A Child’s Christmas in Wales

“One Christmas was so much like another,

in those years around the sea-town corner now

and out of all sound except the distant speaking

of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep,

that I can never remember whether it snowed

for six days and six nights when I was twelve

or whether it snowed for twelve days and

twelve nights when I was six.”

~ Dylan Thomas

A Child’s Christmas in Wales



Illustration by Maggie Kneen (from "The Owl Keeper")

Not long after 9/11, I began writing “The Owl Keeper.”  The world had changed overnight, becoming a darker, more frightening place, devoid of warmth and color, and with the darkness came a deep sorrow, a sense of lost innocence.

Also in 2001, I saw the film “The Others” – Alejandro Amenábar’s frightening ghost story which unfolds in an isolated house on the island of Jersey.  The children who live there are both fatally allergic to sunlight, which means the windows are covered with heavy curtains, and ”no door must be opened unless the one before is closed.”

That’s when Max appeared, in my mind anyway: a frail sickly boy who was scared of most things in life, both real and imagined.  Allergic to the sun, Max stayed indoors throughout the day, hiding behind closed curtains, away from the light.  The one thing he didn’t fear, however, was the night.

In mid-2002 I read an article in “The New York Times” about Camp Sundown, where campers have a rare disorder that makes them unable to tolerate ultraviolet light.  And so activities take place at night, when the children can venture safely outside.

When he was young, Max used to do brave things like go tramping through the forest with his gran after dark. He loved the stories she told him about the world before the Destruction—about nature, and books, and the silver owls. His favorite story was about the Owl Keeper.  According Gran, in times of darkness the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and Sages against the powers of the dark.

Night after night, I dreamed about Max, alone beneath an ancient tree, in a world with no color, no seasons.  Waiting, always waiting..

But Gran is gone now, and so are her stories of how the world used to be. Max is no longer brave. The forest is dangerous, Gran’s precious books have been destroyed, and the silver owls are extinct. At least that’s what the High Echelon says. But Max knows better.

The rise of the High Echelon was easy to imagine: an all-powerful regime that grabbed power following an environmental cataclysm (the Great Destruction), operating behind closed doors, hiring goons for their Dark Brigade, paying mad scientists to carry out deadly experiments.  Years ago I’d lived in Spain, under the Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and I knew what it was like to glance over your shoulder in a crowded café, worried that someone might be listening.  Fear, I’d learned back then, was a powerful weapon.

Maxwell Unger has a secret. And when a mysterious girl comes to town, he might just have to start being brave again.  The time of the Owl Keeper, Gran would say, is coming soon.

Hello world!

"The Owl Keeper" - coming April 2010!

Hello world, this is the launch of my Owl Tracks blog. Today is December 2nd, and tonight’s the last full moon of 2009. I’m sitting at my new Shaker desk, brought back from Vermont two days ago. The timing couldn’t be better..

I’m Christine Brodien-Jones and I write fantasy/ adventure books for ’tweens and teens. I live in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the oldest seaport in the country, in an upside-down house with a view of the sea. When the wind blows down from the north, my house creaks like an old ship. My writing corner is upstairs (because our bedrooms are downstairs!) and from there I watch the ocean, which is forever changing. When I gaze out past the salt marshes and overturned boats, I see sky and waves and shifting colors everywhere. It’s easy to envision faraway places and worlds.

I wrote my first story about a dragon and I’ve been writing fantasy ever since. I grew up reading fairy tales (“Bluebeard” still makes me shiver!), horror comic-books, and time- and space-travel tales from Edward Eager, Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L’Engle. I was also captivated by those black-and-white fifties movies I watched on late-night television: “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “The Mummy,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and my favorite of all, “Dracula.”

I enjoy writing fantasy because in this genre there are no limits: I can let my imagination run wild, inventing entire worlds that never were, creating scenarios that are terrifying, whimsical or futuristic. I can travel with my characters to amazing places, far beyond the boundaries of my ordinary world. The reason I love writing for young people is because I remember my own childhood and the excitement of reading books. I still recall the nooks and crannies of my hometown library, the musty smell of old pages, and the delicious feeling of losing myself inside a book.

My novel “The Owl Keeper” will be published by Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books on April 13, 2010. The book, a post-apocalyptic fantasy, is for children ages ten and up (and ‘up’ means adult fantasy-lovers too!).

So I continue writing on this elegant hand-crafted desk, and the adventure continues..