Essi Tolling is alive and well!
We have received many emails since Watchers was first published and especially regarding the publication of book two The Hidden Hand. We have tried to respond to as many as we could while also being mindful of the author’s need to be given space and time to write. So now that book two is being published on August 3rd and a revised version of Watchers has just been released we have had a chance to catch up with Essi and ask him some of the questions you have been sending to us.
KP: Essi many readers have been asking about you and wondering where you were and when they could expect the second book.
Essi: Firstly, my apologies for the extremely long silence. Secondly, more apologies for the delay in publication of the second book in the Tilly Greenway series. I’m happy to say that both issues are at last remedied with immediate effect!
It has been a challenging time since I last posted an entry on my blog or sallied forth into the world of social media. As readers will know, back in the spring of 2013 my publishers asked me to make some changes to the storyline of both book 2 and 3 in the trilogy. This was largely because things that were destined to happen in the books were actually playing out in the real world in a way which they were not comfortable with.
KP: Can you expand on that a bit?
Essi: To give you an example: in my last blog post I forecast further wars and predicted that Syria would be the next place of major conflict. That, like many other parts of the old subplot of the books, has sadly proved to be true. With an underlying element of criticism of governments (and the powers that run them) deliberately stirring up wars for their own benefit, it was deemed that the storyline was in fact a little too “hot to handle”. Making a few small changes to a long-planned, complex plot – with plenty of subplots for good measure! – was not as simple as it first appeared. Then in 2013 a series of events meant things had to be put on hold. These included health issues for the main editor and the terminal illness of my father, who passed away early last year. I returned to the UK to be closer to my parents and family and my focus moved away from the books.
KP: We are very sorry to hear about your father. It must have been a difficult time for you.
Essi: Yes, losing a parent creates many challenges – both foreseen and not so – and moving country, along with setting up new work was certainly an upheaval. It was really only midway through 2016 when I finally felt ready to return my attention to the Tilly Greenway stories.
I should probably have let readers know before now, but somehow the timing has not been right. I wanted to be able to be fully engaged again, to reply to messages and emails – and of course to be able to make school visits, do book-signings etc. All in all, things simply took the time they did.
KP: Your decision to revise Watchers I know you made along with the publisher’s suggestion to revise the covers and book size. What led to your decision?
Essi: Well…there was the whole ISIS issue (another example of strange synchronicity between fiction and reality that did not help!) which just had to be dealt with.
For those of you who read the original version of Watchers, you will know in the story there is a secret society that runs the world from behind the scenes. I called that society ISIS. This was a deliberate choice. The name is an acronym for the Inner Sanctum of the Inner Sanctum, but I chose it more specifically because of the resonance with the Egyptian goddess, the first well-known mother-with-child archetype. This fitted in with my idea that those involved in “dark” magic hide behind the cloak of seeming-lightness (both in the books and in reality!). In this case, they were using the name deliberately to corrupt it. It also fitted well because back in the late 18th century, Robespierre and his Illuminati cohorts chose to use a sheaf of corn/wheat as their symbol during the French Revolution– an image long associated with goddesses like Isis, Ceres and so on. So there was some historical basis for using it in the stories.
However, events in the world overtook me. On my return to the UK I realised that the only resonance the name has for people now is its association with the terrorist activities that have become an increasing part of our world. This itself was another irony, given that in the books the Director of Terror – a woman responsible for increasing terror rather than helping to diffuse it – was a part of the secret shadow-government who carried that name!
Obviously, with all the horrific things that have been happening in the world, this had to be changed and I apologise to anyone who has read the original version in recent times. No offence was intended by the use of the name. Indeed, when I drew up plans for the books back in 2008, the only meaning of the word ISIS was the goddess herself and there was no way of knowing how that particular name was to become so high-profile and why.
This year, therefore, before releasing The Hidden Hand, the old copies of Watchers had to be pulped and a new version produced. This has now been completed. ISIS has been replaced by HORUS (more on what this means another time) – a name I hope will not be picked up on in quite the same way!
KP: Are you happy with the new look Watchers?
Essi: Absolutely! I love the new cover. It is more in keeping with how book-covers in general have evolved over the six years since Watchers was first published and suits the story perfectly. I love the single eye (reminiscent of the Eye of Horus!) and the pathway through the trees, with Tilly and Zack in what looks to me like a dreamscape. Perfect! The cover of Book2 is also wonderful – as are the new in-text illustrations by fabulous artist Meraylah Allwood!
On top of that, I was happy to be able to make some minor revisions to the text. There was no change to the story. It was more a case of tightening the language in some places and reverting to the opening sequence that had been in the very first draft of the book which in hindsight I preferred. There was also some clarification of the relationship between HORUS, The Others and the Dark Brotherhood. Without wishing to give any plot-spoilers, I’ll leave it at that, but I think readers of the original book will enjoy what I see as improvements in this revised edition!
For those of you who would like to see the new cover – and perhaps read the revised edition – of Watchers, here are the links:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1999757009
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1999757009
KP: What can we expect from The Hidden Hand?
Essi: Again, I don’t wish to say too much about it as it would be a pity to spoil any surprises for the reader (of which there are plenty). Suffice it to say that The Hidden Hand has all the magical elements of Watchers, including a host of fantastical creatures (sea monsters, dragons, bogwights and giant swans to give just a few) mixed with a slightly darker edge than in Book1. A new baddie joins the throng of people hunting Tilly and Zack and the Dark Brotherhood come to the fore as the hidden history of the world is slowly revealed.
I can reveal that much of the story takes place on the south-west coast of Ireland, including a visit to Skellig Michael, a place featured in the latest Star Wars films…yet another example of one of the strange synchronicities that have accompanied the tale as Skellig had been set as the location for book two back in 2009!
I’ve deliberately kept the chapters really short (something I know a lot of people enjoyed) to keep the story rattling along, whilst still having time to explore the magic. I’m sure it’s always a bit nerve-wracking when writers launch a new creation on the world and I have to admit to being a tad nervous as we finally approach publication, especially after the success of Watchers. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed that The Hidden Hand lives up to expectations and say that I’ve written a book that I love and enjoy. Here’s hoping plenty of others feel the same way!
KP: Thank you Essi for chatting today and we look forward to the release of The Hidden Hand!
Essi: You’re very welcome. Again, I apologise to all the readers who have waited long and patiently (and to those who waited long and impatiently!) for the second instalment. I should perhaps have explained things earlier, but one thing led to another and I’m afraid that when I focus on writing I’m inclined to withdraw from the world outside.
Thanks to all my readers for your encouragement. I look forward to reconnecting with those of you who have already been in touch and to making new acquaintances with those who are discovering Tilly, Zack and the mysteries of the Ancient Keys for the very first time!
One thing is for sure – you definitely won’t have to wait so long for Book 3!