The Books

Castle of Shadows, January 7 2010 Orchard Books

“No clue about why the Queen vanished had ever been found. Until now…”

The day Charlie discovers a scrap of paper that could solve the dark mystery of her mother’s disappearance, her world changes. Forever. Charlie and her friend, Toby, must race against time on a dangerous mission to uncover the sinister truth. But in this shadowy world of secrets and lies, there is more to fear than they can possibly imagine…

The cover of Castle of Shadows, by Ellen Renner

Castle of Shadows has a weird and wonderful history. The idea for this book came to me as an image: a picture of a king dangling upside down from scaffolding, building an enormous castle made of playing cards.

Ideas for stories come like that, flitting through your brain like ghosts. You have to capture them at once or risk losing them. Fortunately, I was at my computer writing something else when the picture of the king popped into my head.

Ideas are also like seeds and have to be left in the dark to grow for a while, so I didn’t start to write the story for a few months. Then, just as I had written the first 50 pages or so, a writer friend told me about the Cornerstones Wow Factor Competition and urged me to enter.

I raced against time to finish the book before the competition deadline and I just managed to finish the first draft in time. I sent it off, but not with much hope because I knew most of the stories entered for the competition would not be first drafts, but would have been polished and rewritten lots of times. Imagine my surprise when Castle of Cards (as it was called then) won the Cornerstones Wow Factor!

That was back in July 2007, and although I got a two book deal with Orchard in March 2008, it took nearly two years and several rewrites before Castle of Shadows was finally published.

City of Thieves

‘The final shock of it hit home. The Petches were thieves, and they had stolen him.’

Tobias is on the run. From the father who betrayed him…from the mother who couldn’t comfort him…from his own desperate fear. But when he falls into the clutches of his uncle’s sinister gang of thieves, his fear grows. And soon Toby realises that his nightmare has only just begun…

The cover of City of Thieves, by Ellen Renner

This book has a special place in my heart. Long before I’d finished Castle of Shadows, this book was writing itself in my head. I had fallen in love with Tobias while writing Castle and desperately wanted to tell his story.

I took about a week off after I’d finished the first draft of Castle and then plunged straight into City. For two and a half months I did very little except write, eat and sleep. My poor family were left to fend for themselves, and I often felt like I was neglecting my son, Kit, as badly as the king had done to Charlie in Castle of Shadows!

Magically, the story seemed almost to write itself. And the characters became so real to me that when I finished the last chapter, I felt as though I’d lost my best friends. I can’t wait to start writing book three.


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