How Lonny Quicke came to be – A guest post by Kirsty Applebaum - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted by Sam, May 12, 2021

How Lonny Quicke came to be – A guest post by Kirsty Applebaum

This month we’re delighted to have published The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke – a gripping new novel of secrets, family and terrible power, from the acclaimed author of The Middler and TrooFriend, Kirsty Applebaum.

And today we’re very pleased to share a guest post by Kirsty on where this new story came from, which you can read below.

The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke tells the story of a boy faced with an incredibly difficult situation. There are no simple answers, no straightforward solutions. He just has to keep moving forward, taking the decisions that seem best to him at the time.

The story began as an entry for a competition back in 2014, to write the opening of a children’s book. I had recently read Blake Snyder’s screenwriting guide Save the Cat, which recommends having a scene early on in your story showing the protagonist performing an act of kindness, to get the audience on-side. I decided to try it. Instead of saving a cat though, my protagonist saved a dying rabbit – with just a touch of his hand.

I’m happy to say my entry won first prize, but at that point, I had no idea whether it could grow into a full-length story. I let it sit in the back of my mind for three years while I completed my MA and wrote my first children’s novel, The Middler.

When The Middler was complete, I returned to my magical, rabbit-saving boy. And it turned out my mind had performed that astounding trick the subconscious can sometimes do, given the seed of a creative idea and a little bit of time: it had woven a network of themes, images and concepts that might just possibly come together to create a story.

It was clear, for example, that life was a central theme. This led me to investigate May festivals – celebrations of life’s renewal in springtime – and to consider imagining a whole new festival of my own.

The magical, folkish feel of the original scene had cemented itself in my mind. It connected with memories of much-loved fairy tales from my childhood and enchanting real-life locations, including my own home town of Winchester with its rich history and ancient gated walls.


The mixture of fantasy and contemporary life in the original scene triggered memories of the Cottingley fairy photographs – beautiful, faked pictures created by two Victorian girls, depicting themselves with fairies in their garden.

As a young teenager, I’d not only loved the pictures, I’d also been gripped by the idea that some people had really believed in them – which led me to wonder what it might be like to really have a magical, fairy-tale power? Would it be a gift or a curse?

My rabbit-saving boy idea also fused itself to something else in my mind – my desire to write a book involving stories within stories. Some of my favourite novels have used this technique – including Holes by Louis Sachar and my favourite childhood book, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl.

I wanted to do this myself – embed shorter stories in a longer text, creating connections and anticipation in the reader’s mind as they progress through the novel.

I also wanted to write a book in which the circumstances were the true cause of the protagonist’s problems, rather than evil or wicked adversary. I felt strongly that this might be the right story for that concept. Yes, I wanted to put all of these things into my new book – no problem, right?

In the meantime, the brilliant Nosy Crow had bought The Middler as part of a two-book deal and they wanted my unwritten book about the rabbit-saving boy for my second novel. Hurrah! I set to work.

I researched. I wrote. I decided it was all rubbish and started again.
I researched. I wrote. I decided it was all rubbish and started again.
I researched. I wrote. I decided it was all rubbish and started again.
It became clear that I’d got myself into an incredibly difficult situation.
My publisher had bought the book.
But the book was completely unwritable.

I became a total expert at occupying myself with absolutely anything other than the story I was supposed to be writing. Peak displacement activity was reached when I wrote a whole different book instead: TrooFriend. It was about a robot. Not a rabbit-saving boy insight.

Happily, Nosy Crow loved TrooFriend. They decided to publish it as my second novel and gave me an extra year in which to complete The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke. So I got back to work. There was nowhere to run this time. Like Lonny, I just had to keep moving forward. There were no simple answers; no straightforward solutions. The story could go in a thousand different directions – I just had to find a way that worked for me.

And – eventually – I did manage to grow a story from that original scene. I built a world inspired by spring festivals, fairy tales and the ancient walled city I grew up in. I created my own folk stories and embedded them into the book. I put Lonny into a horrendous situation, instead of confronting him with an evil adversary. Finally, I’d found my way through.

And this, at its heart, is what The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke is all about. Sometimes life throws us problems that have no single, straightforward solution. We just have to find a path through that works for us. That’s what I did while writing this book, and that’s what Lonny does too. Faced with an incredibly difficult situation, he just keeps moving forward, taking the decisions that seem best to him at the time. And – eventually – he finds his way through.

Thank you, Kirsty!

The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke, currently Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Month, is available now – you can order a copy from Blackwell’s here, Waterstones here, or Amazon here.

Read the first few chapters below:

See more: Guest Posts
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