Today we have an interview with Philippa Dowding, author of The Lost Gargoyle series. The newest title in the series is The Gargoyle at the Gates, which has just released. Philippa tells us which character she’s most attached to, how she came up with the idea for this book and her secret tip for when she hits writers block!
Caitlyn Tell us about your book: The Gargoyle at the Gates, book 3 in the Lost Gargoyle Series.
Philippa: A young boy named Christopher Canning has just arrived in Toronto from Vancouver. He’s not sure he likes it. He has a new school, no friends, and the abandoned park next door to his house is creepy. Something howls at the moon and whips apples at his window, but what?
When he plucks up the courage to investigate the park he discovers … gargoyles! Their names are Gargoth and Ambergine, and they are over four hundred years old. It takes courage to befriend a gargoyle, but once he does Christopher suddenly has more friends than he ever imagined, including Cassandra and Katherine who watch over the gargoyles from a store nearby.
But the gargoyles need help: a monstrous enemy named the Collector is scouring the city to try to steal them and lock them up in his statue garden, forever. What the gargoyles and the Collector don’t know is that the gargoyles’ eccentric ancestors are looking for them, too! Who finds them first?
The Gargoyle at the Gates is book three in the award-nominated Lost Gargoyle series, for readers 9-12.
Caitlyn: How did you come up with the idea for this work?
Philippa: One winter night my children and I were visiting a strange antique store in downtown Toronto. I looked up a set of stairs at the back of the store, and on each step was a gargoyle. When I looked again, it really looked like each gargoyle had moved. That began weeks of bedtime stories about a lost gargoyle living in the backyard, which has now blossomed into a three-book series.
Caitlyn: Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.
Philippa: Children can understand what it feels like to be an outsider in a new situation: at a new school, on a new sports team, in a new class. In the Lost Gargoyle books, I explore themes of loneliness, difference, exclusion, friendship, loyalty and in the third book, the courage it takes to confront a bully. The main character, the gargoyle named Gargoth, is a wonderfully mysterious and lonely creature with a generous heart, who is extremely loyal once he learns to trust someone, and who is the perfect metaphor for the outsider. He is very lost and lonely in book one, until through a strange and difficult odyssey he lands in Katherine’s backyard in downtown Toronto. The little girl and the gargoyle slowly become friends. In book two, we travel back in time to learn about his history, and discover that he was stolen and cruelly treated by almost everyone he met, including the Collector who kept him isolated and alone as part of his antiquities “collection” for almost 70 years. In book three, the gargoyle has to trust his friends and Christopher’s extended family, to confront the Collector once and for all. The gargoyle’s journey is mirrored by the renewal of the abandoned park, which was destroyed by the Collector, but becomes an urban oasis in the end.
Caitlyn: In your own work, which character are you most attached to and why?
Philippa: Definitely Gargoth the gargoyle! He’s a bit sad and mysterious, with a naughty penchant for whipping apples or sticking out his tongue at you, but when you get him alone and he learns to like you, he’ll tell you great stories. He’s a poet, a renaissance-man, wise and somewhat naive about the world at the same time. I think of him as part Yoda and part Mr. Miyagi, he’s the wise other, inscrutable, brave and loyal, with a fondness for hot chocolate and classical music (but only if it’s played well).
Caitlyn: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Philippa: I had a wonderfully eccentric Chaucer professor at university (Betty Bandeen). I can’t remember much about Chaucer other than the “Parliamente of Fowles” was the strangest thing I’d ever read, but I’ll never forget her 3-day rule about essay-writing: write the way you want to write, say what you want to say, then put it in the bottom drawer for three days and let it percolate.
To this day, if I’m stuck on anything, a plot-point, a thread, some tricky dialogue, into the bottom drawer it goes. Three days. It works every time.
Philippa Dowding is an award-winning magazine copywriter, a poet, and a children’s author. Her YA books in the Lost Gargoyle series were nominated for the Diamond Willow 2011 and Silver Birch Express 2012 Awards. The character of Gargoth was inspired by a visit with her children to an odd antique store populated with mysterious gargoyles. Philippa lives in Toronto.
The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.