Fiction: Tree Elves of Ludlow by Archie Hunter

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Written byClaire Hunte

The Tree Elves of Ludlow is a new book by Archie Hunter, who resides and runs an artisan cake business with his wife, Milly, near Ludlow. Archie’s book will launch this month on 28th May. LGL invited him to share how the town inspired his fantasy novel, what influences shaped his story, and an exclusive extract from his book for our readers.

Portrait of author Archie Hunter

I have lived close to the town for over 20 years and have grown to love its people, buildings and history. More than that, I have become absorbed into the town’s fabric, personality and atmosphere, shop keepers and the way of life of such a beautiful town. All these characteristics make it a natural and easy choice for a fantasy novel in a town that breathes history, dominated by a castle, a traditional market square, and wonderful architecture. It tells us that there is another fantasy world just below the surface.

I was born in Nigeria and lived abroad until I was 7. I spent 11 years in the army before leaving to work in the corporate world. In 2005 I joined Milly, my wife, to work in our family cake-making business. We have 6 children between us, me… three boys, Milly: one boy and two girls.

I wrote the story about 18 years ago, and it was put in a drawer and forgotten about until one of my daughters-in-law badgered me to read it. I wrote it as I was working in a business requiring much travelling. In the evening, I would write it all down. Where did it come from? As a father, my children loved me to make up stories at bedtime, but how this came into my head is still a mystery!

black and white sketch of boy with elvesThe book is about the six children and Milly, my wife, and about the real people of Ludlow. I am a keen reader. As a child, I read Enid Blyton, Tolkien and CS Lewis, which shaped my thinking. However, I wanted to be different and to think this story I wrote was unique.

The castle is very inspirational in this story. It has a wealth of history, and deep in its soul, there is much magic. The outer bailey is a place to contemplate this atmosphere, and to let my imagination go was easy; this includes the shops, farmers, market square and Broad Street – every part of the town is inspirational.

Having a local illustrator was always an essential ingredient to this book. As a child, I loved poring over the drawings in “The Famous Five.” I didn’t know Jenny, but I knew of her work, and it was perfect for the book, folksy, fantasy landscapes, humour and mischief all wrapped up.

So I cold called her! We got on very well from the moment we met, but initially, she was uncertain until she read the book and then she became fully committed.

The book is available on 28 May and can be pre-ordered on The Book Guild website, Amazon, Waterstones and, of course, from the Castle Bookshop. The target audience is young adults, but an older audience could enjoy it too.

Archie Hunter lives in the rolling hills of south Shropshire, close to Ludlow, with his wife, Milly. They have a small artisan business, The Simply Delicious Cake Company, making beautiful handmade cakes. Prior to the world of cakes, Archie worked in corporate business and estate agency, following a lengthy spell in the army.

The Tree Elves of Ludlow – Chapter 7Tree Elves of Ludlow book cover