8 December 2015

All Aboard the Book Ark!


If you haven’t read The Book Ark I (Black on White) you’ve missed a rare treat.
If you have read it – you’ve an even bigger treat in store as author, Janis Pegrum Smith, has just released the second in the series – Children of the Universe.

AND (yep, there’s an and!) fans of my very own loveable rogue, Jesamiah Acorne (Captain) will be in for a double treat as he has a guest appearance in this second book.

Q HELEN: So who is the Book Ark Series for Janis? Adults? Children?
A JANIS: Originally, I had the Young Adult market firmly in mind for The Book Ark. The idea was to create an adventure tale, set in the “Realms of Fiction”, involving characters from other books, especially the classics, with the hope of encourage younger readers to seek these books out and become drawn into a love of books. However, I was completely unprepared for how adults would embrace The Book Ark!

The book truly has fans 9 to 90, both male and female. The main protagonist, Josh Ridley, is 19 at the start of the books; I worried a little about younger teens relating to him, though I think his vulnerabilities and the complexities of his life make him accessible and relatable-to by many. I have had lots of emails from adults who have read the novel and are now buying it for all the children they know. There is a definite magic to the story which people who have a love for books really get, and once they have read the book, it is a magic they become passionate about sharing with everyone they know.

Q HELEN: So, tell us about The Book Ark – what is a “Book Ark”? And what / who are the Keepers of the Books? (I believe I’m classed as a Keeper of the Books? Is that right? Wow!)
A JANIS: The Book Ark is a boat, a Dutch Barge to be exact, owned by Josh’s grandfather, ex-librarian, Warwick Ridley. Ostensibly, The Book Ark is a floating second-hand bookshop that gently plies its trade along the canals and waterways, but this is just a front. Really, The Book Ark is exactly what it says, an ark for books, for Warwick Ridley is the “Master of the Books”, leader of an elite force of librarians who police the Realms of Fiction, an alternate universe where every book ever written, really exists; fused into reality by the power of the human imagination. Unfortunately, human storytelling also captured the supernatural creatures of the “Realms of Fantasy”. As we humans told stories of fairies, elves and the like it drew them closer to the Realms of Fiction, slowing their vibration and damaging their ability to wander the universes, as they always had. Once we began committing their stories to books, it turned the blood of those creatures written about to ink, and firmly welded the Realms of Fantasy to the Realms of Fiction. In an attempt to free themselves from this bondage, the Realms of Fantasy creatures fought back in what is called the “Great Scribing Wars”. 

They endeavoured to free themselves by destroying all the human books they could, hence some of the great unaccountable fires of ancient times when libraries like Alexandria were destroyed. It was due to the activity of the supernatural creatures that the librarians of Alexandria first discovered the Realms of Fiction, having followed the saboteurs back through a wormhole. From these first brave librarians crossing over to this alternate realm the fellowship of the “Keepers of the Books” was formed, as it was soon discovered that the Realms of Fiction was an incredibly fragile universe, vulnerable to the machinations of The Realms of Fantasy, and their leader, King Oberon. It could also be easily damaged and destroyed by other “enemies of the book”, for it was realised that at least two copies of a book must exist in our Realms of Fact for its existence to remain stable in the Realms of Fiction. 

If a book is lost completely in physical form, then that land within the Realms of Fiction will disappear altogether. The Book Ark’s real aim is to travel around collecting copies of rare books to ensure the survival of its Realms of Fiction counterpart. It also has a wormhole portal into The Realms of Fiction, via its library steps: as this is what all library steps are really, have you ever noticed how slightly strange they look, these few steps that seem to lead to nowhere, but have an air of being slightly otherworldly, that is because the steps really go on, unseen, into another dimension.

And yes Helen, you are mentioned in the second novel, Children of the Universe as being a onetime Keeper of the Books, due to your library connections. More importantly though, as a writer, you are venerated and worshipped by all your characters as a “Creator”, especially a certain Jesamiah Acorne. 

[Helen: hmmm not sure Jesamiah worships me - rum maybe.... LOL]

Q HELEN: I see – and who or what are the “Inkless”?
A JANIS: The Inkless are a new phenomenon within the Realms of Fiction. With the coming of Project Guttenberg’s digitalisation of the classics in the 1970s, it was noticed that ghost worlds were beginning to appear within the Realms of Fiction, a popular book still in print could counteract the reaction, but lost, forgotten works could transform into a ghostly land.

