Question Time on Peculiar Hill: What’s the deal with the Marmalade?; Do people get Strange? And more…

Many thanks to Hayley who has sent in some incisive questions about ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’. If you have any questions on the Vale of Strange books which you would like to ask, please do send them in. You can contact us via the Contact Grimly page, using either the contact box or the email address you will find on the page.

Please note that unless you tell us otherwise, we will assume you are happy for your questions to be answered here on the blog. To make it all as simple as possible, please mark your email ‘Questions for the blog’.

Now over to Hayley with the first of her four questions. Grimly himself will be providing the answers (we hope). Grimly! Are you there?

What is the deal with the marmalade? Why does it have crosses on the lid and why do you have turn it anticlockwise 3 times before you open it?

Ah yes, hum, well, (slurps cup of tea) very good question. Thanks, Hayley! The truth is that although the world of the Vale of Strange is very different to our own, it has quite a lot in common with us too. In our own world, we have plenty of so called ‘traditional remedies’ which are thought to fight off illnesses, and various superstitious actions (such as crossing our fingers) which are said to protect us against bad luck. We can’t assume that all of these necessarily work.

It is just the same in the world of the Vale of Strange. The ritual with the marmalade first emerged in the distant past and has been handed down over the years to the present generation of Peculiarshire residents along with unge and glop. These latter are protective substances against strange creatures which are commonly used but for which there is not a great deal of scientific evidence. Unge is placed in a bowl on the dining table but scientists who have studied it claim it is no more effective against bogeys and other strange creatures than a bowl of sugar or a vase of flowers would be.

Glop has a more impressive reputation but is only effective if used properly. You may have noticed that Amanda has never suggested that she and Peter should take plenty of glop in their bags when they set off into the Vale of Strange. This is because you can’t just throw it at bogeys. It has to be prepared in advance. You spread a ring of it around your house a few weeks before the start of the bogey season. Then as the days go by, it reacts with the soil of the ground around it to form a substance called glopthwock which the bogeys don’t like. As long as this ring is inspected every few weeks and repaired as necessary – chiefly reinforcing any sections which have been eaten away by snails (which unfortunately find glopthwock delicious) – the glop will provide a useful bogey deterrent.

Aunt Maggie uses glop of course, not least because she makes it herself, and she and Uncle Bob conscientiously inspect and repair the protective ring around their shop throughout the winter. Some of their neighbours, however, don’t have the patience for this and would rather just have a bogey pole handy to fend off the creatures instead.

Scientists have carried out numerous tests on glop but differ in their opinion as to how effective it is at keeping bogeys away. This is probably because the tests have not all been carried out in the same place, so the strength of glopthwock produced by the soil on which the glop is spread may have varied from one test site to another.

To return to the original subject of your question, however, scientists have paid much less attention to the effect of turning a jar of marmalade three times widdershins etc. There have been only two trials concerning this, neither of which have indicated any deterrent effect on bogeys, but some of the scientists on one of the trials thought the marmalade tasted a bit better afterwards.

Does the strangeness make everyone in the town strange or does it not affect them?

Humans have a very high resistance to strangeness. This is not something which is fully understood. However, the latest theory is that it is due to the high concentration of a substance called mezzrinine in the human body. This substance appears to take in all the available strangeness itself, so blocking absorption into the rest of the body. Humans are therefore unlikely to become strange, even when exposed to very high concentrations of strangeness.

This may be why the unfortunate tourists who get eaten by monsters in the Vale have the effect of keeping down levels of strangeness, strange-hungry mezzrinine being released into the atmosphere as part of the process of digestion – in the same sort of way as cows produce carbon dioxide. But the end effect of all this mezzrinine in the atmosphere is not global warming (as in the case of the cows) but lower levels of strangeness. These lower levels are welcomed by the citizens of Peculiarshire, of course, not because higher levels would make them strange (which they wouldn’t) but because higher levels would encourage the bogeys and other strange creatures to fly nearby and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

I think there will be more about mezzrinine in the third book in the series, which will be out, er, eventually…

Does Peter find a way to keep the strangness at bay without the tourists?

This is a much easier question to answer but I’d rather not do it just here because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the series. I will only comment that there may be some progress made concerning this problem, but the proof (as the lifkins would put it) is in the pudding. To find out more, read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, available now from Amazon!

Do Amanda and Peter end up together?

I was quite amused when another of our readers described Amanda and Peter as ‘the love interest’ in the book. It seemed to me that they were a little bit young for romance, but that is probably just me being old-fashioned! Anyway, I am afraid I don’t know what the answer is because we haven’t got there yet. We are only two books into the series.

