Happy Halloween! Poppy Pym and the Haunted House
Hello, hello and happiest of Halloweens to you all!
Since last I wrote MUCH has happened, including the release of the second Poppy Pym book, 'Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx'! Exciting times indeed! One of my FAVOURITE things about this book is that it is set at Halloween. October is, in my humble opinion, the greatest month of the year and so I loved writing all about Poppy's autumnal adventures.
Today I thought I would share a super spooky deleted scene from the book with you. When I wrote my first draft of the story it began with this scene, but there's a LOT of stuff that happens in between writing the first draft of a book and it ending up in the hands of you lovely readers.
Getting editorial notes on your work is always hard. Not because my editors aren't kind and gentle with me, but because my first instinct when I hear ANYTHING vaguely critical of my writing is to decide that I am terrible and useless and also HOW DARE THEY because they obviously haven't understood what I was trying to do and also OH GOD WHAT IF I CAN'T ACTUALLY WRITE AND IT WAS ALL A FLUKE AND I'VE TRICKED EVERYONE AND NOW I AM ABOUT TO BE UNCOVERED AS A FRAUD etc etc. I will breeze past the pages of compliments and get straight to the 'this needs work' section. As I understand it this is not an experience unique to me. It seems to be the same for a lot of writers that I have talked to. It also - I hasten to add - doesn't last. On the second/third/fourth read through of the notes the positives start to seep through, the good sense of all the advice begins to creep in and then I get excited about how much better the work is going to be thanks to the other brilliant people who are reading it. I was lucky enough to have two amazing editors on my second book - Lena and Gen - and they made the book sing.
One of the things that we initially disagreed on was the beginning of the book. The original draft began during half term, and Poppy was staying with the circus. It was a LOT of fun. It was several chapters full of circus characters being loud and funny. It contributed exactly ZERO to the plot. It did not move things forward in any way. It was funny, but it was also stopping the reader from actually getting to the story... and I had real trouble letting it go. As soon as I cut these opening chapters I realised it was 1,000,000 times better, and that the story could breathe, and that the reader was plunged into the action much more quickly... but it took me a while to get there. (It took Lena and Gen no time to get there at all, but this is exactly why an editor's voice is SO important. It is frustrating how right they alway are.)
BUT. Just because it didn't make it into the book doesn't mean that work has disappeared, and today seemed like the perfect time to share a little of it. I mean, as it's Halloween who DOESN'T want to read about the creepiest of haunted houses being put together by Madame Pym's spectacular travelling circus?! I hope that you enjoy this special extra slice of Fanella and Co and that you have a spectacularly spooky day!
The door shrieked open on rusty hinges. As I stepped cautiously through, my face was caught in a thick blanket of cobwebs. Spluttering and pulling the sticky threads away from my eyes and mouth I crept further into the dark room. From somewhere to my left there came a bone chilling cackle, and up ahead a light flickered, green and mysterious over a table that held a silver serving platter covered with a large, dome-shaped lid. A sudden gust of air screeched through the room and there was a resounding bang as the door slammed shut behind me.
It was then that I knew there was to be no going back.
I heard the wheeze of an organ spluttering to life as unseen fingers crashed out ominous chords that sounded faintly familiar, and my eyes strained against the treacly darkness.
I heard the moan. Soft at first, but getting louder.
A ghostly white figure drifted towards me, its red eyes full of menace and its hands outstretched.
The ghost sneezed. And then it spoke. Loudly.
“TOMATO! I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE FLOURS. My poor beautiful nose it is twitching like the bunny rabbits, and my eyes they are red and feel a little bit on fire.”
“CUT! CUT!” my exasperated voice sliced through the room.
The lights snapped on to reveal, not a terrifying ghost, but Fanella the Italian fire-eater covered from head to toe in flour, and in the middle of a violent sneezing fit.
“E Gads! Fanella!” came the cross voice of Luigi the lion tamer, currently dressed as a zombie and huddled over a very small keyboard. “We almost had a perfect run then. Couldn’t you have held it in?”
“OH, EXCUSE ME, MR MUSICAL DIRECTOR. You are supposed to be playing the scary music. Did you think I not notice you play Pop Goes the Weasels?” snapped Fanella, her slightly puffy eyes glaring in her floury face.
“It’s only one exploding weasel, dear” chimed in Doris the magician’s assistant and inventor from underneath a big floppy witches hat.
“And, if I’m being really honest old gal, it’s all I know how to play.” Luigi admitted sheepishly.
“I tell you not to call me this old girl! I am young, vibrant, BEAUTIFUL WOMAN… Ahhhhhhh Chooo! Ahhhhh Choo! Ahhhhh Choo!” Fanella disappeared in a cloud of flour.
On the table the silver platter started to rattle, and muffled moans drifted from under the lid.
Doris lifted the cover to reveal a very large, very square severed head dripping with blood.
“Prepare to meet your doom!” boomed the head.
“No, no Boris we’ve had to stop. Fanella got the sneezes.” Explained Doris.
“Again.” muttered Luigi darkly, but he looked a bit frightened when Fanella’s eyes flashed in his direction between sneezes.
“Arunghaahhhh” groaned Boris the strong man as he unfolded his enormous body from where it had been squished beneath the table. “We need to get this sorted. My neck is killing me.” And he twisted his thick, raspberry jam-smeared neck to one side with a satisfying crack.
The door swung open to reveal two women. One of them was small with a shock of black hair with a white streak in it, and an odd, screwed up eye. The other one was shrieking.
“Uh oh.” I groaned.
“’Ere! What do yer think yer doin’ coverin’ my sitting room in flour an’ cobwebs when there are respectable guests stayin’ ‘ere!” the shrieking woman shrieked.
I was just about to protest that we weren’t bothering anyone when two scared looking ladies jumped out from behind Boris’s table and dashed through the door without a backwards glance.
Well. That was bad timing.
There was an awkward pause.
“Righto,” said Luigi. “Sorry about that, Leaky Sue. Didn’t…ahem… realise they were in here actually. Quiet as mice they were.” He looked thoughtful. “Wonder if they’d be interested in a part?”
“If I’ve told yer once, I’ve told yer a dozen times” Leaky Sue carried on shrieking, “the Flying Ferret is a respectable hotel and I won’t have you lot up to your shenanigans in the sitting room. AND,” her angry eyes moved to Luigi, “you’d better not have that blinkin’ lion in ‘ere again!”
Unfortunately, with more bad timing Buttercup the lion picked this moment to saunter through the door and rub her head against Leaky Sue’s legs, her throaty purr thrumming through the room.
“Agh! Pym!” Leaky Sue turned to address the small woman beside her. “I give up! They’re your family, you deal with ‘em!” and she threw her hands in the air and stomped out of the room.
Now Madame Pym, ringleader, fortune-teller, and trapeze artist extraordinaire stepped forward, her big hair crackling and both her good and bad eyes full of laughter. “Well, Poppy” she said, “I think your haunted house needs some work before Halloween.”