As e-book technology took off here in our realms, it created what the Keepers term “Inkless” worlds within the Realms of Fiction. Real characters, from printed books, are known as “Inklings” in the Realms of Fiction, as ink flows through their immortal bodies. Our reading and telling of their stories builds the solidity of their existence, and their evolution as characters. The more widely a book is read, the more evolved its characters become, they become aware of themselves, of the Keepers and their administration centre, known as the “Citadel”, within which is the “Hallowed Halls”, where the Keepers reside alongside the spirits of writers who have passed over from the Realms of Fact.

The characters worship their writers as their Creators, for what is a writer if not the god of his created worlds? The Inkless have none of this structure; as the self-publishing market exploded, the Realms of Fiction became inundated with new worlds which do not recognise the Keeper’s authority. There are huge issues with fan fiction conflicting with the original characters they are based upon, and frightening, underdeveloped, poorly written, zombie characters.

Worst of all, King Oberon and the creatures from the Realms of Fantasy soon saw that this electronic technology was creating light, Inkless characters – free spirits in the manner they had once been. They came to believe that if the Realms of Fiction could be turned into a completely Inkless state then through this they could achieve their long-held dream of the “Great Freedom”, and once more be free.

To this end they tracked down the main proponent of e-books in the Realms of Fact, Zelda Lovelace, of Lovelace Technologies. Zelda has a vision to rid the world of the physical book and hold the world’s library on a database no bigger than a grain of sand. She also just happens to be Warwick Ridley’s ex-wife, and Josh’s Grandmother.

Q HELEN : The Realms of Fact v The Realms of Fiction…? Are they other worlds? Tell us more!
A JANIS : The Realms of Fact are our own, human reality; The Realms of Fiction are an alternate reality created from our threads of consciousness through the telling and retelling – reading and rereading of stories.

Our minds have projected the worlds and characters of fiction into existence within another dimension; it is also the place where the spirits of dead writers go, to preside over their creations. The Realms of Fantasy is the timeless dimension inhabited by the supernatural creatures, fairies, elves, dragons and the like – it was once a place of light, high vibration which allowed the creatures to travel the multiverse unhindered, but now it is firmly welded to the Realms of Fiction.

 I don’t think it will be giving too much away if I say “Yes” to the question of “are there any other worlds?” The third book in the series, Enemies of the Book, (out in 2016) will involve the “Realms of Non-Fiction”, and the fourth book will be called The Keepers of Time, which hints at another element at play.

The Book Ark is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted concept which has endless possibilities when it comes to storylines, which is what makes it so exciting, not only for my readers but for me as the writer too. I envisage the future books will take us on ever-expanding, amazing adventures. I base all of the science within the books upon current theory, so it is all theoretically possible; in fact the more I delve into the research for the books, the more I find evidence that the Realms of Fiction could really exist, which can set the spine tingling. Readers have told me that their imaginations readily accept my fantastical creation and they find the fact that one could pop up a set of library steps and emerge within this alternate universe completely believable… well, let’s face it, it is every reader’s dream, is it not?

Q HELEN : And the main “Goodies” are?
A JANIS : Goody wise, there are lots – Josh Ridley, and his grandfather Warwick, plus the Keepers of the Books and their ancestors, the “High Council of Bookmen”, which is made up from spirits of the Masters of the Books who have gone before. Warwick likes to think of the Keepers as the Jedi’s of the book world. Then, there are all the characters who help along the way. I can’t fail to mention Captain Grandad and the other residents of the Land of Happiness who are from a book Warwick wrote to encapsulate the one magical summer he spent with Josh when he was eight years old, the only time they had met. By creating a fictional children’s book about them it also created a permanent, eight-year-old version of Josh, who is known as Little Josh. There is also Oriole, the granddaughter of one of Warwick’s oldest friends, who befriends Josh in the first book, and is inescapably drawn into the adventure.

Q HELEN: And the dastardly “Baddies”?

A JANIS: Well, an extra complexity of The Book Ark’s multifaceted plot is that there are many tiers of baddy. The Book Ark is basically a story of war and, as in any war who the bad guy is very much depends upon which side you are on. Unless you are an ardent fan of calculus and e-books, then Zelda is the main antagonist, in league with King Oberon seeking the Great Freedom for his fairy-tale subjects. There are also the “sniffers”, remotely controlled, robotic spies who patrol the Realms of Fiction, controlled by elves deep within the bowels of Oberon’s castle. Then, there is the ongoing feud between Captain Grandad and Long John Silver in the first two books; in this, Long John Silver is most definitely the bad guy! There are also a lot of personal feuds raging between the characters, so there are often a lot of tensions between those who are supposed to be on the same side. The complexities of the relationships and the plots allow for an extremely dynamic range of interactions, just as in real life, and these relationships will evolve throughout the series of novels, ensuring that the reader is always kept on their toes at every turn of the plot.

