Secrets from an author and illustrator about their middle-grade horror series, Part Two

Secrets from an author and illustrator about their middle-grade horror series, Part Two

Secrets from an author and illustrator about their middle-grade horror series, Part Two

Posted on April 12 by Philippa Dowding in Kids
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In a two-part series, we have a conversation between the author and illustrator of Alex and The Other. (Read Part One here.) Second, let’s hear from author Philippa Dowding, as interviewed by illustrator Shawna Daigle.


Shawna Daigle: So far in our Weird Stories Gone Wrong series we’ve told stories about a giant’s hand, a stalking monster and a time-travel maze. Our new book, Alex and The Other, is about a boy with an evil twin. What made you want to write this story?

Philippa Dowding: Well, the Weird Stories series introduces young readers to different kinds of horror stories, not just ghost stories but the whole genre from paranormal to urban legend, to time travel and now … the classic doppelganger story. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of the Other, the evil twin, the different “us” that each of us may harbour, either metaphorically or in Alex’s case, literally! When I started to think about this story, I went looking for doppelganger stories for middle-grade kids, and there just wasn’t that much available. So it seemed like a great opportunity to introduce younger readers to the thrill of an evil twin story, and to explore the idea of what happens when you are challenged by a different version of yourself and how to decide, “who am I, anyway?”


Shawna Daigle: In Part One of this blog post, you asked me which of the books in the series so far has been the most fun for me to illustrate (Myles and the Monster Outside). Now it’s my turn! Which of the books has been the most fun for you to write, and why?

Philippa Dowding: You know, this is a LOT like asking which of my children I prefer! Tough to choose, but if I actually HAD to pick one (sorry kids), I’d say that Alex and The Other is the story that has been in my mind the longest and so is the biggest relief to actually get onto the page. Also, it has great classic horror story bones: the weird strangers, the haunted mirror, the town gone crazy and the horrifying Other who wants to replace Alex forever.


Shawna Daigle: Do you have a favourite character in the series? Who is it, and why?

Philippa Dowding: You know honestly I like them all, but I particularly loved writing the character of Mr. Green from Carter and the Curious Maze (2016). He’s so deliciously creepy, with his growing green thumb and his red-handled garden shears and his ability to appear and disappear, plus he’s not benign at all. I fashioned him a little bit after Mr. Atoz, the librarian from the original Star Trek series episode “All Our Yesterdays” (my inner nerd is showing)!


Shawna Daigle: Do you have a favourite scene that you’ve written in Alex and The Other, and why?

Philippa Dowding: I really enjoyed writing the Alex-in-the-mirror chapters, because it was so fun to make Alex talk with two different voices as he tried to figure out what to do about the Other. Alex is a very lonely boy and it was a relief to find an ally for him in these chapters, in the guise of his alter-ego in the haunted bathroom mirror at school. I was also able to draw out some humour from his reflection, too, which was fun. Between the two of them, Alex and his reflection have to decide who to trust, and where to turn for help. Don’t we all talk to ourselves when we feel isolated and alone, though? I mean, who better to turn to, at least at first, than that person in the mirror?


Shawna Daigle: I wanted to be an illustrator since I was little, and I know you’ve dreamed of being a writer since you were a kid, too. If you could give ten-year-old Philippa advice about writing, what would it be?

Philippa Dowding: Maybe that’s why we’re such a good creative team, we’re both dreamers from an early age. I guess I’d say this to myself as a ten-year-old, writer-in-waiting: don’t stop writing, even when people tell you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t do it, or you’re wasting your time (sadly, you’re going to hear all of those things). And don’t stop reading and losing yourself in stories, either. One day it’ll make sense why you’ve read The Hobbit ten times: you’re a writer!

Philippa Dowding

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Philippa Dowding photo

Philippa Dowding

Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children’s author, a poet, musician and a copywriter. Her many literary nominations include the Silver Birch Express, Red Cedar, and Red Maple awards. She lives in Toronto.