Wednesday, 05 June 2019 Luke Aylen, author of The Forgotten Palace, talks about the importance of being different and his experience as a dyslexic author

Blog | Children's Books

Luke Aylen is a Bristol-based children’s fantasy author with a knack for leading his readers through vivid, magical worlds. He also has a particular ability to offer real life lessons and encouragements as his characters embark on adventures.

His second book The Forgotten Palace is based in Presadia, a land inhabited by strange and wonderful people and creatures. It follows the story of Antimony, a six-foot-tall dwarf, as he seeks to restore peace to the kingdom.

Luke talks to us about The Forgotten Palace and why he thinks it is so important to have characters with apparent flaws like Antimony leading the way in stories. He also speaks about how he has used his dyslexia to his advantage, creating engaging and relatable characters in a rich mythical world.

The Forgotten Palace is your second book based in Presadia, a fictional land inhabited by dragons and dwarves. What inspired you to continue the Adventure in Presadia series?

I so loved writing The Mirror and the Mountain that I couldn’t wait for a second chance to revisit Presadia. As an author, you spend hundreds of hours in your worlds in your head. Only a fraction makes it into a book and so I found myself longing to explore and share more of the world, its story and its inhabitants.

There were also a few loose threads that I wanted to tug on. I finished the first book with questions of my own, and couldn’t help but scratch the itch by writing The Forgotten Palace.

The book follows the story of Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf. Why did you want to make such an apparent outsider the focus of the adventure?

Antimony is very special to me. Before writing The Forgotten Palace, he was quite mysterious and interesting to me. I never really intended or planned to write him into the first book. He sort of wrote himself into existence. His role was quite small and soon the story left him behind but there remained a tantalising set of unanswered questions to me. Who was he? Why was he so different from the other dwarves? What was his story?

I started the book with him rather than with a specific plot. I found him fascinating, but also relatable. His differences are what make him such a delight to journey with I think.

We all know the feeling of being a bit different. All too often we believe it to be a bad thing, something to be crushed or hidden. We tend to want to fit in. What I love about Antimony is that it is exactly the things that make him different which allow him to have the adventure he does. Only he could do what he did in the way that he did. Even those things he doesn’t like about himself have a purpose and are valuable. It’s a lesson that he has taught me about myself!

Antimony’s different way of thinking really resonated with my own experience of having dyslexia. I think differently. Antimony reminded me that even when a differently-wired brain makes some things harder, it so often unlocks incredible potential and gifting in another area. That might be mathematical genius (like Antimony), or creativity and abstract thinking for dyslexics (like me). We need to see the brilliance and beauty of how each person is made to be and celebrate that. We need to allow them to be the heroes of their own adventures, doing what only they can do.

People like Antimony challenge the view that some people are better or worse than others. It’s terrible how we hold people up to a society that has not been designed for them and then mark them down. But ‘society’ is a human construct. It’s not that other ways of thinking or differently wired brains are wrong or worse. When our systems and structures don’t allow different kinds of minds to flourish, it’s the system at fault, not the person. Being different or thinking differently at school can be isolating and demoralising. It can cause anxiety or low self-esteem. My hope is that Antimony might help challenge the negativity of difference and help create a culture where everyone, however their brains are wired, is seen as valuable and special.

You’ve mentioned the impact of your dyslexia in your storytelling. How have you overcome this obstacle, or even used it to your advantage?

I honestly think my dyslexia unlocks so much more than it limits. It gives me creativity and an ability to enter into the experience of others, to see the world through their eyes, which is invaluable as a writer. I love storytelling because it’s rooted in vivid imagination, something that dyslexics are proven to be more gifted in.

At times the actual work of writing and editing can be very exhausting, tough and stressful, but I love the imagination and storytelling so much that it pulls me through. I have an amazing team around me who support me in my weaker areas. Friends, family and the brilliant editorial team at Lion Hudson make me a far better writer than I could ever be on my own.

How do you hope to inspire children as they read The Forgotten Palace?

I would love to show children that however they have been wired, they have an important and valuable part to play. They are unique and special. Only they can do what they can do. The book connects heavily with themes of fragility and brokenness, value and restoration. From the ruined palace restored, the smashed mirror and Antimony’s own journey of discovering his identity, my hope is that I can communicate first and foremost that every person is valuable and loved.

I would love to show children that however they have been wired, they have an important and valuable part to play. They are unique and special.

Our cracks are not ugly or devaluing, quite the contrary: they reveal our true value. As a Christian, I believe that our cracks are where we most see God’s love and value for us. It is in our weaknesses that we see His strength holding us together. Where we are broken or messed up, that is where we experience grace most powerfully. When we feel most hopeless, that is when hope is most powerful. We tend to view cracks as a bad thing but I believe they are evidence of our stories. They are where strength, grace, and hope shine out the strongest. They are where our priceless value is most clearly revealed. They point not to brokenness but to loving, grace-filled restoration. As one of the characters in The Forgotten Palace sings: “A pot filled with cracks leaks whatever’s inside. If you think that I’m cracked, then my cracks I won’t hide.”

Luke’s latest book The Forgotten Palace and the other title in the series, The Mirror and the Mountain, are both available now.

If you want to learn more about the author check out his author profile, and if you want to hear more about the themes he has spoken about then take a look at an article he wrote on ‘Thinking Differently’ here.