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April 21, 2016

Scarlet and Ivy - Guest Post by Sophie Cleverly, Author of THE LOST TWIN


As far as inspirations are concerned, Sophie Cleverly was lucky enough to have an abundance of likeable and not so likeable characters to draw ideas from for her new book THE LOST TWIN. In this post, Murphy explores a list of her favorite childhood reads and characters that were always in the forefront of her mind while crafting this baffling mystery. From classics like MATILDA to the not so well known novels like MOONDIAL, Cleverly examines the dynamics of every influential villain and protagonist that lead her to Scarlet and Ivy. 

The Lost Twin is a puzzling mystery with a spooky boarding school setting. What 5 middle grade authors or novels influenced Scarlet and Ivy’s tale the most?
One of the biggest influences for me, without me quite even realising it, was Jill Murphy’s THE WORST WITCH. When I was young, before most of the Harry Potter books had been released, these were the magical boarding school books in my mind. Protagonist Mildred Hubble and her best friend Maud attend Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches and their friendship has a lot in common with Ivy and Ariadne in THE LOST TWIN. The super strict Miss Hardbroom was a big inspiration for Miss Fox --- especially her tight-faced appearance.
MATILDA by Roald Dahl is another great book with a scary school and a terrifying teacher. Miss Trunchbull is the headmistress of Crunchem School in the story, and her twisted punishments are every child’s worst nightmare. I loved the idea of creating someone similar to be a fearsome adversary for my characters. Dahl was truly excellent at villains --- Matilda’s neglectful parents are equally nasty in their own way, too.
Another childhood favourite that echoes through my series is DOUBLE ACT by Jacqueline Wilson, which features identical twins Ruby and Garnet. Much like Scarlet and Ivy, Ruby is outgoing and a bit of a trouble-maker, while Garnet is shy and introverted. Ruby longs to be an actress and they end up fighting for a place at a boarding school in the hopes of getting a part in a TV adaptation that’s being filmed there. I was always fascinated by twins and their complex relationships and that was something I wanted to play with in THE LOST TWIN. I knew several real life twins in school who had very opposite personalities, and I thought it was a great opportunity for character conflict.
A lesser known book, but one that I really treasured when I was young, is MOONDIAL by Helen Cresswell. This spooky story takes place in an old manor house --- a setting that I really adored exploring, as I actually grew up near a vast manor house that was built in the 1600s. It seemed to have so much history and so many secrets and was just the sort of place that might be filled with ghosts and puzzles. Similarly, the classic TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN by Philippa Pearce captured my imagination with its own mysterious manor. In that book, Tom is sent to stay in a flat with his aunt and uncle, but the flat is part of a much larger and older house and at night the house comes alive with the past. Both of those contributed to the creation of Rookwood in my books, which has plenty of secrets of its own...