Genre: Fantasy Age Range: MG Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Yes - book 2
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for THE BEAST AND THE BETHANY*
Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then the Bethany arrived.
Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to de-beast their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a former prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer secretly misses the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what “good people” do anyway.
Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has disagreed with her?
Jack Meggitt-Phillips was kind enough to answer some of my questions about this series – and even drop a few hints about the next book…
What gave you the idea to write this series?
It all began with the beast. I’d had the idea for a while of a creature who likes eating terrible people in the same way that a cheese connoisseur loves eating only the very stinkiest of cheeses. However, the story really came to life when I realised that there would probably need to be someone who brought the beast its meals. When I came up with the character of the vain, immature, yet somehow still somewhat likeable Ebenezer Tweezer, it all clicked into place.
Has it changed much since the initial idea?
It changes with every book. At the beginning I felt reasonably in control of the story, but now Ebenezer and Bethany are behaving like total divas – constantly making complaints about the material I give them, insisting on larger dressing rooms with noisier whoopee cushions, making unwanted suggestions about what they’d like to do next. With every book I write, I’m feeling more and more like their captive.
Top Tips for Bethany-proofing a house? Or is the only way to simply not let her in the door in the first place?
De-worm your garden, wear nostril guards, and never EVER sit on anything, until you have called in the Bethany-fumigators to ensure that no superstinkrats have been concealed in unwelcome places. You can also try and distract her from pranking with pictures of Geoffrey and odours of freshly baked muffins.
What is your normal writing process like?
I’m a bit like a puppy, in that I need constant treats in order to motivate myself to write. I find I work best before breakfast and just before bedtime – where the rewards of sleep or a pain au chocolat motivate me to get the words on the page.
What do you do when you get stuck?
Throw tantrums and anything else which happens to be nearby. I once threw a cat out of the window when a sentence refused to behave itself.
Rationally, I know that getting stuck and rewriting is part of the process, but I’m always surprised and mortified whenever it happens. The main way I deal with it is to go back to the beginning of the book – because, whenever I get stuck, it’s usually because I did something wrong earlier on.
What flavour muffin sandwich would you most like to try?
Cannot possibly think of anything worse than a muffin sandwich. Every time I have to write Bethany making one, I usually barf into my nearby author’s bucket.
If you could swap lives with one of the main characters for a day, who would you pick and why?
Well, Ebenezer is the most like me of the lot (even though he has much nicer hair, and a lovelier tea set), so it wouldn’t be much fun to be him. And I worry that if I became the beast for a day, I might develop a taste for poor, defenceless parrots – so I guess I’m going to have to be a Bethany.
Also, I was such an insufferable goody-two-shoes as a child, it would be quite fun to be a prankster and shove some worms up people’s nostrils.
What is it that you enjoy most about writing, and particularly writing for children?
I write for the same reason I read – to be taken somewhere else. I love writing the first drafts, when you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. The beast is particularly fun to write, because you never know whether it’s going to dash all your plans for a scene by chomping someone’s head off or turning someone into a puddle.
And I love writing for children, because I’ve found that you have infinitely more fun in life if you look at the world through a child’s perspective. Everything becomes that much more bonkers and brilliant – and the little things take on so much more importance.
What would you most like the beast to give you, and what would you have the sacrifice to the beast to get it?
I am constantly late, and forever apologising for my tardiness – so if the beast could vomit me out some sort of leopard print teleport mat, that would be fab. I’d be willing to feed it any child of its choosing.
Can you give us a hint about the next book in the form of a song Claudette might sing?
I present to you a song written and composed by ‘Claudette and The Featherettes’:
The mind of the beast was evil and prickly,
So full of hatred and everything sickly.
That wickedest mind has gone without trace-
A much kinder soul has taken its place.
Parrots and pranksters are safe as can be
No longer will they be eaten for tea.
The real beast has gone – can it really be true?
Keep close those trumpets… if I were you
Thank you so much Jack for answering my (sometimes bizarre) questions!
Read my reviews of books by Jack Meggitt-Phillips:
The Beast and the Bethany (this series):