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Guest Author - Dan Metcalf

Where did your love of writing first come from and is there any books in particular that inspired you to become an author?


I was always the kid at school who would write long, rambling stories and I suppose it was when the teachers complimented me on them that I thought 'Hey, this could be my thing!'. I continued to write and went to university to study it. It was when I was a grown up (not that I've ever really grown up!) that I started to read books like the Alex Rider series, Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines books, Philip Pullman and of course Harry Potter that I tried writing for children.


How do you come up with new, exciting and different plots for each book or sequel you write?

I'm lucky that The Lottie Lipton Adventures are set in the British Museum, which has over 8 millions items from thousands of years of world history. If you ever get a chance to go there (or even look at their fantastic website) I challenge you not to be inspired by something in their collection! I can take Lottie anywhere on her adventures; to ancient Rome, Egypt, Japan or Greece. All I have to do is look at the items in the museum and start from there.

Do your children influence your writing, and if so how?

Yes, my two sons have very active imaginations! It's great to watch them play and come up with crazy inventions, characters and settings. Although I think I'm probably the biggest kid in the house! It is good to see how they react when I read them a story, what entertains them, scares them, grips them. I've got my own test audience in my own home!


The Lottie Lipton Adventure series is based on a nine-year-old investigator; was this ever a career you were interested in and if not, have you always wanted to be an author?

I wanted to be everything when I was growing up; astronaut, stuntman, actor, deep-sea diver... I remember being obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and Poirot and other detective stories for a time, so I definitely wanted to be an investigator at one point. I realised that I could be a writer quite late – maybe 16 or so? Until I probably thought that writing was something that 'other people did'. I certainly didn't grow up around writers or artists, so goodness know how I thought I could be one!


All of the books are set in a museum, if you could go back to one moment in the past, what would it be and why?

While Ancient Egypt fascinates me, I think I would go to Victorian London. I'd love to see the winters there, when the River Thames would freeze over and they would hold Frost Fairs on the ice! So much changed then; it would have been an exciting time to be alive.


The Eagle of Rome A Lottie Lipton Adventure is out soon, which is about trying to break a code, what's your best advice for problem-solving?

Remove all distractions and concentrate fully on the puzzle you are trying to crack! Look for links and connections in the puzzle that might give away how to solve it. And never give up!


Similarly, The Catacombs of chaos a Lottie Lipton Adventure is about Lottie getting locked in a tunnel and she struggles to find her way out; were there ever any sticky situations you got in when you were younger?

I used to try to hide around my house and jump out and scare my mum and dad. One day I hid in the cupboard under the stairs and couldn't get out, but never called for help for fear of getting told off! My sister let me out...eventually. Oh, and one time I got lost on an Italian mountain and had to walk down it for five hours wearing flip-flops. It was a bit scary, especially when the snakes started to wriggle out of the bushes...

If you could give a young budding author one piece of advice what would this be?

I'd say to just write stuff, but that's a bit obvious. My real piece of advice is to finish the stuff you write. I spent loads of time when I was young thinking up stories and then only writing one chapter. You need to finish the story to fully feel satisfied with it. Even if you can't think of how to finish it, stick a silly ending on and then you can go back later to change it. And never give up!