Pip is the working title for a new project that I will be working on with my children. It is a mid-grade gothic fantasy novel about two sisters and a friend who have a harrowing adventure. Set in the 1870's this is historical fiction that will tap into the folklore of the Old World and the New World. Think A Little Princess meets Pan's Labyrinth in a Carolina pine forest.
Philippa's father has disappeared under a cloud of rumors and suspicion, which has left Philippa, her sister Jerusha and their mother destitute and ostracized. Their change in fortunes means that they will have to leave London, and England for her mother’s family home in North Carolina. On the journey, she entertains her sister with made up stories explaining their father’s absence. However, in her stories, her father is a hero rather than the hapless criminal that the world believes him to be. In one of these stories, their father disappears into a fairy ring and is captured by the fairy queen. Pip thinks she is protecting Jerusha from learning of the scandal. She realizes too late that six-year-old Jerusha believes them.
The girls are transported from their life of privilege in bustling London to the sleepy town in North Carolina where their stern and embittered grandfather runs a tobacco empire. They are befriended by Early, the housekeeper's grandson. When the children find a mysterious circle in the forest at the center of their grandfather's land Jerusha ignores Early's warning and runs headlong into a world where creatures of legend reign. Pip and Early are forced to follow her in an adventure that will test their will and their newfound friendship and teach them some important lessons about what it means to be human.
The kids and I have divided up the work of this book between us. I have laid out the basics of the plot and will handwrite the first draft chapter by chapter. My son (11) will type up each chapter. My daughter (8) will read and create an illustration for each chapter. When we are ready to revise, the kids and I will discuss and decided together what the changes should be. Once we have a good draft we will decide what avenue we want to take with it; publishing ourselves, traditionally, or serializing it online. I'll blog about the process. I might even get the kids to write some guest posts on how things are working.
I first began making up stories about my father around the time of his disappearance. Jerusha was only six. She didn't understand where our Papa could have gone or why. To be perfectly honest, I didn't understand much of it either. From our limited vantage point in the nursery, I heard some rather unpleasant things drifting up the stairs. Words like 'fraud', 'disgrace' and 'ruin' were scattered about like confetti.
I decided one night after hearing Mummy crying down the hall that this was just too much for my little sister to fret over. So, when she crawled into bed with me and said, "Pip, where's Papa gone?" I told her. Of course, I couldn't tell her the truth that I didn't know, so I made up a story. If I had know what was to happen later I might have chosen to simply sing her a lullaby instead.