Where Peacocks Scream is told by twelve-year-old Daniel Williams who lives in The Riverside, a pub by the river in Wolvercote, North Oxford. The pub’s gardens include a bridge that leads to a wild patch called The Island, which Daniel considers to be his private territory and one of his passions. His others are for the peacocks that live in the grounds and his friend Josh, and Chloe, the Boatman’s daughter.
The story opens with the death of Cora, Daniel’s special peahen, whom he buries secretly on The Island. That summer, while he is fishing, he notices that he is being watched and photographed by a man in a white cap. The man turns out to be Frank Jasper who arrives to stay at The Riverside and begins to make Daniel’s life a misery.
What is Frank Jasper plotting? Why did he bring those peacock feathers into the pub? Can Daniel save The Riverside from Frank Jasper’s evil plans?
Author Valerie Mendes started writing when she was six years old and continued to write poetry and stories at school and was awarded a State Scholarship in English and History. After studying for a degree in English and Philosophy at the University of Reading, Valerie started to work for the BBC in Manchester. Valerie’s successful career spanned across journalism and publishing and after many years in publishing, Valerie started to write full time and has published two picture books; four teenage novels and two historical adult novels. Valerie now lives in Oxford and is working on her next adult novel.
Interview with Valerie Mendes
Valerie Mendes was born in Buckinghamshire and educated at North London Collegiate School where she wrote poetry and short stories and was awarded a State Scholarship.
Soon after taking a double honours degree in English and Philosophy at Reading University she moved to Oxford. Many of her novels have been inspired by her local surroundings.
She has published two picture books, five teenage novels and two historical novels for the adult marketplace. She is proudly the mother of Sam Mendes CBE, the theatre and film director, and an equally proud grandmother.
You can find many more details about Valerie and her work at www.valeriemendes.com
Which book first ignited your love of reading?
In 1943 I was given a copy of R L Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, beautifully illustrated by Charles Robinson. The poems, published here in 1942, are lyrical fragments from an Edwardian life filled with children in smocks and gardens in full English bloom. I have coloured in many of the illustrations and given some of the verses a large red tick of admiration and approval. On page 128 I have also written a heartbreaking letter to my parents asking them whether they loved me. On the following page I have added a grid in pencil spelling out the fact that 5+5 = 10. I have often wondered how long it took me as a four-year-old to work that out.
If your current book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
The song would of course be Messing About on the River (1961) by the Scottish folk singer Josh MacRae. My Daniel in Where Peacocks Scream has a passion for the river and spends every spare moment on it, in it and with it.
Which book have you read more than once?
The first volume in John Galsworthy’s remarkable series The Forsyth Saga.
Do you plan your writing or go with the flow?
I do an enormous amount of planning, especially with my historical novels for the adult market, Larkswood and The Choice, which needed research as well as plans. I call them my garden paths from cottage to boundary. If I don’t know how my novels will end, they have no beginning either. But once the novel is underway, some of my strongest characters will change the direction of the path. Things can get really interesting when they start talking back.
Do you enjoy the editing process?
Yes, it’s second nature. I spent ten years running my own editorial consultancy, so I am a fully trained and incredibly professional editor. It all helps when your life is spent with words. I often think I am my own sternest editorial critic.
If you could, what advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?
Keep a diary, but make absolutely sure your mother never finds it.
Do you read your book reviews?
Only if they come from people I know and trust.
If you could give one literary villain a happier ending, who would you pick and why?
I would never ever interfere with other authors’ work in this way. True villains are not supposed to have happy endings. It’s one of the most important rules of literary fiction.
What are you currently reading?
I am researching for my third historical novel, currently under wraps, so I am deep in the Second World War, reading Wartime: Britain 1939-1945 by the brilliant Juliet Gardiner, and Spitfire Voices by Dilip Sarkar.
Where did you get the inspiration for your current novel?
Where Peacocks Scream is set in The Trout, a pub on the outskirts of Oxford made famous by many episodes of Morse on television. My ideas for the novel sprang directly from having coffee one warm autumn morning on the terrace of the house, which looks out onto the river and Port Meadow, with the Oxford skyline shimmering on the horizon. It’s a most magical place.
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Merry Christmas from Kelly & The Team, thank you for all your support and love in 2017.