Bookzilla Book of the Month: Haarville by Justin Davies
We have five copies of Haarville by Justin Davies to be won. All you need to do is answer the question at the bottom of the page. Entries close on Friday 31 March at midnight. All entrants must reside in the UK and full terms and conditions apply.
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'Welcome to Haarville. If you've arrived, you've survived.'
Haarville is not the kind of place you would find on a map. Shrouded in fishy fog and surrounded by razor-sharp reefs, it's not exactly the kind of place you'd WANT to find on a map. But it is Manx's home. 12-year-old Manx has lived and worked in his family's 'perpetual device' shop for as long as he can remember, fixing the gadgets of Haarville citizens and making sure they'll run forever with Amberrose – a precious substance unique to Haarville.
This quiet life is turned upside down by the arrival of two mysterious strangers, professing to be long-lost relatives with a claim to Manx's shop. Manx has serious suspicions – but he has his work cut out for him if he wants to prove that anything is amiss. With the help of his best friend Fantoosh, his drag queen guardian, and an audacious oystercatcher, Manx sets out to uncover a secret that could change Haarville – and the world – forever.
Justin Davies has crafted a beautifully unique and welcoming world for readers to get lost in, and paired it with a story full of bravery, heart, and wit. Haarville, unlike some of the fishy snacks in it, is impossible to resist.
Q&A with Justin Davies
Did you have a process for thinking up the variety of wonderful names in Haarville?
I had so much fun creating the characters' names! The setting is coastal, but also isolated and mysterious, so I wanted names that reflected both. Inspiration came from an interesting source: a Scottish Fisheries information pamphlet from 1989, which lists tons of strange-sounding words for fish used all over Scotland, both now and in the past. Skulpin, Baggit, Giddock, Halfin – all these characters have this pamphlet to thank for their names. As for the main character, Manx, his name comes from a line in my favourite Victorian nonsense poem, The Jabberwocky (Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass): 'He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought.'
Did you base any of the locations in the book on places you've seen in real life?
Several locations in Haarville are very much based on real life places. I spent many hours soaking up the atmosphere of fishing villages along the Fife coast, particularly St Monans, whose harbour, houses and church all provided inspiration. St Monans church, whilst not sitting atop an isolated sea stack like St Serf's in Haarville, really does have model sailing ships hanging from the rafters – which was the spark for a pivotal scene in the book.
And of course, much of the Fife coast is rocky and coated with seaweed – part of my research for the story involved going on a seaweed foraging workshop, so that I too, could find, cook and eat 'sea spaghetti', gutweed and wracks, just like Haarville's inhabitants!
Do you have any tips for young writers on how to write compelling mysteries?
A good mystery should never be too easy to solve, so make it as tricky as you dare! Put lots of obstacles in the way and keep your characters and readers guessing right to the end. Maybe even throw in a red herring, or two!
Also, ask yourself why is it important for your main character to solve this mystery? What might happen if they don't? Set the stakes high and your readers will keep turning the pages to find out what happens.
Manx's guardian performs as a drag queen called Gloria in Excelsis – what would your drag character's name be?
Excellent question! I think it would have to be something fun and flamboyant like Kandy Floss or Krystal De Kanter (with apologies to any actual drag queens who already use those names!). Although I'm not sure I have the nerve, talent or stamina required to take to the stage in high heels and an even higher wig!
We have five copies of Haarville by Justin Davies to be won. All you need to do is answer the question below. Good luck!