Q HELEN: OK so here’s the question all my readers and followers want to know… What has that charmer of a rogue pirate Captain Jesamiah Acorne got to do with all this?
A JANIS : Ah, Captain Jesamiah Acorne. When the dear Captain’s Creator, your good self, Helen, read the first Book Ark novel, Black on White, she was so enchanted with the concept that she enquired as to if her character could possibly appear in the sequel. Well, before I could get over the incredible compliment a fellow author was paying me by wishing to see her creation included within my story of all things fictional, Jesamiah had “jumped ship” as it were and I found he had taken up residence within my imagination.

He came under strict instructions that he was only on short-term loan, and to behave himself as it was a book aimed at young adults. I did of course fall completely for his devilish charms, what woman could not... though his rum ration was kept to a minimum, as we had work to do. I think one of the strangest occurrences was that Helen reported suffering with a little writer’s block at this time, it was really like Jesamiah was absent from her imagination whilst appearing in mine. I am glad to say that, as much as I enjoyed the Captain’s visit, it wasn’t too long before I sent him safely back to his Creator. 
[Helen: He took his time getting back though ...probably stopped off at a few taverns along the way...]

Jesamiah’s part is a small but key element to the plot of Children of the Universe. I was very pleased with his appearance in the novel, though completely underestimated how tough it would be to work with another author’s character. Handing over the draft for Helen’s approval was an extremely nerve-racking experience, but luckily she loved the Captain’s part in the adventure. When I wrote the initial novel, my husband and I would joke that other authors would love it so much that they would ask for their characters to be included in future episodes, little did we know that it would actually happen, and so quickly! Because of copyright laws, I am limited to using books and characters who are deemed copyright free and in the public domain. As much as I would love to use a wealth of books to draw from, unfortunately this would involve legalities and royalty rights which, as an indie author, I am not in a position to get involved with at the moment, though I do hope that as the books grow in popularity more authors might approach me, as Helen did. All I know is I am extremely honoured and proud to have Captain Jesamiah Acorne as The Book Ark’s first guest character, and I really hope that his fans enjoy his appearance within my book.

Q HELEN: Can Book II be read without Book I – or is it best to start at the beginning?
A JANIS: The Book Ark is a true series, page one of Children of the Universe picks straight up from where Black on White ended; as Enemies of the Book will from the second book – so, you really need to start with book one. As you can see from my lengthy explanations above, the plot is so complex that you need to build your knowledge as the books progress to understand the full complexities of what is going on. That said, I have endeavoured to place subtle memory jogs for readers, here and there, as I am fully aware that it may be over a year since they read the last book. I also think that they are books that stand up to a number of rereads, as there are subtle little details that can be missed on the first read.

Q HELEN: How long do you plan the series to go on for?
A JANIS: A good question. How long is a piece of string? Initially, I planned out eight novels, I think I am now looking at ten firm plots, but the possibilities are endless. Because of the interdimensional nature of the book, not to mention the time travel element that will come out in later novels, I can envisage me writing Book Ark novels for as long as there are readers for them. They are also great fun to write, with their sweeping adventurescapes, huge array of characters and gentle humour. Readers of the first instalment inundated me with suggestions that it should be made into a movie, if only it were that simple. Although I am an indie writer by choice, I do feel I would like to find a conventional publisher for The Book Ark series, it is a fantastical story and I feel it deserves a much bigger distribution and world stage than I can’t give it on my own. As for a movie, well my ultimate dream would be for Tim Burton to pick it up as a potential film project, and if anyone knows Alan Rickman, I am desperate for him to voice the part of Argos, the talking dog, as it is his voice I hear every time I write the laconic hound’s words.

Q HELEN: Final question…. Where do we get the book…..!
A JANIS: Amazon, is the answer to that question. Both The Book Ark I: Black on White and The Book Ark II: Children of the Universe are available now in paperback and on Kindle, with the third in the series coming out towards the end of 2016. A quick note about the cover for Children of the Universe: the cover photo is an actual image taken by the Hubble Telescope of the Orion Nebula. I had to seek NASA’s permission to use it. Believe me, emailing NASA and getting an email from them back is beyond cool!


When nineteen-year-old, bookworm Joshua Ridley inherits his grandfather's floating second-hand bookshop it proves to be the perfect escape from his extremely miserable home life, but little does he know how it will completely change his life, for ever.