What do you think? Do you think they’ll end up together? On the evidence of the first book I would be a little bit scared for Peter if they did. Don’t you think Amanda would push him around? On the other hand, maybe Peter is well capable of standing up for himself. He is very adamant at the end of the first book about not going back to the Vale for instance. But does he stick to that decision in the second book? And if he doesn’t, who is it that talks him into going back into the Vale? Is it Amanda – or somebody else?

It might be time for you to get your copy of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. Things are about to get a lot more complicated…

So that’s it then. Many thanks to Hayley again for sending in those questions! What would you like to know about the world of the Vale of Strange? There’s a lot of things that aren’t explained in the books. This is your chance to become a Vale of Strange insider. Send in your questions and you could be talking to Grimly here too…

The Shop on Peculiar Hill Quiz

Have you read The Shop on Peculiar Hill? How much did you learn from it about life on the edge of the Vale of Strange? Now there’s a chance to test your knowledge in the brand new Goodreads ‘Shop on Peculiar Hill’ Quiz. Here’s a sample question to get you started:

Where do bogeys live?

a) In Boggy Hollows

b) At the Strange Hotel

c) Underneath your bed

An ideas? If you knew the answer to that one (or even if you didn’t) you can take the whole quiz here at Goodreads. It’s fun to do and it’s a very sensible idea to check your knowledge to make sure you’re taking the right precautions against all the various monsters. Otherwise you can end up trying to fend off a heeble-greeb with a bowl of glop.

And if you haven’t been to Goodreads before, you might like to take a look around while you’re there. It’s a good place to go to get recommendations for books, chat about what you’ve been reading with friends, and even to write reviews so you can share your thoughts about what you’ve been reading more widely. Rather annoyingly, though no doubt for very good reasons, you have to be 13 or over to be a member at Goodreads, but if you’re too young at the moment, this may be one of those times when a parent comes in useful.  They might be able to ask for book recommendations on your behalf and it might be a really worthwhile project for you to help them write a review of The Shop on Peculiar Hill or even Stranger Days – if only to keep them out of mischief for a day or so.

You can also help them to answer that quiz of course. Here’s another sample question before I go:

What is Aunt Maggie’s lucky day?

a) Wednesday

b) Thursday

c) Every other Friday

You’ll find more questions – and all the answers – over at Goodreads...

And don’t forget to wear that hat!

(The Good Reads links above take you to the quiz. The main Good Reads page for The Shop on Peculiar Hill is here.)

You May Not Have Seen This Interview

If you are one of the many who have only just discovered the Vale of Strange books, you may not have read this interview with their author Grimly Darkwood. Grimly was in conversation with Ian Eagleton who is the developer of the excellent app for iPad ‘The Reading Realm’. This app encourages children to read with games and quizzes. An extract from the first Vale of Strange book, ’The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, is one of the texts which Ian has used in his app.

The conversation took place a few months ago and the interview appeared on The Reading Realm site in November, shortly before the publication of the second Vale of Strange book, ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. It’s really worth a read if you haven’t seen it. Here’s a brief extract in which Grimly describes what he hoped to achieve when he started out writing the books:

“In writing The Shop on Peculiar Hill, I wanted to produce a book that was funny as well as scary, mysterious as well as exciting, and fun for adults to read as well as for children. I hope readers will think I’ve succeeded.”

You can read the whole of the interview here.

If you read one of the Vale of Strange books over the Christmas holiday, don’t forget to write and tell us what you think of it or send us your impressions of the Vale, either in print or in pictures. You are also welcome to send in any questions you have about the books. We always love to get feedback from you.

And finally, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at Grimly HQ!

Oh yes, and don’t forget that hat….

Keeping In Touch

Just to ring the changes a bit as regards pictures here on the blog, many thanks to John Guy Collick, author of the galaxy-spanning Book of the Colossus series, for sharing this photo of his paperback copy of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill on desk display...

Now that all the Kindles have been sieved and measured as they were downloaded through the great colander in the sky, we are able to report that almost a thousand people (yes, almost a thousand!) took advantage of the splendid offer of a free e-copy of The Shop on Peculiar Hill. This being so, it seems likely that some of them have been smart enough not only to grasp this remarkable opportunity with eager fingers but also to find their way here to the premier source of knowledge of all things Grimly. One of them may even be you, in which case welcome along!

