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An ordinary school boy.
An ancient curse.
A race against time.
This new action-packed adventure series is about a school boy who discovers he holds the key to breaking an ancient curse … and learns just what it takes to be a hero.
Tell us about yourself, Ruth.
I was a journalist for 25 years in the UK and Australia which was the ideal job for me. Chatting to people and writing all day—what’s not to love? The majority of the people I met were incredibly interesting with amazing stories. Admittedly, a few had a one-way ticket to Dullsville and one felt compelled to send a death threat after we’d met (a little churlish, I felt) but every experience—good or bad—makes for great book material.
So what inspired your series?
Firstly, being a journalist gave me a huge well of characters and conversations to shamelessly plunder. I also wanted to retell the old Irish folklore tales I’d grown up on, the ones my dad had told me as a little girl, in a way that would be exciting and meaningful to my own sons. Dad was Irish and a fantastic storyteller. He’d planned to write books but serious illness meant it never happened. I thought I’d do it for him. Finally, I simply wanted to write a rollicking adventure series with a quirky main character that my own boys would love.
You nailed the character of Jack as the reluctant hero who’s a little bit eccentric and not particularly confident about his talents. Were those feelings based on personal experience?
It might come as a shock that I have never been a 14-year-old boy. Nor have I discovered that I am a prince who holds the key to breaking a wicked curse. And while there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon, I did grow up with three older brothers and I’m now Mum to three sons. This gives me a pretty good insight into the minds of those inhabiting Planet Boy.
Naturally, in any family there’s a mix of personalities and I think it’s common for the middle child, particularly in those tricky early teenage years, to feel a bit out of place. They’re growing at an alarming rate, finding out new things about themselves every day and contending with an intoxicating mix of hormones.
I didn’t want Jack to be some cool dude superhero. He’s a regular kid who’s far sharper and funnier than he thinks he is. Taking up the challenge to break the curse, forces him to push himself in ways in which he never imagined and become the hero that others believe him to be. I’d say that’s an important message for all our youngsters.
‘Why not?’ would have to be my answer. ADHD brains are fantastic! My sons all have ADHD; as their mum, you never quite know what’s going to happen but you do know that whatever it is, it’s going to be a white-knuckle ride! The thing is, children with ADHD can have a tough time. They can be impetuous, forgetful and fidgety, all of which can get them into trouble. Jack’s ADHD isn’t spelt out per se in the books but anyone with experience of the condition will recognise it. For children to have a hero with whom they can identify is vital. Everyone has something they face, be it visible or invisible, so I think reading about a character who faces his own challenge head on—who mucks up, falls down and then gets up and gets going again—is pretty inspiring for any young reader.
‘Lively combination of traditional elements and modern fantasy. This is a fast-paced novel for middle-school readers, suited to fans of ‘Deltora Quest’ and other fantasy adventures.’—Review by Heath Graham, teacher and former bookseller, in Books+Publishing
‘The Amulet of Athlone is an exciting adventure about a special boy. It is full of twists and turns, extraordinary characters and has a fantastic plot. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put the book down. I can’t wait to read the whole series.’—Joshua Evans, aged 11
‘I really liked The Amulet of Athlone because it is the type of book I have been looking for as it combines magical, medieval and everyday life. I loved the intense moment at the tower on Alba and then you smashed it out of the park with what happens next. It was fantastic! I loved Jack McCool’s character so much I am going to dress up as him at my book parade.’—Joshua Pryor, aged 10
‘I really like this book about Jack McCool because the story starts in Australia and goes back to ancient Ireland. I have lots of cousins in Ireland so next time I visit I’ll be able to tell them all about it. Jack has such an amazing adventure … I wish I could go too!’—Rory Hermann, aged 10
Read a teaser chapter from The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone here.
Be one of the first to read The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone. For your chance to win one of five signed author copies, email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Jack McCool’ in the subject line. The first five people to email will receive a copy.
Join the clan! Subscribe to Jack’s newsletter with book news, facts, trivia, giveaways and comps at: www.jackmccool.com
This little boy is Josh, who dressed up as Jack McCool for Book Week during a school visit from author R E Devine.
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