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Catherine Doyle on Coming Home to Books

Posted on 15th February 2021 by Mark Skinner

The writer behind The Stormkeeper Trilogy, one of the most exciting children's adventure series of recent years, Catherine Doyle knows a thing or two about creating fully realised fictional worlds that her readers long to return to. As the trilogy concludes with The Storm Keeper's Battle, Catherine selects those well-loved stories that feel like coming home.

In The Storm Keepers’ Battle, the conclusion to the Storm Keeper trilogy, Fionn Boyle is faced with the fight of his life. The fate of his island and its people hang in the balance, and as Morrigan and her fearsome brothers close in, things are looking bleak. But Fionn is not alone in this battle.The island of Arranmore is a community, a place built on more than sand and stone. Just as magic has returned to it, so will its people. This is exactly what Rose, another islander, tells Fionn as they stand side by side on the shores of Arranmore. ‘The island is never lost to us, Fionn, no matter how far we travel from it.’

I think this sentiment is true of many things in life – not just places, but there are people that never leave us, and of course there are stories, too.

Some books have left such a lasting impression on me that I return to them often. When I’m feeling sad or stressed or find myself stuck in a reading (or writing) slump, I pick up a well-loved novel to rediscover that same sense of wonder I felt when I first read it many years ago. Certain stories, in particular, offer up a sense of belonging – a feeling of coming home.

A part of my childhood will always be rooted in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This story reminds me that as long as I can imagine something – however impossible it might be – I can write it. To this day, when I see a wardrobe, once in a while, the small hopeful child in me thinks to herself, ‘what if...?’

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As a quartet of wide-eyed evacuees encounter wicked witches and saintly lions, Lewis guides the reader expertly through the brilliantly imagined world of Narnia, entered through a wardrobe door.
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The Princess Bride  by William Goldman is my comfort book. This dog-eared, well-read, much-loved tome has become a kind of touchstone for me over the years. I’ve read it countless times and still love it just as fiercely.

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The elegant parody of the heroic fantasy genre may have spawned a hugely popular movie but this wonderfully witty epic of swordfights, romance and high adventure is still best experienced through Goldman’s inspired literary original.
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Peter Pan by JM Barrie is a love letter to adventure and impossibility, two of my favourite things. This one hits me with such a sense of nostalgia that I am at once transported to the memory of myself tucked up in bed as a little girl, reading it by torchlight. Whenever I’m feeling jaded or creatively exhausted, this book never fails to make me believe in fairies all over again.

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Neverland, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook – the roll call of iconic creations that bless this Edwardian classic is seemingly endless, and yet despite the story’s familiarity it is worth noting the deftness with which Barrie’s spins his prose and the delicious darkness that lurks just beneath the surface thrills.
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Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer was the first home-grown book that made me feel like I could do anything as a child growing up in the west of Ireland – kidnap a fairy, infiltrate an underground network of magical creatures, or maybe even become a criminal mastermind! As I got older, Artemis Fowl made me believe I could be an author, too – that I could write stories set in Ireland and fill them with all kinds of magic, from whispering trees and enchanted tide warriors to secret caves and flying horses.

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Determined to restore his family’s fortunes and defeat the terrifying, crafty high-tech fairies with his cunning intelligence, Artemis Fowl is the inimitable twelve-year-old criminal mastermind at the heart of Colfer’s international bestseller.
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I read Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell in my early twenties and was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and fully it ignited my imagination. In just a few pages, I was transported to the dazzling rooftops of Paris and immersed in the child-like wonder that comes with an unexpected adventure. There’s a cozy quality to this story that gives it a wonderful, classic feel – just one of the reasons it has ended up on my favourites shelf.

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This former Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year spins a magical yarn of a quirky orphan who takes up with a gang of urchins who scavenge on the rooftops of venerable Parisian buildings.
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These are just some of the books that remind me why I love reading, and why I became an author. They hold within them an innate power; they can lift me from the depths of despair, anchor me in tumultuous times, and shine brightly when I find myself most desperately in need of hope. The book world is vibrant and thriving, powered by people from all walks of life, who come home to the  same stories, time and again. These communities are built around ink and imagination, and that enduring sense of belonging to a story much bigger than you. That’s the true magic of books; how a boy who never grows up, a talking lion, a baby floating in a cello case or a farm-boy-turned-pirate can connect us not just to our younger selves, but to each other.

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