IF ANYONE can make reading exciting for youngsters, it’s writer Marcus Alexander.
Marcus, who was in Sheffield to talk to pupils from King Edward VII Lower School and Greystones Primary this week, is into gymnastics, parkour urban climbing and free running, Thai boxing, graffiti art, Japanese animé films, hip hop music and dance styles…
And if all this sounds a bit macho, the star of his series, The Keeper of the Realms, is Charlie Keeper, a young girl who suddenly finds herself far away from her London home.
She is propelled through a gateway in her house to the Realm of Bellania. As she says: “I’ve just had a flesh-eating giant tearing around my house and now I’m in this strange land I don’t know anything about!”
She finds herself in a place of myth and magic run by a lord with a very bad attitude.
Bellania’s fate rests upon Charlie’s shoulders and she needs to find out why by discovering a secret that her nasty guardian, Mr Crow, has been keeping from her. Along the way she has to wrestle with villains and dragons. The book is part of a trilogy and Marcus was busily bashing out a sequel during his Sheffield visit.
He said of his creation: “She’s not a girly girl, she’s not Barbie and she’s not shallow by any means. She has no interest in make-up or hair and wants to go out and do and try things and live.”
He added: ”The reason why I picked a girl is that I’ve always been upset when I read books with female heroines. They make silly mistakes or do things that make no sense. When I go out I go out with a crew of girls. The girls I hang out with are passionate and fiercely opinionated.
“Charlie blunders but she doesn’t do it through lack of intelligence. She sees obstacles and has the intelligence to overcome them.”
The book is aimed at children aged 10 and over and is described by publishers Puffin Books as “the perfect way to fill the ‘Lemony Potter’ gap” for youngsters who enjoy fantasy adventures. It is also full of incredible Manga comic-style artwork.
Like his heroine, Marcus has had a pretty adventurous life. He first left home at 14 and headed for the Lake District, then spent time in Paris and Marseille and travelled to India for six months when he was 18.
When he was 21 he ran a DJ bar in Thailand with a friend, only returning to Britain when his business partner was almost shot.
Following that he opened up a restaurant in west London, but was nagged by his mum and grandmother to try his hand at creative writing, something he enjoyed when younger.
He went down the self-publishing route and his work was approved by some influential online groups, which brought it to the attention of Puffin.
When he talks to youngsters, Marcus says that he asks who wants to be a writer, usually roughly about five per cent, and then concentrates on the others. He talks to them about career opportunities they haven’t thought like TV or film writing or creating scenarios for video games.
His background of being self-employed means that he prides himself on working hard on his books, saying that he reworks every passage 40 to 50 times.
He said: “Lots of kids ask me about writing. I can never recommend it enough. If I can write a book, there’s no reason why they can’t.
“I’m very much keen that kids write. It’s so important to pursue the creative process. If you can do that you’re developing the imagination. It’s vital.”