This is indeed the place to come to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in the world of the Vale of Strange. You may wish to check back here from time to time to make sure you’re not missing anything. Alternatively, if you’re as smart as I think you are, you’ll prefer to automate the process by putting your email address in the little box on the right-hand side of the page, the one labelled ‘Follow Blog by Email’. It will not surprise you to learn that this will sign you up to get email notifications of new posts here on the blog.

But of course, communication is a two-way thing. Extensive scientific experiments have proved that shouting at the top of your voice is a totally useless means of communication if no one is listening. So I wish to assure you that, for our part, we are sitting here with our ears sticking out of our hats (which Aunt Maggie assures me is perfectly safe as long as no bogeys are flying around), ready to capture your faintest whisper and place it on the conveyor belt which carries it up to what passes for a brain here at Grimly Central, where a conglomeration of brain bits (to use the technical terminology) will convert it into the message you wish to transmit.

Or to put it another way, tell us what you think and we’ll be listening.

Have you finished reading that book yet? What do you think of Peculiar Hill and the Vale of Strange? Would you like to live there? Who is your favourite character in the book and why? If you have just read ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, are you keen to read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ next? What do you think is going to happen next? What would you like to happen? What is your favourite monster in the Vale of Strange? Do you think there are some more in there that we haven’t discovered yet?

And if any children – or indeed adults – would like to send us a drawing based on the books, we should be very interested to see it and perhaps share it here on the blog. Our artist, Pete Lyon, has shown us what he thinks the humans and monsters look like. What do you think?

You can contact us via the ‘Contact Grimly’ page, a link to which you will see on the right-hand side of the screen. In the case of any difficulty using the ‘contact Grimly’ form, just use the email address which is given on that page or leave a comment on this post. We’re really hoping to hear from you!

(If you do send us drawings and/or your thoughts about the books – and we very much hope you will – we’ll assume you are happy for them to be published in this blog unless you tell us otherwise.)

Of course, if you haven’t finished the book(s) yet then keep on reading – and keep on wearing that hat!

One last reminder: you can also keep up to date with events in the Vale of Strange by following us on Facebook and/or Twitter – see the links on the right….

Grimly at The Reading Realm

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Here’s a really great interview with Grimly by Ian Eagleton, designer of the briliant app The Reading Realm, which can be downloaded now for iPad and has all sorts of quizzes and games to encourage children to read. Ian asks some very interesting questions about the influences on Grimly and how it felt to create the Vale of Strange. Enjoy…

The Shop on Peculiar Hill – three free copies to be won!

Well, with the extra publicity we’ve been getting through lovereading4 kids (as we mentioned last time) we’re getting more people reading The Shop on Peculiar Hill and so, we hope, more people are finding this website for the first time. If one of them is you, then welcome to Planet Grimly, your one stop shop for all things Vale of Strange (though we’re a bit short of unge and glop, to be honest – we suggest you try eBay for them). You are very welcome to ask any questions you may have about The Vale of Strange (just occasionally we may even know the answers) or send us a review of the book or some artwork it has inspired you to create. You will see some of the remarkable artwork and responses we’ve already received if you take a look back through the previous posts. Our contact address is grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

We’re also delighted to announce that those nice people at lovereading4kids have three signed copies of The Shop on Peculiar Hill to give away free! That’s signed by Grimly himself, I hasten to add. It was quite an effort and he had to lie down afterwards. If he ever becomes a truly best selling author (and he’s not quite there yet) he’s going to have to go on one of those army fitness programmes to tone up his hand muscles first. Otherwise he will never cope with the signing sessions. Anyway, just for now his work is done and he’s getting back his strength by munching on a chocolate biscuit and a stick of celery, so the chances are he’ll pull through this time. If you would like a chance to partake of the fruits of his labour then full details of how you can win one of the valuable signed copies he has produced can be found on the lovereading4kids site here.  The competition closes on 30th June, so don’t delay – get entering right away!

It occurs to me, though, that most of you reading this will probably already have read The Shop on Peculiar Hill so you may not be mega excited by the competition. Bear in mind, however, that these are potentially valuable signed copies, so they could be worth a fortune one day – or at least the price of a packet of chocolate biscuits and a stick of celery, in case you too need to recover from an arduous workout. And it also seems likely that you may know some of those unfortunate people who haven’t yet read the book. So here is your chance to bring a little sunshine into their lives by sending them a link to the competition and strongly suggesting they enter. After all, someone – or, more accurately – three people – have to get lucky and one of them could be them!

All right, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading this (assuming you did, and haven’t just cheated by skipping to the end). Don’t forget to spread the news about the competition – and, most importantly – as always! – don’t forget your hat!