involves learning to accept our friends and family for who they are, even if who they are can sometimes be quite annoying or unpleasant.

Zauberspiegel: Thanks for the interview and we look forward to the further volumes.
Barry Hutchison: My pleasure. Happy nightmares!

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