Sheds, ginger biscuits and secret passwords: How Pamela Butchart is continuing Enid Blyton's Secret Seven series
Published on: 08 March 2019 Author: Pamela Butchart
Pamela Butchart has written a second Secret Seven story, continuing the much-loved Enid Blyton series that introduced us to the likes of Peter, Janet, Colin and Barbara (and Scamper the dog, of course).
She tells us how she overcame her 'fear' to live out a childhood dream and pen The Mystery of the Skull and The Mystery of the Theatre Ghost...
How did the opportunity to write the new Secret Seven novels come about?
Alex Antscherl, the editorial director of Enid Blyton Entertainment at Hachette, read my Izzy series of books and got in touch to say she'd like me to write two new Secret Seven stories. I couldn't believe it! I was such a huge Secret Seven fan as a child.
Why do you think people have such happy memories of Enid Blyton from their childhood?
I think it's because she had such a remarkable ability to engage with children through her stories. All of her books are accessible and child-centred.
She speaks to children on their level and makes sure the children are always in ones in charge.
Enid Blyton created many different worlds for her readers to lose themselves in. From all the drama of Mallory Towers to the wonderful world of The Magic Faraway Tree to delicious picnics in the Secret Seven shed. There was definitely something for every child (and still is!)
What did Enid Blyton mean to you as a child?
Enid Blyton's books were a huge part of my childhood, and The Secret Seven had the biggest impact on me. They helped turn me into an independent reader and were the first series of books I fell in love with. I loved them so much I formed a secret society with the other kids in the block of council flats I lived in.
We'd pile outside into the bushes in the communal green and hold our very own secret meetings (complete with picnics of course - that was the best part!) We didn't have ginger biscuits, rock cakes or homemade lemonade but we made do with jam sandwiches, KitKats and plenty of Quavers.
The Secret Seven also helped me get through some tricky times when my great-gran was unwell. One of my favourite reading memories is of my great-gran helping me to make me a reading den in her living room. That's where I read most of the Secret Seven series. As soon as I finished the last Secret Seven book I started (and loved!) the Famous Five.
The Mystery of the Skull, illustrated by Tony Ross
Was it daunting to step into Enid Blyton's shoes to write two new Secret Seven stories?
YES! I couldn't believe it when I was asked to continue the series, especially because I was such a huge fan as a child. I kept thinking about what it would be like to go back in time and tell eight-year-old me all about it (she'd definitely faint!)
But then the fear set in a little and I needed to take a few deep breaths and a lot of time to think about how to approach the project. It's a huge responsibility (especially to me) to continue this iconic series and it was important to me to retain as much of the original setting as possible while at the same time being mindful of the way children think and interact today.
I hope I've managed to achieve what I set out to do and that these additions to the much-loved series will encourage children who haven't previously read The Secret Seven to try the originals. That would be wonderful!
Is it true that you wrote the new stories in your shed?
Yes! I wrote both stories in my very own Secret Seven shed. I always wanted a Secret Seven shed as a child. but we lived in a block of flats without a garden so we had to make do with holding our secret meetings outside in the bushes in the communal green.
It took until I was 34 to get my own writing shed/secret den but it was definitely worth the wait. I treated myself to some ginger beer and ginger biscuits and set a secret password while writing the first book. Now that I'm working on the second book, my baby is the only one who's allowed to know the password (sorry husband and cats!)
The Mystery of the Theatre Ghost, illustrated by Tony Ross
Why do you love The Secret Seven in particular, out of all of Enid Blyton's series?
So many reasons! My top five things are:
- The Shed: I was obsessed with that shed. I think I asked my mum and dad daily if we could move to a house with a garden so I could have my own Secret Seven shed.
- The Picnics (!): I LOVE reading about food in books. And I've always loved picnics. A jam sandwich and packet of salt and vinegar Squares just taste better outside, don't they? And no-one does picnics like the Secret Seven.
- Scamper: Scamper the dog is just the best. I used to feel a bit like Janet when I was a a child because I was the only one in our block of flats who was luckyenough to have a dog. His name was Ben and he was probably the best dog ever. He used to love coming to our secret meetings and happily gobbled up any picnic leftovers. Everyone loved him. Just like Scamper!
- Peter: Bossy Peter makes me laugh. I had a lot of fun writing about Peter in the new book.
- The children are in charge! For me, this is the essence of the books, and, along with the accessible and child-centred writing, the key to their success.
Who is your favourite character, and who would Izzy most like to be friends with?
As a child my favourite characters were Janet, Susie and Scamper. However, while I've been writing the new book, I've found that Pam and Barbara have become my new favourite characters. I've had so much fun writing about them! I can't wait for you to see what they get up to.
I think Izzy would be most like to be friends with Colin. He's the 'science' behind the investigation. He's make a great addition to Izzy, Maisie, Jodi and Zach's gang.
Are there plans for any more books in this series after these two?
I cannot answer this question unless you know the official Secret Seven password. Soz.