An interview with Joseph Delaney

The Wardstone Chronicles began in 2004 with the publication of The Spook's Apprentice. In 2008 the fifth book in the series, The Spook's Mistake, was released to further complement a series that is without doubt the best ongoing fantasy series for young adults. Set in locations based on real places in Lancashire, the inspiration behind the stories often comes from local ghost stories and legends. The Spook's Apprentice, The Spook's Curse and The Spook's Secret have all been short listed for the Lancashire children's Book for the Year Award. The Spook's Apprentice is the winner of both the Sefton Book Award and the Hampshire Book Award.

Joseph Delaney kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review in December 2008.

Your first novel was written under the pen name JK Haderack. Was this a reference to the Kwisatz Haderach from Frank Herbert's Dune trilogy?

Joseph Delaney: Yes, very much so. I thought a character who could see into the future was an excellent name for a science fiction and/or fantasy author. Free will versus predestination are themes which figure in 'The Wardstone Chronicles'. Some witches think they can scry the future but the Spook doesn't and believes he can make choices and change things. Lord of the Rings is my all-time favourite read but the Dune Series comes a very close second. Those books inspired me.

Did writing The Wardstone Chronicles in the first person ever become constrictive? Did you ever yearn for the greater freedom that the third person perspective could offer?

Joseph Delaney: No, because I felt very comfortable writing the story from Tom Ward's point of view. Only in the most recent book, 'The Spook's Sacrifice', which I've just completed, has that been a slight problem. It has a larger cast of characters and more action than previous books; it would have been easier to tell the story from multiple perspectives. But I always seem to do things the hard way!

The character of Alice feels like she could turn bad at any moment, you are never quite sure which way she will turn. Was writing her character a similar experience for you or have you always know where she is heading?

Yes, it was a similar experience particularly because I don't do detailed plots in advance and I'm always open to flashes of inspiration and am prepared to change things at short notice. When I tell people that I don't know how the series will end they sometimes don't believe me - but it is true! I like Alice and hope that I can save her - but you never know. Anything could happen!

The stories have a distinct northern feel to them, was this something you were conscious of and were you ever worried about ostracising some readers?

Joseph Delaney: They are set in the north, in Lancashire where I live and it was the choice I made from the start. I never really gave much thought to the fact that it might ostracise some readers because the County is a fantasy world, and readers of fantasy are usually robust and able to enter imaginatively into such creations. I was aware however of the pitfall of using strong dialect which really can put people off and make a book difficult to read. So there are a few colloquialisms and light touches but I tried to make the books accessible.

Would you personally have made a good Spook's Apprentice?

Joseph Delaney: Not at all! I hate total darkness and if I wake up in the night like to be able to just about see my hand in front of my face. I don't think I would have survived the night in the haunted house in 'The Spook's Apprentice'!

The following is taken from The Spook's Curse: "The Spook paused and sighed deeply. 'I don't believe in the God they preach about in church,' he said. 'I don't believe in an old man with a white beard. But there's something watching what we do, and if you live your life right, in your hour of need it'll stand at your side and lend you its strength. That's what I believe. Well, come on, lad. We've dawdled here long enough and had best be on our way.'"

This paragraph really stood out for me because it is such a beautiful way of describing personal and non-organised faith. As the reader I felt that this was not only the Spook's belief but also the authors - would this be accurate?

Joseph Delaney: Yes you are perfectly correct. The Spook embodies my own beliefs regarding religion. I believe in respecting all religions and being tolerant. But I also think non-organised faith is a valid option for anyone to pursue.

Are you the seventh son of a seventh son?

Joseph Delaney: No! I was the first of four children but I do now have seven grandchildren.

Is there any up to date news on the proposed film adaptation of The Spook's Apprentice?

Joseph Delaney: The latest news: the film is still on schedule for production in 2009; Kevin Lima is working on the script and it is progressing well; they are likely to use unknown or relatively unknown child actors for Tom and Alice; they are searching for a big star to play the Spook. Although they won't say who they are approaching for the role, my own personal favourites are either Sean Bean or Gary Oldman. Wish I knew more!

Our Joseph Delaney reviews

The Spook's Apprentice

by Joseph Delaney

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before h [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 1
Published: 2004

Score: 119

Our rating: 10.0 | 19 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Mistake

by Joseph Delaney

As danger increases in the Country, Tom is sent north by his master to be trained by Bill Arkwright, another spook. Arkwright lives in a haunted mill on the edge if a treac [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 5
Published: 2008

Score: 96

Our rating: 9.5 | 1 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Curse

by Joseph Delaney

The Spook and his apprentice, Thomas Ward, have travelled to Priestown to defeat the Bane, a powerful, evil creature that lurks in the catacombs of the cathedral and is cor [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 2
Published: 2004

Score: 95

Our rating: 9.0 | 5 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Secret

by Joseph Delaney

As the weather gets colder, the Spook announces that it’s time to move to his winter house on Anglezarke – a bleak, forbidding place, close to the dark with a d [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 3
Published: 2006

Score: 92

Our rating: 9.0 | 2 positive reader reviews

9+

I Am Grimalkin

by Joseph Delaney

'I am Grimalkin, and I have already chosen those I will kill…'Grimalkin has made it her lifetime ambition to destroy the Fiend, avenging the brutal mu [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles
Published: 2014

Score: 92

Our rating: 9.0 | 2 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Battle

by Joseph Delaney

In Pendle the witches are rising and the three most powerful witch clans are rumoured to be uniting in order to conjure an unimaginable evil. Together they will be capable [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 4
Published: 2005

Score: 91

Our rating: 9.0 | 1 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Stories: Witches

by Joseph Delaney

For years, the local Spook has been keeping the County safe from ghosts and boggarts, but more especially from witches. The Spook’s Stories: Witches features stories [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles
Published: 2009

Score: 91

Our rating: 9.0 | 1 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Blood

by Joseph Delaney

Having bound the Fiend's spirit temporarily, Tom now has to come up with a permanent solution - and quickly. But the forces of the dark are now throwing everything they [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 10
Published: 2004

Score: 90

Our rating: 9.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Sacrifice

by Joseph Delaney

As the Spook’s apprentice, Tom’s first duty is to protect the County from the dark. But now Mam needs his help in her homeland of Greece. One of the most danger [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 6
Published: 0000

Score: 89

Our rating: 8.5 | 4 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Nightmare

by Joseph Delaney

The Spook, Tom and Alice return from Greece to find the County under siege - and the Spook's home is burnt to the ground. With his precious library of knowledge destroy [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 7
Published: 0000

Score: 89

Our rating: 8.7 | 2 positive reader reviews

9+

Spooks: Alice

by Joseph Delaney

A lot of dark stuff happened when I was young that I’ve never even told to my dearest friend, Tom Ward. Dark and scary things I hoped I had left behind forever... [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 12
Published: 0000

Score: 88

Our rating: 8.8 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Spook's Tale

by Joseph Delaney

The Spook keeps the County safe from creatures of the dark; things that suck your blood and snatch your bones and squeeze the breath from your body. When young John Gregory [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles
Published: 0000

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.4 | 1 positive reader reviews

9+

The Spook's Destiny

by Joseph Delaney

The Spook, Tom and Alice travel to Ireland, fleeing from the war in the County. There, Tom must tackle a group of evil mages who are desperate to rid their land of the Spoo [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 8
Published: 2011

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

9+

Slither's Tale

by Joseph Delaney

Slither is a haizda mage who preys upon humans, drinking their blood to feed his dark urges. So when a local farmer dies, it's only natural that Slither should want to [...]

Series: The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 11
Published: 0000

Score: 60

Our rating: 6.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

9+