I saw a tantalising thread about a new book from Egmont about a Beast with a recommendation “The biggest and beastliest middle grade series since Lemony Snicket”. Being a huge fan of The Series of Unfortunate Events, my curiosity was peaked and I emailed begging for a copy of The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips to be sent my way. Luckily for me, the lovely folk at Egmont were keen to shout about this book from the rooftops and my request was granted.
A completely delightful and dark book that will enchant, scare and enthral you!
An opportunity to interview Jack was presented and with no hesitation, I drafted my questions, sent them away and waited with baited breath for the return. They are even better than I could have hoped and Jack’s signature humour is thrumming in each answer.
Can you describe The Beast and the Bethany in a couple of sentences? It’s a children’s book about a beast, a youthful 511-year-old, and a child who’s about to be eaten.
Ebenezer Tweezer keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (performing monkeys, pet cats, the occasional cactus), and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful.
The beast grows ever greedier, and soon, only a nice juicy child will do, however, the child Ebenezer chooses is a rebellious prankster – one who’ll be a lot trickier to get into the beast’s belly than any cactus or pet cat. Enter Bethany…
What might be next for Ebenezer, Beast and Bethany? Obviously without spoiling what is set to be a series… The series is essentially going to be about two misguided people trying, and miserably failing to become do-gooders. All whilst saving themselves and their friends from the beast’s dastardly, bone-crunching villainy.
Ebenezer is eccentric and fascinating? Is he based on anyone in your life? He’s based on a version of myself which has much better hair, but much worse morals.
Sadly, I have no magical beast to vomit me out potions or presents, and, even on my worse days, I’ve never considered serving up a child as a snotty snack for any carnivorous creature. However, I do share Ebenezer’s obsession with peculiar teas, questionable outfits, and avoiding wrinkles.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a special place to write? I write pretty much exclusively in my dressing gown – a charming, stripy number that frankly deserves a ‘co-authored by’ credit.
I also ransom my morning pain aux chocolate from myself until I've written 50 lines. Sometimes entire days are lost to hunger, and I can be found crawling to the kitchen in the late evening after I've finally finished the 50th line.
Writing is clearly a gift of yours, but what might you have chosen to do if you couldn't be an author/writer? I come from a deeply unpractical family who thought that in order to support the writing, I should have a sensible back up option - AKA a hitherto useless qualification to teach and offer health and safety advice to disco dancers of all ages.
If you ever injure yourself in a sequin related accident, or an over-energetic step-ball-change, then I'm your man. Please don't come to me with any medical related emergencies outside the field of disco dance - I've had to have that conversation too many times before.
Jack Meggitt-Phillips, author
What tips would you offer to budding writers? Probably the most useful thing I’ve learned is how to look at plot and story as different things. Plot is what happens, and story is what the book is actually about.
For instance, in Christmas Carol, the plot is all the ghostly visitations, whilst the story is about a man changing his ways and rediscovering what it means to live.
And in The Beast and The Bethany, it may seem as if the book is a horrifying tale of a beast devouring its meals, but in reality it’s about . . . no, that’s pretty much it, actually.
Rumour has it you have a wardrobe full of fascinating items...What are your favourite items and least favourites? Where is this love of clothes inspired from? My Nan is my fashion icon. We're terrible influences on each other, and we keep on enabling each other's ill-advised purchases. I never truly feel comfortable wearing a garment unless it's going to raise at least half a dozen sets of eyebrows, whereas she isn't going to so much try an item of clothing on unless it has 2,000 sequins sewn into it.
My most fashionable item would have to be one of my suits - likely a rather dashing burgundy three-piece that was acquired just before Christmas. The least fashionable would have to be one of my four hats - I look terrible in all of them, but I just won't accept that I'm simply not a hat person.
What was your favourite childhood book? If it were not for a certain Mr Snicket, it's likely that I would have never taken to reading, let alone writing. His books are dripping with misery, woe, and sheer terror - all the essential ingredients needed to captivate children, and show them that reading can be as exhilarating as the most dangerous and ill-tested of rollercoasters.
What are you currently reading? My New Year’s resolution for 2020 was to read some books that have been published this century, and I’ve failed miserably. I'm something of a Victorian addict, and I’m currently gasping under the gaslights in horror at The Island of Dr Moreau.
Jack Meggitt-Phillips is clearly a character to contend with and I laughed each time I read and re-read his answers. This series is set to be huge and I am already the biggest fan! The Beast and the Bethany is due to be published on 3rd September 2020 by Egmont. Please read my review of this AMAZING book in Junior reviews.
Article and interview by Erin Hamilton.