2020 CONVERSATIONS WITH COLLEEN: MEET the characters from “JACK HUGHES & THOMAS THE RHYMER” BY AUTHOR, PAUL ANDRUSS, @PAUL_JHBOOKS
Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Jack, Ken, and Catherine, from the novel, “Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer.”
Everyone knows how much I adore faery lore… not the Hollywood version of faeries, but the actual Celtic mythology surrounding the kingdoms of the good neighbors. Paul Andruss has written a fantastic trilogy filled with magic, suspense, and unbelievable events. I can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying this tale!
Read my book review of the first book, HERE.
First, meet Paul Andruss:
Paul Andruss was born and raised in Liverpool. The city’s legendary Scouse wit and dogged stoicism left its mark. Keen to get out into the world, Paul dropped out of college at 17. A year later he was taking exams at Night School, while working in the local Tax Office. On the grounds that anything was better than work, he applied to study Psychology at Liverpool University. Considering his grades (just plumb lazy) no one was more surprised than he when they accepted his application.
After graduation, Paul worked near the romantic Lake District, so beloved of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. No, not Harry’s mum, Peter Rabbit, and Jemima Puddle-duck’s. He worked in Manchester and London before moving to Bodrum in Turkey.
To finance a passion for exploring the heartland of the Ancient Greek Empire, Paul wrote short travel articles focusing on the history and myths of ruined cities and temples. He began illustrating the pieces, using Photoshop to remove power lines and the odd Esso sign from his photographs of ancient sites.
Returning to the U.K. to focus on writing and illustration, he settled in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons. Paul is the author of the Young Adult magical realism trilogy, the Jack Hughes Books, and the forthcoming (very adult) Finn Mac Cool – a gritty, raunchy mythological saga. He has also written a number of short stories and novellas. All scheduled for release with exciting new, independent Scottish publisher, Black Wolf Books.
Colleen: Today we have 3 special guests via Zoom. Let me introduce Jack, Catherine, and Ken to tell us about their fantastic adventure in the fairy realm.
JACK: Dunno where to start.
KEN: How about when Dan went missing, Jack?
CATH: When you saw Queen Sylvie in the park.
Colleen: Who is Queen Sylvie?
JACK: A fairy queen. But I didn’t know she was a fairy queen. She looked like some old tramp.
CATH: Until she turned young and beautiful.
KEN: Hang on, Catherine, let Jack tell it.
JACK: I was spying on my brother Dan with his girlfriend Alison. No one would tell me what was wrong with Mum. But I knew if Dan knew he’d tell Alison. He tells her everything.
KEN: When he’s not snogging the face off her.
JACK: I didn’t know they’d be snogging, did I? It was horrible. When I followed Dan home, some old woman stopped him in the middle of the park. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she changed from a scruffy old tramp into a beautiful lady; or when she took Dan’s hand, and they vanished into thin air.
Colleen: Was this the mysterious Queen Sylvie?
CATH: Yes, but as Jack said, we did not know that until later. First, we had to meet Thomas the Rhymer.
KEN: Before that Jack had to meet us, Catherine. He didn’t know us then, did he?
CATH: Jack knew me because we sat next to each other in class. He was the new boy. For some reason, the only spare seat in the class was next to me. After Dan vanished, there were some very strange rumours going around school.
JACK: After Dan vanished, I dreamed about Dan in some weird place. One night I dreamed I woke up and there was a strange tramp in my bedroom.
KEN: That was Thomas the Rhymer.
JACK: I didn’t know that then either, did I? When I saw him in school. It freaked me out.
CATH: That was when we became friends. Although I did not believe Jack about Thomas the Rhymer.
KEN: I met Jack and Catherine when I saw a gang of bullies tormenting them in the park.
JACK: I thought we were going to get beaten up until Ken saved us.
KEN: Mum told me to keep an eye on them.
JACK: Because she knows about fairies and what they’re like. Ken saved us from the bullies because he can do things with his mind. He’s got powers, like fairy powers.
