Do you know the magical world outside of Joburg?

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Do you know the magical world outside of Joburg?

Hamilton Wende, author of the Arabella series, launches a new book

Jennifer Platt

Hamilton Wende is a freelance writer and television producer based in Johannesburg. His second children's fantasy book Arabella, the Secret King and the Amulet from Timbuktu has just been published by Clockwork Books.
This is what it’s about:
Arabella is grieving her dad’s death while struggling to adjust to her new school. Plus she’s having trouble with her friends. Then Akbar, the broom seller from Mali, gives Arabella a magical amulet that can open a gateway to Azothia, the world of magic that is being threatened by a strange and dark new power. Along with all her magical friends from the garden, Arabella must travel to Knysna to team up with Lwazi, her new friend and ally, to battle the powerful and terrifying Krakobek, the beast that threatens both the world of magic and ours. But can Arabella stand up to the terrible beast without revealing her secret double life to her teachers and all the girls on hockey tour with her?
Wende spoke to Times Select about his new project:
I started writing the first book in the series, Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut, when we were renovating our house in Parkview and the kids had no bedrooms and were spending their nights in sleeping bags on the living room floor. There was also no kitchen so we were cooking pre-made meals in the microwave on the dining room table.  The garden was a complete mess of concrete mix, broken bricks and mud, so I started writing a story for them about a beautiful garden filled with flowers and magic. Arabella was the kid who lived in this garden and she encountered this magic after her father died of cancer and she had to look inwards to see who she really was. The book was deliberately set in Joburg and the adventures take place all around the city.For the second book, Arabella, the Secret King and the Amulet from Timbuktu I drew on a magical holiday we had with the kids some years back in Knysna. The lagoon, the seahorses, the oysters, the elephants hidden deep in the forest all fascinated the children and inspired me to write about them.  In this story there is a different villain, Krakobek, who is part hyena, crocodile and vulture.  I spent a whole afternoon in my study at home thinking up the name and the composition of the monster.  My stepson and his friend were playing in the garden, which was by then very lovely, and I made frequent trips outside to run my choice of name and the identity of the monster past them.  “That’s a very scary creature,” they said, and then I knew I had it right!
The Amulet from Timbuktu was inspired by my visit as a filmmaker to Mali some years ago and myself being fascinated by the rich culture there.  Akbar, the broomseller, who brings the amulet down south is inspired by our real life refugees from conflict zones who find a way to make a living on the streets of Joburg.Writing the second book was more of a challenge than the first, as I had to put the narrative elements of what was happening before the cute and rewarding references to the kids.  They are much older now so I had to do more imagining than borrowing as I did in the first book.  I think the funniest thing was looking at the world from the point of view of the oysters, who are constantly being drudged up from the lagoon to be eaten at the restaurants on the waterfront.   One can imagine their outrage at the fiery Tabasco sauce being spread all over their companions just metres away from where they live!
And, as for the Secret King, you can imagine he might be living in the forests around Knysna.  On a walk in the forest near Dalene Mathee’s Big Tree my stepdaughter and I found some elephant dung on the edge of the pathway.  We never saw the elephant, but its presence has resonated with us ever since.

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