Check out Halo, it could be Zizou Corder's last ever children's book. I spoke to her last week for the Big Issue in Scotland...
BY THOMAS QUINN
The author behind Lemony Snicket only revealed his true identity after publishing his thirteenth novel.
But Zizou Corder was outed the moment the ink dried on the contract for Lionboy.
Corder, it was exclusively revealed in every newspaper in the land, was ‘the next JK Rowling’ who had sold her first book for a cool million.
Not only that, Zizou was in reality two people: Louisa Young and her then 10-year-old daughter Isabel Adomakoh Young! The publicists couldn’t believe their luck.
Lionboy, published in 2003, is a massively popular series selling over 300,000 copies – though it hasn’t came close to Harry Potter sales or spawned a movie franchise. But looking back on those heady days, I wonder if Louisa considers the hype a help or a hindrance.
“Not a hindrance, no not at all,” she tells me. “It was just marginally annoying to be compared to someone who isn’t yourself. I can name a dozen people who were ‘the new Rowling’, I like to think we weren’t the least likely.
“It was just annoying that the money was exaggerated. We got a good six-figure deal to write three books. Now to me, any six-figure deal is a good deal. But this somehow got translated into our being paid £1 million for one book.
“The only negative was when Isabel got doorstepped [by a journalist] and her father had to step in. That wasn’t good.”
After three Lionboy books, the pair produced a fourth, Lee Raven, Boy Thief set in a futuristic London. However it was mythical Greece that inspired their latest outing, Halo. “Greece is incredibly beautiful, as well as having all the best stories in terms of the myths. I’m fascinated by the way the myths become real history at some point,” Louisa says.
In the novel, Halo is abandoned by her parents as a baby, but raised by kindly centaurs.
“As with all the best stories, Halo has to find out who she really is. It is set in Athens around 400BC when there wasn’t much a woman could do apart from get married or be a slave, that was about it. So Halo disguises herself as a boy and she goes to Delphi where she hopes the oracle will be able to tell her who she is.”
Isabel is now 17-years-old and studying for her A-levels. As a result, Louisa believes this latest Zizou novel may be the last.
“When she was little she would give me ideas. Now that she is 17 she is a lot busier doing her A-Levels and being a teenager,” she explains.
“We discuss everything. She reads it and she gives me her feedback. But she’s reading Atonement for A Level right now. I wrote Lionboy with her because she was a child, now she is reading grown-up books.”
Perhaps it isn’t that surprising then that Young herself is planning to publish under her own name again soon. She has just sold the rights to a ‘grown-up’ novel – ‘about love, death and the origins of facial plastic surgery in World War I’ – to Harper Collins.
As for Isabel, her mother says wait and see. “She might write books, she might not. For the moment she has a lot of essays to be getting on with,” she laughs.
Halo is published by Puffin (£6.99)