The Steps Up the Chimney (The Magician's House quartet: Book 1)

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9780099853701: The Steps Up the Chimney (The Magician's House quartet: Book 1)

William, Mary and Alice spend their holidays with Uncle Jack and his pregnant girlfriend in their run-down home, in a remote part of the Welsh borders. They soon realize there is something magical about the place. The author won the Pye Children's Television Writer of the Year Award 1979 and 1981.

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From the Publisher:

A Memoir by William Corlett
This book is part of "The Magician’s House" quartet of books, as televised in the BAFTA and EMMY nominated BBC1 TV-series, starring Ian Richardson, Neil Pearson and Sian Phillips.

The author, William Corlett, remembers the inspiration for the stories, which began to unfold when he moved to a house in the heart of the Hertfordshire countryside… soon to be joined by a black Labrador puppy named Charlie…

"…Charlie and I started going for solitary walks twice a day in the forest and, little by little, "The Magician’s House" began to unfold in my imagination. The first of the quartet, "The Steps up the Chimney" was published in 1990. "The Door in the Tree" and "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall" followed in 1991, and the final book, "The Bridge in the Clouds" came out in 1992. A full-length novel every six months? I’m not sure now how I did it. I was undoubtedly sustained by those long walks in all weathers, discovering secret paths and unexpected places with Charlie bounding ahead chasing rabbits, then tearing back to check on my progress, and sometimes (her particular bliss) swimming in a favourite pond.

"One early dawn we met two young badgers on a narrow path and the theme of "The Door in the Tree" was born; on another occasion we came face to face with a fox and Cinnabar arrived in the story. A dreary cleft through dying conifers became "The Dark and Dreadful Path" where, in the books, the creatures of the Golden Valley go to die. On a cold winter night I watched Charlie seeing the sparks flying up from the log fire in the sitting room hearth, and the idea of secret steps up the chimney came to me. At the top there would be a room. But whom would I find there? An earlier inhabitant of the house, perhaps? An Elizabethan alchemist, maybe, in his hidden study, beavering away at the magic of science?

"Years before my interest in the history of the Tudors and particularly Queen Elizabeth I had been stirred by reading about her connection with Doctor Dee, the alchemist. Alchemy, the search for man’s pure internal gold, the elixir of life, the ability to travel through time – what a character for a magical story. And so Stephen Tyler, the Magician of the title, materialised out of the glowing logs and what began as a series of random thoughts grew and exploded into full-grown books. The owls that swoop and screech round the house at night gave birth to Jasper, the Magician’s owl, and Charlie with her dark brown eyes that tell you precisely what she’s thinking took on a stirring role as Spot, the black and white sheepdog with the ability to talk – if one knows how to listen.

"Rarely have I started work in a more fruitful position – all my research was living and breathing around me. Meanwhile, my imagination was throwing up many paradoxes. One example; above the fireplace in our sitting room is a convex mirror. I moved the mirror to the Magician’s study and transformed it into a concave bowl in which he dreams his spells. Later, after the books were finished, I was reading yet another biography on Queen Elizabeth I and discovered that Dr Dee used a glass bowl for meditation purposes… There are times when imagination becomes uncanny!

"I was in the middle of book three of the quartet, "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall," when my father died after a brief illness. Then, quite suddenly, my mother – utterly lost without him – followed him two months later. Somehow I managed to get the book in on time, sitting at my desk in my study under the eaves with Charlie lying at the top of the stairs – willing me to stop writing and come for another walk. But the final book was still waiting to be written and that one was hardest. Yet in some ways, it is for me the most successful, shaped and tautened as it was by the shock of the deaths.

"Now, all these years later, the books are taking a new life as a television series and I have been lucky to do the adaptation. Last year for Series One we amalgamated books one and two of the quartet. The new series is based on book three – "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall" – the one I was writing when my parents died. And in that odd way that life has of repeating itself, it was during the final stages of post production on this series, while the finishing touches were being applied, that the only real begetter of the original idea, Charlie, died on night in her sleep having come to the end of her joyful life the forest. So, for me, this is Charlie’s series." – William Corlett, 2000

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