Sometimes the seeds of a story are planted so early during childhood, it’s not until much later that you realise what’s been festering away all those years. I grew up on a steady diet of Greek mythology. Not surprising, considering my parents were both Greek migrants. Fiercely proud of their heritage, my earliest bedtime stories weren’t Snow White or Cinderella – but Aesop’s Fables. Later, the exploits of the Olympian gods and Ancient Greek heroes were as familiar to me as any fairy tale or nursery rhyme.
So when the time came for me to write fiction, I knew that Greek mythology somehow had to be involved. It became a bit of a publishing fad for a while, which frightened me off. I couldn’t do another Percy Jackson style book, and I didn’t want to either. We all know the Gods of Olympus aren’t American! They’re Greek! Or maybe British ...
I’m keen on history and have always been fascinated by the idea of time travel. I’m also a lifelong fan of quirky kids books like Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. If only I could mash all my interests together.
And so the idea for the Gormless Gods and Hapless Heroes series started to develop.
For me, the first step was finding the right character to carry the story. I didn’t want some cool, tough little dude hurtling around in time and space. I wanted an ordinary boy, down on his luck. Someone who never once expected that he carried the seeds of greatness within himself. Enter Tim Baker.
So how could he meet a Greek hero? I decided to borrow from the Arabian Nights – well, they borrowed baklava from us – and use the idea of the genie in a bottle. Except it wouldn’t be a genie, but the hero Hercules. And it wouldn’t be a bottle, but a Greek amphora.
(A quick note for the purists: I decided to use the Roman name Hercules instead of the Greek Heracles because it’s more familiar to children. Much to the dismay of my nerdy son, but he decided he could live with it.)
Book 1 Tim Baker and the Ancient Curse is set entirely in the modern day. Hercules turns out to be super strong but not super smart. His attempts to help Tim lead to chaos – a killing him with kindness concept. Even so, I wanted a deep rapport between the fatherless Tim and the homesick Hercules to add depth to what is essentially a funny book.
I was thrilled with the enthusiasm of Sweet Cherry Publishing, who totally got it. When they asked me to turn my proffered 5-book series into a 10-book series, I couldn’t have been happier. It’s a delight to have this, my first kids’ fiction series, in such wonderful hands! And Nick Roberts’ illustrations had me in a lather of excitement – he cleverly depicts Hercules the way he’s drawn on ancient pottery.
The rest of the books in the series see Tim travelling back to Ancient Greece, where he continues his friendship with Hercules. The hero’s daughter Zoe (not a figure from mythology – I made her up) becomes Tim’s sidekick. Together they encounter mythical monsters, escape from the clutches of the venomous Hera, and meet many heroes that will be familiar to fans of mythology ... with a humorous twist, of course.
There’s lots of fun and adventure, but by the end of the series Tim discovers that he is truly the greatest hero. Although he’s often frightened, his fierce loyalty, friendship and sense of fair play make him more of a hero than all the others put together.
Tim Baker and the Ancient Curse is out now!
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Stella Tarakson · Stella Tarakson
I entered the workforce armed with a law degree, but writing has always been my passion. It didn’t take me long to leave my sensible job and dive headfirst into the uncertain world of publishing – and I’ve loved every minute! I’ve had 30-something books published, and I still get a thrill when I see my name on a cover. I'm lucky enough to have won several awards for my books and stories. I'm delighted to share my love of Greek mythology with young readers and hope it inspires them to learn more about this weird and wonderful world.