Aboard The Book Ark Josh discovers a wormhole into the Realms of Fiction, an alternate universe where every book that has ever been written really exists. An elite band of Realms of Fact librarians are the peacekeepers there, amongst the Inklings, as the characters are known, and it transpires that Josh’s grandfather, Warwick Ridley, is their leader, the highly revered Master of the Books. Although a wondrous place, beyond Josh’s wildest dreams, he soon finds that the Realms of Fiction are in crisis as e-book technology threatens its existence through the appearance of the Inkless. Ironically, it is Josh's evil grandmother and the rest of his family who are the driving force behind this growing e-book phenomenon, via the family IT business he has fled.

As the evidence mounts to prove that Warwick Ridley may not be dead after all, but kidnapped, Josh sets out to find him, with the help of a host of Inklings. Trailed by law-enforcing Keepers who claim Josh is in the realms illegally, and stalked by the dread sniffers, Josh finds himself caught up in a fantastical adventure across the Realms of Fiction and the neighbouring Realms of Fantasy. War between the Inklings and the Inkless looms, a war, fuelled by King Oberon and his supernatural subjects and feared to be even greater than the Scribing Wars of ancient times, time is running out for Josh and his newfound friends, but if Josh can find his grandfather there may just be hope for the Realms of Fiction.

It is a story of new versus old; it is a story of books, but most of all it is the story of a boy who really misses his grandad.

Jesamiah Extract:

Jesamiah threw his head back and laughed heartily before he shared his joke, ‘You stand upon my ship, with four fancily-clad dandies, and a group of young swabs behind you and dare to give me orders? I, the Captain, who has a crew of cutthroat desperados at my command, all of whom will cut you to ribbons where you stand at a mere click of my fingers?’
‘I am the Master of the Books, as a character you know that I and the Keepers are the law in these realms.’
‘Pirate,’ said Jesamiah cockily, pointing to himself, ‘t’ain’t in my character to heed no law, not even Keeper law.’
‘It may or may not be apparent to you, Jesamiah, but I am well acquainted with your Creator who will not be at all impressed with your refusal to comply with my wishes. She was once a Keeper herself, and, although she hung up her cloak some years ago, I could arrange for her to be here in a trice. She would not take kindly to your disregard of Keeper law, I believe,’ threatened Warwick.
‘My creator writes me as I am, she wouldn’t expect me to bow when it comes to authority.’
The Musketeers were feeling the tension, soldiers to the core they drew their muskets and cocked them. Suddenly, the Sea Witch’s crew did the same – well those with guns did – the rest drew cutlasses and all manner of wicked-looking weapons, their eyes full of murder, and expressions that said they would heartily enjoy the deed as they delivered it.
‘We’re all going to die,’ wailed Tallulah, quietly, as the young Keepers found themselves in the middle of this standoff. Josh tried to look as warlike as he could, but it was difficult with just a stick to defend oneself with. He was desperately trying to remember some of the moves that they had been taught, when someone fired a pistol shot at his grandfather.
Warwick did not flinch in the slightest as the shot rang past his ear and lodged itself in the mast beside him. In less than a heartbeat Porthos fired at the assailant and a pirate fell from the rigging with a resounding splat on the deck nearby.

‘Good shot,’ declared Jesamiah, smiling from ear to ear, suddenly looking like a man greatly relieved...

 and AT HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (Indie BRAG blog hop) 


  1. This sounds like a brilliant idea for a series, it fits in with everything you would love to be true. There are amazing worlds that have been created by some wonderful authors. I long to explore them all.

    1. anyone who loves books will be enthralled by The Book Ark - how many authors just KNOW their characters really do exist somewhere....

    2. Thank you - Moontide, I know a few other writers have kicked themselves for not thinking of it first. I have ten books planned for the series, but the construction of the plot allows for boundless potential and infinite novels. The worlds or 'realms' within the book are very magical, and I certainly love immersing myself in them as I write. The Realms of Fiction are, without doubt, every reader's dream :)

  2. One can only marvel at the boundless imagination writers come up with. Fascinating. Where does it all come from? Luckily, we know where it all goes: Into book lovers' precious libraries.

    1. Oh I firmly believe there is another dimension where our characters are real and they search around for gullible people to write their life stories for them! How else to explain those occasional scenes that authors do not remember writing?

    2. Hello Inge, Thank you for your comment. I even marvel at where it comes from, sometimes I read my words on the page and can't believe they came out of my head. Up until The Book Ark, I have mostly written historical fiction, which is fairly restrictive due to historical accuracy etc. so, I had never really let my imagination truly loose until these novels. I think a lot of us writers believe we merely channel the ideas from somewhere, I have heard song writers say the same. All I know is that I have a million and one stories in my head, so I shall never be short of material :)


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