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Into Their Imaginary Games

Eileen Hobbs
Eileen Hobbs Author Interview

The Heath Cousins and the Ruby Lantern follows a precocious child on a precarious quest to return a precious jewel. What were some sources that informed this story’s development?

This is Book 4 in the series. Addie B. and her cousins are introduced in Book 1, The Moonstone Cave. It is summer time and they are visiting their grandfather after the death of their grandmother Winnie who they were all very close to. Since Addie B. grew up in England and since I am a huge Anglophile, I wanted to follow that thread in the future books. So in Book 2, Kingsgate Bridge, the cousins come visit her in her English village during Christmas time. In Book 3, they are vacationing together in North Carolina when they find a gateway to the Crystal Canyon. In Book 4, I took Addie B. and the cousins back to London so I could incorporate some of London’s famous places in it. I love the British Museum and wanted to include that in Book 4. I love introducing different cultures into my books (I grew up in Asia) and so I wanted to include China Town in it somehow.

I love the mystery of jewels and crystals, their alledged “powers”, and I thought wouldn’t it be cool to include gems and names of gems throughout the books. Many of the characters are named after gemstones: Gemma, Jadira (jade), Daiyu (black jade), Saphira (book 1), etc. The stones they wear and the adventures they go through bring out the talents and gifts that they already have. Addie B. already loves languages, Bodi loves animals and so on.

The characters in the book were fun to follow. What were some ideas that guided their development?

The main characters are based on my two sons and their cousins when they were young. Addie B. is based on my niece Rebecca, who is wicked smart and was often stand-offish with the boys and loved to read. But the boys could always coax her into their imaginary games! They loved playing outside and pretending to be in a different world. I started Book 1 at that point, (fifteen years ago!) but I didn’t finish it until a few years ago. Of course they are grown now, but there are many second round of cousins that I continue to draw inspiration from and that help shape my characters.

It was important to me that their grandmother Winnie was of Native American heritage (Book 1) and that Jack had those physical characteristics. When they first meet Gemma, she reminds them of their grandmother Winnie. (I wrote this part because my grandmother had just passed away at the time and my kids and niece and nephew had been quite close to her. Rebecca especially shared a birthday and name with my grandmother.) Both of my boys are of Native American and Hispanic heritage and I wanted to reflect that as well. Its important to me to have diverse characters so more kids can have someone to relate to. Mai Li and several Asian themes play a big part in the Ruby Lantern as you know, and since I grew up in Asia, I wanted to share some of those themes in the book.

The Garden of Choice is an imaginative place. How did you come about the idea for this place and how did it change as you wrote?

When I wrote Book 1 and introduced the Garden of Choice, I didn’t have plans to write any others. But then, ideas for the next book started coming and I thought, why don’t the cousins find out that the Garden of Choice is only a small part of this magical world and that there are many different gateways to it? So I gradually added more details in each book (in Book 2 I added a Story Arch that showed a history of some of the characters and the names of some of the gateways). Book 3, the Crystal Canyon, shows them a whole map of a land named Ambra (meaning Amber) with the Garden of Choice as only a part of that. (I always loved maps in books!) Of course, all of these were influenced by my favorite books and series such as The Chronicles of Narnia and when my kids were young, I loved reading The Magic Treehouse to them. I write the kind of stories that I loved reading when I was young.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on two books right now. One is Book 5, (and probably the last) of the Heath Cousins – The Silver Statue. I’m not sure when it will be out. Maybe Christmas? It also starts out in London but Addie B. must begin her journey alone. Book 5 wraps up some of the cousins’ adventures and introduces new characters who could be main characters in any future Heath Cousins series.

The other book I have been working on for a while is kind of a love letter to Thailand where I grew up. It is called “Under the Golden Raintree”. It is about a young Thai girl named Lily who lives in a Northern village in the mountains. She has a handicapped hand and is not able to help her father farm or her mother to sew beads on bracelets. She is often bullied by the kids in the village. But one day, “under the golden raintree”, she meets a baby white elephant who she names Rambu. Rambu makes Lily feel loved and gives her confidence in herself. She must keep Rambu a secret, however, because white elephants are considered sacred and Lily must protect him from others who would want to capture him and send him away to the King’s Palace. Anyway, its a blend of my memories growing up there and some “myths” that are very much a part of the Thai culture. I love the story, and I hope to finish it up soon.

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While shopping with her mom in Chinatown, she meets a familiar friend from their second journey to the Garden of Choice. How did he get here, she wonders? Before she can get an answer, he entrusts Addie with a brilliant, red stone and a letter from their dear friend Gemma. “You must return the stone to its rightful owner,” the letter urges. Who took the gleaming red jewel and how will they get back to that mysterious land? Gemma’s letter provides the clue. “Look for the Ruby Lantern. Th at is the gateway back.” Will they be able to find the right entrance and return the precious jewel to its owner? From Chinatown to the ancient halls of the British Museum, Addie B. and her cousins must find their way back to Gemma and return the jewel to its sacred place before it’s too late. Once there, they must traverse the dark Emerald Forest, fight off the menacing, flying “Swirls” and face their powerful enemy, Daiyu, in a fierce battle. Will Daiyu keep Addie B. and her cousins from returning the jewel? Will Gemma and her white wolf Jumani be there to help them? Read on to discover how Addie B. and her cousins, with the help of their magical stones, go to the rescue once again of their dear friends in the ever-changing world of Ambra.

The Heath Cousins and the Ruby Lantern

Heath Cousins and The Ruby Lantern by Eileen Hobbs is an enchanting adventure tale where we are taken into a whimsical land with the main character Addie. B, a bright and imaginative child who with the help of a moonstone ring can translate other languages. Addie and her mother head out to do some shopping, during their adventure Addie spots an opening into another world, which she had visited before. In this world there is a garden of choice which leads them to Ambra, the main part of this other world. Addie enlists the help of her cousins, then they head off on a whirlwind adventure where they solve problems and discover clues that cause them to be riddled with curiosities and ensure many more visits to the garden of choice in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this imaginative adventure novel by author Eileen Hobbs. This is a classic adventure story that took me back to my own childhood and filled with me the same sense of wonder that I had back then. Overall, I found the characters to be charming and a joy to follow through this adventure. I liked the author’s voice and enchanting atmosphere that she effortlessly creates in this novel.

While I heartily enjoyed the story, I felt that the child sometimes felt older than their age, hopping on planes and running off on their own. But how else would you find yourself into and out of these compelling adventures.

Heath Cousins and The Ruby Lantern is a book I can see myself reading as a child, curled up at night with a night light, reading until I fall asleep. This is a well crafted and fun sword and sorcery story that will appeal to anyone looking for a timeless children’s fantasy story.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B08XTST3MZ

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