KEN: I’m not that good, Jack.
JACK: You are, Ken. Ken’s powers are better because fairy powers aren’t real.
CATH: Some fairy powers are real, Jack.
Colleen: What do you mean by fairy powers?
CATH: Fairies live for hundreds of years and travel the fairy roads. Even when their powers are illusions, they feel real. Look at the griffins Queen Sylvie created. And that party in her magnificent mansion.
JACK: Which was a bit of a smelly old dump, really; even though it didn’t seem that way at the time. It seemed totally real when we went to rescue my brother.
KEN: We saw all sorts of people; a centaur, and a Minotaur talking to a matador, and a woman with a bird’s head.
CATH: I think it’s called a scarlet ibis.
JACK: She used her long bird’s beak like a straw to drink her drink.
CATH: There were fauns and tree nymphs, moulted leaves and lichen. Water nymphs, sopping wet like drowned women, spouted streams and rivulets that soaked the carpet.
JACK: The normal people were no better. We saw cowboys and Indians, pirates, ballerinas …
CATH: Harem girls, dancing girls, chorus girls, sheiks of Araby, Paladins of Saladin, Chinamen from Aladdin, gypsy queens and harlequins, columbines and demon kings.
KEN: It was like an explosion in a pantomime factory.
JACK: The best bit was the orchestra of man-sized frogs in dinner suits.
KEN: And what about the little golden fairies?
JACK: They were vicious little rotters.
CATH: Fairies are not individuals like us, with families. They are like a hive ruled by a queen who weaves a dream for her subjects to live in. To do that, she needed Thomas the Rhymer.
JACK: Thomas is like a phone charger. He takes the … What’s it called?
CATH: Psychic energy.
JACK: Yeah, … from the queen’s subjects who send the dream the queen creates back to them.
Colleen: How did you meet Thomas the Rhymer?
JACK: Thomas the Rhymer was haunting me like I said. Ken sensed him, though Catherine didn’t believe me.
CATH: Until he appeared in front of my eyes.
KEN: I was terrified when he chased us. Thomas was afraid and his thoughts messed up my head. When we couldn’t escape, I ran to hide in a church. I don’t know what I was thinking. Jack and Catherine followed me. As I opened the church door, we fell into a ley line.
CATH: A fairy road.
JACK: They’re the same thing.
CATH: I read about ley lines in a book called The Old Straight Track. Ley lines are paths of earth energy flowing across the globe. Fairies travel on them. In the olden days they were called fairy paths or corpse roads because people said if you stood on one you would die, or be whisked off to fairyland. People with houses built on fairy roads leave the doors open on certain nights of the year so the fairies can pass through, otherwise they are afraid the house will fall down …
Colleen: Oh dear me, we have lost the connection. Perhaps we should take a little look at fairy roads ourselves …
֎ ֎ EXTRACT START ֍ ֍
Halfway down the church was a small side door that Jack did not even notice; until he saw Ken making for it.
“No Ken, we’ll be trapped inside.”
Forced to follow when Ken ignored him, Jack and Catherine grabbed him as he rattled the door handle in desperation. The door jerked open and they fell inside. Instead of a gloomy church, it was filled with a swirling tunnel of shiny blue light.
Jack felt a tingling in his stomach.
“What’s that?” he asked.
The tingle grew, buzzing through him like an electric saw. Without warning, he shot towards the stained glass windows on the far side of the church. Hearing Ken gasp, he screwed his eyes shut for the collision.
“What just happened?” Catherine demanded.
Jack opened his eyes. No longer in the church, they were shooting across the car park towards a big brick wall. Despite wanting to see what would happen, he closed his eyes again, feeling something slow him down for the tiniest second. He only managed to open them once he speeded up.
On the other side of the wall was an empty site earmarked for luxury flats. They rushed over it at astonishing speed. The next second, they were charging across a road, plummeting towards a house.
