Ned Waddlesworth leads an ordinary life, until his 13th birthday reveals that his family and the world around him are anything but ordinary. In Ned’s Circus of Marvels and the follow up The Gold Thief, author Justin Fisher takes us on a fabulous adventure featuring a flying circus, evil clowns and an ancient curse. We asked him to tell us more about Ned’s Circus of Marvels…

You have worked a lot in film but did you always have a secret wish to be a writer?

Actually what I really wanted to do was to draw comics. My dad was an architect and my mum was an interior designer so they were always drawing and I grew up with a pencil in my hand.

My brother is 11 years older than me and he introduced me to his comic collection when I was about eight and I fell completely in love with them! I loved comics like 2000AD but my absolute staple was the Marvel comics.

I wasn’t any good at writing though, I was Mr Average in school. Although I loved comics and stories, when it came to writing I wasn’t that great. Then when I was a little bit older I discovered I couldn’t draw either, at least not the kind of drawing skills that you need for comics. After that I fell a bit in love with graphic design and motion pictures and started working in designing title sequences for films.

Is that what took you into creating the brilliant book trailer for Ned’s Circus of Marvels?

It took a million years to make that trailer because I had to draw all the characters and I hadn’t done much drawing for years but I loved it and finished it before I finished writing the first draft of the book. It brought the story to life for me.

What was the starting point for writing Ned’s Circus of Marvels?

We were on holiday and my son was three at the time and needed an afternoon nap, so while he was sleeping I decided to start writing this story about a magical circus that I’d been playing around with. Once I started writing it I became addicted to writing the story.

For someone who has always wanted to draw stories, to draw a character or scene out of words is incredibly liberating. Some of the places Ned visits are so fantastical, I couldn’t draw them.

Has your love of comics also helped inspire Ned’s Circus of Marvels?

I think my love of comics and drawing did guide me when I came to writing this. If you think about it, comics by nature are filled with superheroes and I think that characters in circuses are different kinds of superheroes, they have amazing powers and gifts. One of the characters in the story for example, Kitty, is a seer and her powers are amazing; Benissimo the circus master seems unable to die; the Glimmerman can walk through mirrors.

Plus superheroes always work as a team – think about the X Men or the Avengers – and the circus is a team of performers. I also wanted to keep the pace of comics so every chapter ended in a cliff hanger and that pace never lets up.

Are you also a fan of the circus?

I’m fascinated by old circuses. I remember taking my son to an old Victorian-style circus when he was three and we both had our mouths open for the entire show; it’s like stepping back in time. That definitely inspired me when I was thinking about Ned’s story.

There are some quite creepy clowns in the story – do clowns make you a bit nervous?

The clowns in the story are absolutely horrible. I think in real life they can be a bit creepy, I think it’s all their make up, and as I wrote them in I found some strange photos of clowns through the ages….

In the story, Ned discovers that the world isn’t as ordinary as he had thought. Was that ‘other’ world always part of his story?

I loved that the story began in the real world and then you go on a journey that takes you to this other place. What if life wasn’t just about going to school and having your tea and going to bed? What if the things you saw as a child in the shadows were really there? I still love that idea – and I still believe in magic!

Ned also discovers that he is less than ordinary since his father – and therefore Ned – are ‘engineers’. Why do you go into so much detail about the engineer’s role?

I thought that being an engineer could so easily just be about magic – that everything they do and change is simply because they are using magic. But I felt that in a world of magic, he needed to be slightly different. So he has a ring and he discovers that, learning how to use it, he can transform things at a molecular level. Lucy, the medic, is just as important as Ned is and they both have an important role to play if they are going to save the world.

Who are your favourite characters in the story?

I love George, the urbane, talking gorilla, and Hello Kitty, the seer, who is bonkers but also very astute. And then there’s Ned’s dad, my real favourite because he really loves his son and tries to look out for him

You also draw on quite a lot of mythology for the story – there are dragons, trolls and satyrs in the story, variously good or bad.

There is a mish-mash of ideas drawn from mythology. The idea was that magic and therefore all the myths you’ve read about are true, like Kiron the dragon. Benissimo also has some sayings that go back to Ancient Greek times, so he might have a background in Italy, but there are also lots of Celtic myths in the story.

I love the idea that circuses today evolved from the circus at Ancient Rome, although they are more likely to be based on a Victorian’s idea for a circus. But the idea that they could have come from Ancient Rome’s Circus Maximus is great.

Will there be more adventures for Ned and Lucy?

Definitely. In the next book The Gold Thief, Lucy’s powers are growing and changing so we will see more of her.

In the next story, all the world’s gold starts to go missing. Ned and Lucy have to confront a monster thief who has a photographic sense of smell – he can smell what he is hunting for anywhere – and he’s really creepy.

Where do you write your stories?

I just find somewhere to write at home but I move every 15 minutes so I’m in a different room or sitting on different sofa because I have the attention span of a gnat! Plus I drink about seven pints of coffee a day….

This interview appeared on

Justin Fisher has been a designer, illustrator and animator for both film and television. He has designed title sequences for several Hollywood films, branded music TV channels and has worked extensively in advertising. But after many years of helping to tell other people’s stories, he is now following a lifelong passion and writing his own. When not lost in a place he calls beyond the Veil, Justin lives with his wife and three young children in London. He has never worked in a circus but he can juggle. Sort of.

Ned’s Circus of Marvels is out now.