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- author Jackie French

Sunday 17 December 2017

Guest Post: A.L. Tait on Where Inspiration Comes From

A Question of Feeling:
Why would you write a book that no one can read?

That was the question I found myself asking one morning as I read a short newspaper article about The Voynich Manuscript, a 15th century illustrated codex, handwritten in an unknown language. 

The book, which had been studied for over a century by academics, codebreakers and cryptographers, was a beautiful mystery.

As an author, it presented a beautiful question.

When I visit schools for author talks, I often talk about where ideas come from. While it might seem to children that authors are people who attract ideas like magnets, the truth is, as I tell them, that ideas are all around us and authors are simply people who have trained themselves to see them.

Most of my stories start with a question and a feeling. With The Mapmaker Chronicles, the question was: how did they map the world? Answer: they had to go. And the feeling was that sense of infinite possibilities (and terror) that go with staring out into space and wondering where the edges are.

With The Ateban Cipher, the question was: Why would you write a book that no one can read? And the feeling was my own innate sense of, well, it’s best described as lust, inspired by a visit to The Book Of Kells in Dublin, Ireland, a few years back. I will never forget the sensation of wanting to possess the book for myself, purely as a beautiful object.

There’s a certain alchemy that goes on in the writing process, transforming those questions and those feelings into two separate epic middle-grade adventure stories, but they drive the stories all the way to the end.

Interestingly, just as The Book Of Secrets hit the shelves in September 2017, it was announced that the code for The Voynich Manuscript had been unlocked. Since then, debate has raged as to whether the theory posited is the final answer, or simply another hypothesis in the debate that has surrounded the book since it was bought in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer for whom it is named.

For me, all thoughts of The Voynich Manuscript receded from my mind as I wrote The Book Of Secrets, replaced by my own conjuring of the Ateban Cipher, the book at the heart of my story. There’s no crossover between the two, beyond the fact that they’re written in code. The beautiful illustrations, as described in The Book Of Secrets, exist only in my imagination, and my book has both a value and a danger far beyond its pages.

What is the secret of the Ateban Cipher? Well, you’ll need to read The Book Of Answers (March 2018) to find out.

Allison Tait(A.L. Tait) is the bestselling author of the epic middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles, available in Australia, the US, the UK, Lithuania and Turkey. The Book Of Secrets is the first book in her new series, The Ateban Cipher, and is out now. Find out more at allisontait.com

Learn more about AL from her 12 Curly Questions Interview with us. You can read our KBR review of Race to the End of the World, here.