This issue, Words & Pictures feature writer Sarah Broadley chats to author LD Lapinski.

LD Lapinski (courtesy of LD Lapinski)

Your publishing career started with the Strangeworlds Travel Agency children's series (illustrated by Natalie Smillie) around five years ago, followed by Jamie (Harry Woodgate's illustrations are superb) and then your recently launched Stepfather Christmas with illustrations by Nicolas Rix. Did you have a plan of which stories to write next back then and were you aware of the positive impact they'd all have on young readers?

My publishing career has very much been a lesson in perseverance, and 'right place, right time'. When I wrote The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, it was the first time I'd written for a middle-grade audience, after two unsuccessful YA manuscripts that weren't taken on by publishers. But it was amazing fun to write, and the story and characters came to me really easily. I was thrilled that Hachette bought Strangeworlds as a trilogy, and of course I've been privileged to write a Christmas spin-off and a World Book Day special in the series as well. Jamie, on the other hand, was never meant to exist at all. As Strangeworlds neared its end, I signed another contract with Hachette to write another fantasy trilogy. But Jamie came out of my brain, instead. It's a story that I think had to be written or else I would have exploded. And the fantasy trilogy I should have written is still happening! Artezans: The Forgotten Magic launches at the end of February 2024. And as for Stepfather Christmas... my editor asked me, during a phone call about something completely unrelated, if I'd ever thought of writing an Advent-Calendar-Style Christmas story. I pitched her the idea for Stepfather Christmas, and the next day there was an offer for the book-to-be in my inbox. Truly bonkersly busy times.


Jamie is your incredible story about a non-binary character who feels they don't belong in either school offered to them for secondary school. It's helped to raise awareness of this decision many non-binary children make and has made a fantastic impression on their lives knowing they are seen and valued. Travelling over the pond to the US next year, can you tell us a little about that process for Jamie and what your plans are for the launch? Does the American market approach book launches in a different way to UK?

I'm so excited that Jamie is heading to North America in May 2024, I desperately hope it will find children and adults who need it. It will be published by Little Bee Books, in collaboration with GLAAD – a nonprofit organisation focussed on LGBTQ advocacy and cultural change. Right now, my US editor and I are editing Jamie for readers across the pond – we're Americanising a few bits and pieces, but not changing the setting or the characters – though Olly fans will be delighted to know he has a few extra scenes in the US edition! I don't know what the plans are, if any, for a launch – I don't think I'll be going over to see it in bookshops unless a mysterious wealthy benefactor invites me over, but I'm excited to see any photos of the book in the shops!


Your next children's book, Stepfather Christmas, launched mid October, with 25 chapters matching the number of days in a Christmas countdown. Can you tell us a little more about Harper and her stepdad?

Harper Hall is 10 years old; she lives with her older brother, Will, and their super-vet single mum, Helen. Mum announces at the start of December that she's bringing her new boyfriend, Nick, home for the holidays... and when he arrives, he is a big man with a white beard, a red coat, a jolly laugh and strange festive things seem to happen wherever he goes. Harper is convinced he is Father Christmas, but is he really...? The book is structured to be read like an advent calendar – one chapter a night – with the mystery unravelling as the big day gets closer.


Your publishing future reveals a new children's series out next year with the first book – Artezans: The Forgotten Magic. A truly different theme from your other publications as it focuses on magic, dreams and potential nightmares. With twins as main characters, how did you decide who had which powers/personality and all? When can we venture to our local bookshops for a copy?

Edward and Elodie Crane live close to the southern banks of the Moray Firth, and were adopted into a magical Artezan family as babies. Now it's the summer after their eleventh birthday, they are about to find out if they have any magic powers at all. Since they're not related to either of their dads by blood, the pressure to fit in is enormous for them both. Ed is a quiet, constant worrier. He doesn't have a lot of friends and his first love is making up stories. Elodie is louder and more outwardly cheerful and enthusiastic, which is often a cover for how she really feels. Adoption is a massive part of my own family history, with both culture and religion being things I have been cut off from as a result of closed adoptions in my family's past. Ed and Elodie have the opposite problem – they want to belong, and have been welcomed in, but to whom do they owe their talents? Deciding which characters would have specific magical powers was great fun – there are Artezans who can command the weather, others who can knit you a dream, another who can find storage space for anything at any time. Artezan magic is split into three branches – Stories and Journeys, Growth and Regeneration, and the Hidden and Unseen. You will have to wait until 29th February 2024 to find out where the Crane Twins fit into Artezan society...!

Some writers avoid reading for the age group they're writing for. When you're not creating incredible worlds filled with awesome characters, which stories keep you awake into the wee small hours?

I'm a huge fan of comics and graphic novels – I have more of them on my shelves than I do prose books. Junji Ito's work is a particular favourite – I can devour a horror comic but have to hide from a horror film. I'm also a fan of suu Morishita and Nagata Kabi's manga, and I'm really looking forward to Homebody, by Theo Parish.


What's next for you? Will there be a sequel to Jamie? Will Strangeworlds Travel Agency ever come back into our lives with another adventure anytime soon?

Right now I'm drafting Artezans Two, and another sequel that I'm hoping will be announced soon! It's a wildly exciting time, and I can't wait to share these characters and stories with everyone. I don't know if The Strangeworlds Travel Agency will ever surface again, but I thought it was over once before – and then it came back for World Book Day, so never say never. I do wonder what Flick's little brother, Freddy Hudson, might get up to when he's older... and whether he will discover the magic of the travel agency for himself in 10 years' time...

 *Header image: by Ell Rose and Tita Berredo


LD Lapinski's books are published around the world in 15 languages, and each book in the Strangeworlds trilogy has been awarded a Kirkus star – one of the most coveted designations in the book industry, marking books of exceptional merit. LD lives just outside Sherwood Forest with their family, a lot of books, and a cat called Hector. They first wrote a book aged seven; it was made of lined paper and sellotape, and it was about a frog who owned an aeroplane. When LD grows up, they want to be a free-range guinea pig farmer.


Sarah Broadley writes for children of all ages and lives in Edinburgh. She is a member of SCBWI Scotland, the Society of Authors and the Scottish Book Festival Network. Sarah is also a trustee on the board of Cymera – the UK's only sci-fi, horror and fantasy writing festival. She chats with creatives on her Words & Pictures feature Writers’ Minds and is a children’s book reviewer for on-line resource My Book Corner.


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact deputyeditor@britishscbwi.org.


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at: illuscoordinator@britishscbwi.org

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