Angela Kecojevic on writing the world’s scariest funfair

October 31, 2023

Posted by Daniel Eggleston

To celebrate the release of Scareground (and Halloween!), we sat down with author Angela Kecojevic to talk inspirations, friendship and lemon meringue pie.

Listen to a sample of Scareground below:

What was your biggest challenge when it came to writing Scareground? And what was the most fun part of it?
Scareground was mostly written during lockdown. It was the perfect distraction from what was going on in the world. I found the technical elements of a funfair working without electricity (in Victorian times) quite tricky! Fortunately, candles and moonlight helped! Nancy’s relationship with the sky was incredibly special for me. The first book in the series was never meant to overly explore this special gift. It was meant to introduce it and leave the door open for a possible second book. Nancy has a strong bond and a natural connection with it. She sees it as one of her best friends, and this was so lovely to write, especially when she gets irritated with it!

How did you first come up with the idea of having your story set in a funfair?
I watched Cirque du Soleil perform at Battersea Power Station in London several years ago. The magic and mystery of the performance was sensational. We drove past the station years later when it was dark and abandoned. I imagined a scary fair returning, one rich with mystery and intrigue. It would be filled with skeletons and black roses and have an eerie sense of darkness. It would be called the Scareground.

What was your biggest inspiration when writing Scareground and its main characters?
I was inspired by what I call ‘flowery descriptions’ from a book written by Stephanie Garber called Caraval. A literary agent suggested I read it during my early drafts of Scareground. I fell in love with the gorgeous world the author created and decided this was the direction I wanted to take my writing in. I’m also a huge fan of highly creative people like Tim Burton and R. L. Stine who have created memorable characters, surprising characters, ones influenced by spooky, kooky and the macabre. Burton has perfect timing, and he isn’t afraid to be experimental in his work. Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas highlight this. Stein is a leader in creating scary stories for children. Like Burton, he took a risk with his creativity and wasn’t afraid to surprise, scare and entertain. This hugely influenced my style for Scareground, and I wanted to mix the sweetness of bakery life with the Gothic darkness of the world’s scariest funfair!

You’re passionate about climate issues; can we expect to see any aspect of that featured in Scareground?
As a member of the Climate Fiction Writer’s League, I try to include climate issues wherever possible. My next book is about a snow fox called Brave who is dealing with the effects of climate change. I’m really proud of the story and its message. But who knows, maybe climate issues will slip into Nancy’s conversations with the sky one day!

Can you tell us more about the Scareground’s mysterious owner, Skelter?
Skelter Tombola is a cross between P.T. Barnum and Skeleton Jack. He is charismatic – an incredible showman – and yet mysterious and dark. Skelter loves the fair deeply, and he thrives on creating the ultimate funfair full of scares and frights. His backstory is complicated, and yet it has clearly influenced the man he has become today. No one quite understands him, and his story is a mix of twists and surprises.

Nancy and Arthur go on quite an adventure; can you sum up their friendship for us?
All children need strong friendships. They want to fit in. They want to feel like everyone else. Nancy, because of her past, desires this more than anything. Arthur’s story isn’t so straightforward either. they are both from very different backgrounds, so their friendship is even more endearing. Victorian England was tough with the class divide, so having two children enjoying each other’s company and sharing exciting adventures proves that none of those things matter.

I loved developing their friendship and seeing that bond strengthen. There is a sweetness to their friendship that I enjoyed writing.

Can we expect to see more stories in the future featuring Nancy and Arthur?
I very much hope so! This question has cropped up many times. It’s been lovely. I currently have a second adventure planned which will explain and explore Nancy’s special friendship with the sky. I do think we haven’t heard the last of the Scareground – or the mysterious Skelter Tombola!

There are also lots of references to baking; do you personally have a favourite baked good?
Ha! Surprisingly, my baking skills are not the greatest in the world! I love lemon meringue pie and the line in the book that references this is one of my favourites!

Describe the book in four words.
Friendship, bravery, thrills and scares!

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