Tales from The Foxes of Foxham is a traditional story of good vs. evil in a fantasy, adventure, and horror setting in 1950s Naples and Norfolk. With anthropomorphic foxes and other animals, witches, some good and some bad, a few humans, and cameos from real-life historical characters. Like many creative projects, be it a play, a film, a poem, a painting, or a book, there is inspiration from your past and present that helps you accomplish your vision. Tales from The Foxes of Foxham is inspired by an assemblage of things, my imagination, my childhood, Italy & Norfolk, fantasy and horror TV shows and films, and of course, books. In addition, illustrations are instrumental in my novel, and Andy Catling, the illustrator, was equally enthused by these books when I used them as a reference point.
So without any further ado, here are the top ten books that influenced me for Tales from The Foxes of Foxham
1. Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame and Illustrator - E. H. Shepard)
One of the first books that I fell in love with as a child. The antics and delights of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad, who became my best imaginary friends. Wind in the Willows gave me a passion for the river, the countryside, summer days, wildlife, and literature. E.H. Shepard’s illustrations add magic to the beautiful words of Kenneth Grahame. Touched in my early teenage years as my favourite band, The Jam, released Tales From The Riverbank (1981), it was Paul Weller’s (The Jam’s songwriter) homage to the book. Pink Floyd also fans, as their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is named after a chapter from Wind in the Willows. The novel leaves a lasting and positive impression.
2. The Hundred and One Dalmatians– (Dodie Smith Illustrators-Janet and Anne Grahame
A cosy thriller with an endearing psychopath, Cruella De-Vil. The woman’s vanity would make her consider such cruelty to animals so that she could stand out at a fashionable cocktail party. Dodie Smith and the Johnstone twin sisters’ Illustrations thrilled and entertained me with her words as I read the book with a torch under the bed covers as a child. Furthermore, when I heard a dog bark late at night in a nearby garden, I believed they were partaking in the famous dog communication, The Twilight Bark. Furthermore, the novel gave me a zest for London at an early age.
3. The Midnight Folk – (John Masefield Illustrator Rowland Hilder)
Given to me as a Christmas present when I was a child. The story of Kay Harker, going to live with a cruel Aunt. Kay, feeling sad and lonely in a cold and barren bedroom, then out of the blue, a talking fox enters his room. He takes the young lad to a dangerous yet exciting world, searching for a treasure to which he is the rightful heir, how I longed to be Kay and go to a magical land with a talking fox. The mysterious element of The Midnight Folk, along with Hilder’s illustration, was a reference point in creating the dark aspect of Tales from The Foxes of Foxham.
4. The Faraway Tree Series (Enid Blyton IllustratorDorothy M. Wheeler)
My mother, when I was old enough, passed on to me her original copies of the books. I didn’t care about how much the books were worth, as it didn’t even cross my mind. What I did treasure was the story of children, then my age, climbing a tree in an Enchanted Wood, making friends with the tree’s inhabitants, and reaching a new magical land at the top. Like so many children, when I went to a wood, I would search for the Magic Faraway Tree. The book then, and now, was instrumental in giving me a good imagination, which is undoubtedly active in my writing today.
5. The Adventures of Pinocchio –(Carlo Collodi.)
The beautiful adventure story set in Italy, with self-discovery and rebirth, as an underlying theme. In search of finding your true self, the travel aspect influenced two of the main characters in Tales from The Foxes of Foxham, Carlotta, the young hip good witch, and Trudi Milanese, the good fox witch. Furthermore, the sinister characters, like the thieves, The Fox and The Cat, and the naivety of Pinocchio, were always with me for the plot development. These aspects enthralled me as a child.
6. Folklore, Myths, and Legends of Britain (Russell Ash)
A title that says what it does on the tin. My grandparents had a copy of this at their home in Norfolk. My brother and I would read through it, which fascinated, frightened, educated, and thrilled us, as we learned about the fables, the ghosts, the witches, and creatures that are part of history in Great Britain. This book made me fall in love with the magic of Norfolk. My passion for folklore has never left me. And thanks to eBay, I have sourced a copy, which sits proudly in my bookcase.
7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and the three books after) (L. Frank Baum Illustrator W. W. Denslow)
The first six books in this top ten, are books from my childhood, that I read again before and during the writing of Tales from The Foxes of Foxham. The Wizard of Oz, of course is familiar to me, because of Judy Garland as Dorothy in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s classic The Wizard of Oz. When I saw the film many moons ago, I was then developing a zest for American Comics, football and music, so I wasn’t concerned about reading the book. Yet for this project, I decided to give this classic a try, which turned me into a fan. Baum packs so much action into a chapter, yet without losing the thread. I was influenced by his detail yet rapid style, in the more adventurous chapters like when Alberto with Carlotta escape the clutches of The Witches of Benevento.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis. Illustrator by Pauline Baynes)
Putting aside the criticism of these chronicles. I will discuss how these books inspired me. Before writing Tales from The Foxes of Foxham, I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Yet I remembered that C.S. Lewis is a master in creating backstories, a whole universe with fast-paced and detailed battle scenes. So, I decided to read these books, which helped me shape the characters, the history around the story, and the showdown.
9. Hobberdy Dick (Katherine Biggs IllustratorScolar Anderson)
Tales from The Foxes of Foxham is set in a magical yet realistic setting. So I wanted a book, not necessarily to emulate the style. But one that kept me in the mindset of fantasy yet a natural place to read at night or just before I commenced writing. This forgotten gem from the 1950s fitted the bill; Hobberdy Dick is a hobgoblin who serves a Puritan family, without their knowledge, apart from the children, during the English Civil War. Written in an old English style, this book was not only a source of stimulation but a joy to read, as it did fire my imagination similar to the books of my childhood.
10. Reynard the Fox
It would be impossible to write a book about anthropomorphic foxes without reading the French folklore of Reynard, the fox. The cunning and mischievous fox, always in conflict with the authority, which he often outwitted. I read two versions, one translated by James Simpson and one retold by Selina Hastings with many illustrations by Graham Percy. Reynard’s foxy ways were a significant influence on all the foxes in my novel. I even name a principal fox character, Charles Renard, the leader of foxes in his honour, and the view that they are related.
Tales from The Foxes of Foxham
ZANI’s Tales Trilogy
Genre: Light Fantasy, Humour, Young Adult.
Number of pages:207
Word Count: 60428
Tagline: A magical adventure story, packed with colourful characters and exciting situations, in a battle of good versus evil. Set in 1950’s Naples and Norfolk.
It is the late fifties and the Witches of Benevento are determined to plunge the world into darkness by kidnapping and sacrificing the jolly and young Neapolitan fox, Alberto Bandito, in a sinister ritual.
Yet, fortunately for Alberto, he is rescued, then guarded, by his loving mother Silvia and mob boss father Mario with his troops, a good witch Carlotta with an uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, the Bears of Campania, the boxing wolves’ brothers Francesco and Leonardo, and other good folks of Naples and beyond.
However, their protection is not enough, for Alberto has been cursed. So, the young fox, along with his family, has to travel to the village of Foxham in Norfolk, the spiritual home of foxes across the world, to rid himself of this spell. The ritual has to be performed by a good fox witch, Trudi Milanese, but there is a problem, Trudi doesn’t know she is a witch….
Tales from The Foxes of Foxham is a magical adventure story, packed with colourful characters and exciting situations, in a battle of good versus evil.