Candy Jar Books
have released details about the history of the first book in their forthcoming spin-off series from Lethbridge-Stewart
, The Lucy Wilson Mysteries
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence
Independent publisher Candy Jar Books is tackling prejudice against differences and promoting diversity, self-confidence and acceptance for young people, in publishing their latest sci-fi adventure series for children.
The series begins with The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence
. The action-packed adventure story is set in the sleepy Welsh town of Ogmore-by-Sea and features the young, sharp-as-a-tack Lucy Wilson, a London-bred pre-teen with mixed-race parentage, and her perennial side-kick Hobo, a highly intelligent boy with alopecia.
The book is written by author Sue Hampton
, who was diagnosed with the condition alopecia universalis in 1981 and has since become an ambassador for the charity Alopecia UK. With Sue’s first book, The Waterhouse Girl
, inspired by her own experience of learning to live with the sometimes overwhelming condition, Sue feels that it’s incredibly important that young people who feel “different” are positively represented in mainstream fiction, in ways that don’t portray them as “other”.
Writing The Waterhouse Girl changed my life, and changed the way I saw my alopecia. I began to feel braver, because my character was dealing with alopecia better than I was. Since then I’ve wanted to write stories where the characters are not defined by their condition, because that’s not what defines me. In Avatars of the Intelligence, Hobo does have alopecia, yes, but he is also loyal, brave and intelligent – all the qualities that Lucy needs in a friend.
Through her work with Alopecia UK, Sue visits schools across the UK offering education and support to those in need, and this experience has taught her how big a difference having friends can make to somebody living with a condition like alopecia.
A representative for Alopecia UK says:
At this time it’s very difficult to say with any certainty just how many children are affected by alopecia, however it’s likely to be thousands rather than hundreds.
The Lucy Wilson
series acts as a spin-off from Candy Jar’s existing science fiction range of Lethbridge-Stewart
novels starring the character from the 1960s classic era of Doctor Who Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, created by Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman and portrayed by Nicholas Courtney in the television series. New protagonist Lucy Wilson is the granddaughter of the Brigadier, and carries the formidable legacy of the Lethbridge-Stewart name along with her. Sue says:
Lucy is dauntless, loyal and whip-smart. She’s a modern girl with strong values and opinions, which means that she feels the injustices in the world even more strongly than most and always stands up for what’s right.Avatars of the Intelligence
deals with themes that affect many young people, such as feeling like an outsider and being bullied, in a way that Sue hopes will empower and inspire readers. Recent statistics from Childline show that as many as one in six young people experience anxiety-related problems, and in the top five concerns raised in counselling sessions over twelve months were low self esteem, feeling sad, low or lonely and bullying.Lucy Wilson: Avatars of the Intelligence
is a celebration of characters who boldly refuse to become victims of their circumstances. Despite the fact that both Hobo and Lucy are initially viewed as outsiders, they find courage and friendship in each other and, together, take on an unseen evil force tormenting their school – the Great Intelligence.
Themes of self-acceptance and confidence are further reflected in the cover artwork, created by Beano artist Steve Beckett
. Shaun Russell
, head of publishing at Candy Jar Books, says:
We felt that it was really important that we didn’t have Hobo hidden in any way on the cover – no hats or hoods. This is a character who is totally unashamed, and we felt it wouldn’t be right to present him otherwise. We want this to inspire other children who might feel like they’re different, if they feel lonely or left out, that it’s our differences that make us who we are.
is now available to order
Sue Hampton responds to children’s questions about Avatars of the Intelligence.
Firstly, I’m delighted that so many of you enjoyed Avatars of the Intelligence very much.
“This is one of the only books I have been interested in for a while. I used to hate reading but ever since I read this book I have loved reading.” “I don’t think it could be any better.” Most of all I’m happy that you like my characters. People said some positive and perceptive things about Lucy – “I love Lucy’s character because she is strong-willed and determined (although a bit stubborn)” – but on the whole Hobo seems to be the favourite. “Hobo is a unique and original character who teaches us loads about alopecia and people who might not look like other people but are still really interesting and do good things.” “I particularly like Hobo. He is a character that shows how you can face bullies with a smile. Instead of shying away from comments about his alopecia he faces them head-on which makes him a really strong character in the book.”
