Amy Ephron on her first children’s book, The Castle in the Mist, and miraculously casting her friend Laraine Newman to narrate the audiobook by Amy Ephron
I always wanted to write a book like The Castle in the Mist, a kind of fantasy, reality-meets-magic, novel for children (or anyone 8 to 80)! The kind of novel I read when I was little that I felt I could get lost in. And yet the book has some contemporary edges. I call it a modern-day mash-up of an old-fashioned children’s book.
The Castle in the Mist is told by a narrator. And the narrator’s voice is somewhat similar to mine. Laraine Newman and I have been good friends for a really long time. And the enormity of her talent and ability to voice and assume characters has been astonishing to watch over the years. The extraordinary grace, quality, and longevity of our friendship is also something I will always treasure. So I was especially thrilled when she said that she might do this! (She’s never agreed to do an audio book before!) And so thrilled that Listening Library and Philomel thought it was such a good idea to have a female narrator which dovetailed so nicely with the young female protagonist Tess in The Castle in the Mist.
Fun Fact: There’s a part in the book that’s a kind of magical, scary ride on a merry-go-round, well, sort of… And after Laraine read that part, she said to me and the folks in the studio, “It’s so strange, I used to have a dream like that when I was a little kid.” No, she’d never told me about that dream before.
Listen to an exclusive sneak peek:
The book started with an idea I had a number of years ago, two American kids go to visit their Aunt in the countryside in England, where’s there’s no wi-fi and the closest house is a half a mile away…and it seems like nothing whatsoever could happen….
And then Tess, one of the American kids, goes for a walk, after a fight with her brother Max, and just keeps walking—it’s such a pretty day—up the hillside, past the orchard, and runs right into an invisible wall in the middle of which is an ornate gingerbread-like gate, locked, and very curious.
As she’s just about to turn around and head home, she finds an old skeleton key in the dirt. And now she has an ethical dilemma: If you find the key to somebody’s house, do you have the right to use it? Well, it isn’t really the key to the house, it’s just the key to the garden gate and the key seems to almost have a mind of its own. It compels to her use it…. And she lets herself in to the garden of the castle in the mist.
In the garden, she meets a boy named William, who seems to live at the castle, and is also as lonely as she is. He tells her to please come back and visit him, which she does, bringing her brother, but he also tells her to beware of the hawthorn trees…and you can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side of the hawthorn trees and how scary that might be.
I wanted to write a book about wishing. I wanted to write a book about magic. I wanted to write about families and love. I wanted to write a book about children who believed that their wishes could come true. And at the same time, there are dangers sometimes in what you wish for…
And then I got a wish. Laraine Newman extraordinarily voiced not only the narrator but also Tess, her brother Max, Aunt Evie, the 60-year-old Irish groundskeeper at the castle, and every single other character in the book and it was like watching an amazing one-woman show. And the rest is simply magic.
The Castle in the Mist is now available on audio and in print from Listening Library and Philomel.
Amy Ephron is the author of the award winning and best-selling A Cup of Tea. She is also a contributor and contributing editor at Vogue and Vogue.com. The Castle in the Mist is her first novel for children. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and any of their children who stop by.
Laraine Newman recently debuted her one-woman show “The Audition” at LA’s The Groundlings, where she got her start. A member of the original Saturday Night Live Prime Time Players, Newman originated, among others, Sheri the Valley Girl and Connie Conehead. She is also a well-known voice over artist for film and television, including Up and The Adventures of Puss in Boots.