Some stories are born from wild ideas and fantastic visions, others are sparked by more mundane events that lead along unexpected paths. Gnomads came from the latter, an everyday event for many people. For those who were wondering, a car boot sale is like a mass garage or yard sale, a place where mostly private individuals go to sell their junk and to buy other people’s. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this article.
You might expect the title for this novel was one of the first things I thought of. It was certainly one of the first, but the story started when I was dragged to a car boot sale myself. In my defence, you can find some good bargains hidden among the tat, and it was for charity, so that’s ok. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a magic pendant, nor a lost Turner seascape or a forgotten Clarice Cliff jug. What I did find, with the help of a passing white van, was the name Wildgust and a story about travelling to an alternate dimension.
The title came very soon after I began to plot out the story. I wrote the words ‘mad gnomes’ and then immediately after changed it to Gnomads. I was so very pleased with myself, and of course, I laughed out loud. The names of the individual gnomes, as you might already have noticed, are taken from the weather forecast, with a quick read-through of a baby names book. I don’t remember where this idea came from, apart from watching the weather forecast, which goes to show writers need to keep their eyes and minds open at all times.
The five gnomes are deliberately very similar at first. They all live in the same small village and hang around together, so it makes sense. I wanted them to develop as the story progresses, to become more individual as they gain in confidence and learn more about the world. I also thought it was funny if the gnomes were as old as Darren’s parents. Being gnomes, who live far longer than humans, they’re still the equivalent of teenagers in their world.
Because of the nature of the story, it was always going to be written for teens. So, the hero I created was a schoolboy called Darren Wildgust, who, like many youngsters, dreams of one day becoming the guitar legend Daz Wild. Even more so than the gnomes, Darren needed to change by the end. He was thrown into a situation he was totally unfamiliar with, so of course, he had to adapt to survive. Imagine going from a modern society with all the gadgets and technology we have now to a pseudo-medieval world that doesn’t even have indoor plumbing.
In order for the story to progress, there had to be some common ground between Darren and the Gnomads. As the two worlds are so different, it was difficult to find something they would all be familiar with. From when the first human beat a rhythm on a hollow log and liked the sound, music has been a constant companion for humanity. There’s no reason why this wouldn’t also be true in almost every other time-line or alternate reality. It was this idea more than anything that finally solidified all my ideas into one cohesive narrative.
The story was also predestined to become an adventure with some, hopefully lots, of comedy built-in. What people find funny is very personal to them, and I was never going to please everyone. I think it’s funny, but that’s no good to others. All a writer can do in this case is make the story and characters interesting so it doesn’t matter if people laugh or not. I made sure there was plenty of drama, lots of action and emotion, and then if people are also amused, that’s a bonus.
My main aim with this story was to entertain and to get teenagers reading, but I also wanted to show the contrast between the modern society the hero lives in and the medieval world of the Gnomads. I tried to subtly introduce the message of being happy with what you’ve got, because one day it might not be there, and to promote the skill of being self-sufficient and not always relying on others.