A lot of you are interested in alopecia and the way I used my own experience of hair loss. “I really like how Sue takes something that happened in her life and turns it into something great.” I never thought of it that way when I was writing it but I’m happy for anyone to see the book in that light. Here, having already written two novels in which alopecia is the story, I wanted to introduce a clever, funny and individual character who just happens to have no hair. I also wanted to show that alopecia has made him stronger, kinder and wiser. As Ambassador for Alopecia UK I’ve met many young people with alopecia and that’s what it seems to do. Like all challenges it teaches people a lot about themselves and being human. “The book demonstrates how outcasts face challenges. Hobo is an extremely interesting character because he doesn’t fit into society’s expectations.”
A few people said the book starts slowly. The beginning of a novel is always the hardest part because there’s a lot to establish, especially in the kind of book that’s driven by character. It takes a while to get to know characters well enough to care, and it’s REALLY important to me that readers do care about mine. The first mysterious, creepy action is on page 13 but there are lots of sci-fi references before that to hint at what’s to come, and the emotional action starts on page one.
Two of you added that it’s a bit confusing at first with various characters named in the first few pages. That’s because, in this book which begins a series, we start with Lucy, but being a Lethbridge-Stewart she’s really the next in line: it’s in her blood. So unusually, I was handed a central character with a family tree, ready-made. I gave Lucy a personality, interests, strengths and weaknesses, but the Lethbridge-Stewart legacy is already established. There are many novels and short story collections published by Candy Jar about her grandfather, who even has a Wikipedia page! For the fans of that legacy, I had to acknowledge her family from the start; they’ll know at once who Conall is, and Nick, and all the family members. The book is meant to appeal to existing Whovians and fans of Lethbridge-Stewart, and some of its biggest fans so far are adult, like the guys who praised my book on a podcast for Doctor Who fans. But it’s also meant to appeal to readers from Y6 up, some of whom will come to it completely fresh, with none of this background. As a reader I’m always happy to wonder and deduce for a few pages before a relationship structure firms up, and by the end of chapter one those characters should all be clear. Using close third person means that I follow Lucy’s thoughts and perspective so people can’t be identified with labels, because she would think of Conall and Dean by name, not as her eldest, gay brother and his husband. I’ve written it so that readers can work all that out pretty quickly.
The colourful cover, which is the work of a Beano artist called Steve Beckett, really does appeal to Y5/6 readers – you should see them drawn to it in primary schools when I visit – and I hear that they enjoy the story, while teenage and adult readers will be more aware of the emotional dynamics and issues of diversity that some of you mentioned. I’ve been contacted by a father and daughter and a father and son who reported that both generations thought it was great. I came across a division into hard’ and ‘soft’ science fiction, and this book is definitely soft in the sense that it’s driven by character and its ‘science’ (in this author’s head, at any rate) is psychology rather than physics. I’d say this generally applies to Doctor Who, too, but some fans might like to challenge me on that.
You may have noticed that there’s plenty of imagery. It’s a playfulness with words and can give energy to a story, be fun or funny, crank up the excitement – sometimes in a horrifying way – and create an atmosphere. Sci-fi has its own vocabulary, of course, and like the action the language can be highly dramatic. It’s my thirty-first book but my first venture into this genre.
Candy Jar has produced a 95-page free ebook The Lucy Wilson Collection
. This contains The Two Brigadiers
by Jonathan Macho, Lucy Wilson
by Sue Hampton, an extract of Avatars of the Intelligence
by Sue Hampton, an extract of Curse of the Mirror Clowns
by Chris Lynch, and a non-fiction chapter about the Brigadier written by Andy Frankham-Allen.
The e-book is available to download via our website