The Big Idea: Paul Crilley

The Big Idea series here is predicated on the idea that one big concept can motivate the creation of art, but saying this doesn’t discount the idea that authors can want or desire to accomplish a number of things in their book. For The Invisible Order, Book One: The Rise of the Darklings, author Paul Crilley had a list of things he wanted to do, and worked to have those goals dovetail into each other to make one complete whole: the final story. Here he is to give you the details about that.


Magic in the mundane world has always fascinated me. The possibility that around the next corner, separated by the faint whisper of a magic spell, is a hidden world full of danger and mystery.

This was the seed that eventually grew into The Invisible Order. The idea that there was a magical world existing alongside the real one. A mirror image that reflected reality at a slightly skewed angle, where if you only knew how to look you would discover a whole other world: a fey street in Victorian London hidden around a dark alley in Cheapside, where an obese Oberon, once King of Faerie, now spends all his time eating and drinking and has to be wheeled around on a massive wooden chair. A three thousand foot oak tree hidden far below the streets of London, inside of which the Faerie Queen holds court. Hidden spells locked away in the galleries of St Paul’s Cathedral, awaiting only the answer to a specific riddle before releasing their magic. A world where Black Annis and Jenny Greenteeth are as real as you or I, waiting patiently for children to stray too close to the edge of the Thames so they can devour them, limb, by crunchy limb.

A world where creatures of Faerie and monsters of legend battle each other for control of the city, a hidden war fought beneath our very noses.

Victorian London is another subject that has long held my interest. I love the history of the city, the legends, the mixture of old and new, the collision of spiritualism and religion against the onslaught of technology. I love the sheer resilience of a city that has been subjected to plague, fire, drought, floods. It never falls, but rises, sometimes sluggishly, from the ashes and mud to renew itself, disaster after disaster.

And finally, secret societies. I’ve always loved reading about secret societies. Cryptic lore, hidden treasures, clandestine meetings in fog shrouded streets. The name of the series is actually a reference to the secret society created by Merlin the Enchanter back in the mists of London’s pre-history. Merlin founded The Invisible Order and gave its members only one remit: when the fey creatures tried to harm mankind, (and they would), then the Order had to stop them. By any means necessary.

I first wrote The Invisible Order as a short story for the DAW anthology Under Cover of Darkness. But even then I could see that there was potential for broadening the world. This was back in 2004, and I spent the next few years juggling working on the novel with my day job of writing for South African television. (I used to write Zulu language sitcoms. I didn’t have to write in Zulu, which was a Good Thing. I wrote in English and the scripts were translated by someone else. But to say that a lot of jokes don’t cross the language barrier is something of an understatement. I also spent about 18 months writing on a soap opera set in an acting school. Sort of like Fame but with really bad acting and more hysterics.)

While I was writing the book, I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to do. I wanted to create a main character who was competent and engaging. Who garnered reader sympathy without the reader feeling sorry for her. I wanted a character who didn’t need to keep running to adults to solve her problems. Someone who was resolute, who took what life gave her and then did her best to solve her own problems without having to rely on someone older than her to help.

And secondly, I wanted to write a book that could be enjoyed by kids and adults. Yeah, sure, I hear you say. Who doesn’t? But it’s true. I didn’t write the book thinking it was for 10 year olds. I wrote the story I wanted to read. Simple as that. My hope is that younger readers and older readers might take something different away from it. The opening quotes say it better than I ever could.

‘It is not children only that one feeds with fairy tales.’ – Ephraim Gothold Lessing

‘Some day you will be old enough to enjoy fairy tales again.’ – C.S. Lewis.

At the beginning of the book, Emily is an adult in everything but size. She doesn’t have time for magic and fairy tales. All her time is taken up with the real world, with making sure she and her brother have enough to eat and a place to stay. But as the story progresses, she begins to open her eyes a bit to the magic and wonder around her. She slips out of the slightly cynical skin that Victorian London has draped across her. She begins to accept – with, I hope, the reader – that maybe there is more out there than the mundane life she leads. That if you only open your eyes and look around, you’ll find that there is magic out there.

You just have to know where to look.


The Invisible Order: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt (pdf link). Visit Paul Crilley’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

7 Comments on “The Big Idea: Paul Crilley”

  1. It was kinda cool to turn on my CPU today and see a quote from you/Old Man’s War on my iGoogle page.

  2. My daughter is on the last chapter and absolutely loves it. She can hardly wait for the next book. I was also pulled rather quickly, but am impatiently waiting for my daughter to finish.

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