This time Jack did keep his eyes open. The wall slowed them down, hanging on like glue. Everything went dark for an instant as he passed through brick, insulation, and plasterboard into someone’s front room, kitchen and back garden. Then it was through the fence into next door’s garden, and off into the fields beyond housing estate. It all happened so fast, he barely had time to think.
Suddenly it dawned on Jack, they were not moving. The world outside the tunnel was rushing past.
֎ ֎ END ֍ ֍
Colleen: Hello, hello, can you hear me? Good, we have the friends back. What other powers do fairies have?
CATH: I do not know if it is a power exactly, but fairy queens weave their memories into a living tapestry.
JACK: Catherine touched one and we thought she was dead. She was trapped in the tapestry with Queen Bess’ memories of London. We had to go in to rescue her.
KEN: Hang on a sec please … Oh, Mum, you’re embarrassing me. This is important. We’re speaking to a lady in America. What do you mean, it’s late? Another five minutes. Sorry we’ve got to go. Jack’s dad on the way over to pick up him and Catherine.
Colleen: Perhaps we can talk again about more of your adventures.
JACK, CATH & KEN: That would be great. Bye. Bye.
Colleen: Sorry for this abrupt ending. It must be the time difference between here and England. In the absence of the friends, shall we have a little look at what happened to Catherine inside the fairy queen’s tapestry?
֎ ֎ EXTRACT START ֍ ֍
Catherine woke on a piece of embroidery stretching for miles in every direction. Turning her head, she saw the whole world move.
It was so weird, she sat up for a better look. When everything moved again, as if adjusting to her viewpoint, she realised she was not so much lying on the cloth as woven into its very warp and weft.
More fascinated than scared, she stretched her fingers, turning hands back and forth to watch the pink and beige threads move within her changing contours. It was hard to imagine how she could move normally, while her body was nothing more than stitches in a cloth.
With a mighty effort, Catherine stood up, causing streets of narrow houses to spring up all about. She was standing in the shadow of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, a towering white cliff in cross-stitch and cable. Looking around caused the embroidery to race by in a blur of colour which left her quite sick.
Nauseous, she stopped and stood perfectly still. A moment later, when the stitching also stopped, she found herself looking down Ludgate Hill to Fleet Street, where an old steam engine on an overhead railway puffed out clouds of white and slate thread. Ragged knots fluttered from the sky, descending as a flock of pigeons, featherstitched in dove grey.
“I am in the tapestry.”
“Where you wanted to be,” rang out a magnificent voice.
Spinning back to face the Bilquis, Catherine moved too fast and experienced another moment of sickening vertigo, before shape and colour settled to reveal Bess in front of the cathedral.
Bess, dressed in ivory, shot with silver thread. Hair wove close from orange and red. Seamless face, stitched marble smooth. Twinkling eyes–sunshine blue. Spoke from needlepoint lips, the shape and colour of a bloodied rosebud, “If you wish but to adieu, let nothing here restrain you.”
“No! I want to stay, but it so strange,” Catherine grumbled.
Bess half smiled. “One often sees what one expects.”
“How can that be when I am in your tapestry?”
“This is not the tapestry. This is my world.”
“Then help me understand it,” Catherine pleaded.
Even as she spoke, Bess was vanishing, dress and skin fading into the cathedral walls, hair and lips into the terracotta floor tiles, while her sky blue eyes were lost to the wide blue sky.
Her abrupt departure left Catherine frustrated and a little peeved. It seemed you had to do everything for yourself. Nobody would help, not even Bess. True, she wanted to see the wonders of London hidden in the tapestry. But she thought she would be flesh and blood in a real London, not a picture within a picture.
Conscious of sudden popping noises, Catherine was taken aback by the sight of fat sausage-like swellings on the ends of her hands. More pops and her feet ballooned. Horrified by the misshapen lump she was becoming, Catherine suddenly realised she was turning normal again. She was so used to being flat, round came as a bit of a shock.
֎ ֎ END ֍ ֍
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