Curtis Jobling – Wereworld, Saturday 30th June, 2 – 3pm, MMU Geoffrey Manton Building
Words and photographs by Sophie Bannister
I catch up with Curtis Jobling as he signs a copy of his first book of the Wereworld series for 9-year-old Sasha Vellins. Not just a signature, in fact. The page is filled with doodles and messages, showing how he is more than happy to go that extra mile for his fans. He even gives her a signed poster. Sasha looks thrilled.
The illustrator and animator has recently broken into the thorny field of novel writing – and he has truly excelled. The Wereworld series gains more and more momentum as the story continues, appealing to a large audience of pre-teens and young adults, so much so that the series has been increased from four books to six. And Curtis says he can write more; ‘I’ve only scratched the surface of what I can do here,’ he tells us. The world of Lyssia may be in for more adventures than originally planned.
MCBF’s own young reporters sit eagerly on the front row, winding Curtis up with endless questions and their cheeky comments. However, Curtis can give as good as he gets; he draws Spud, the scarecrow from Bob the Builder, as an example of his animation work, ignoring the boys’ cries of ‘You’ve missed his nose!’, until they threaten to deafen the rest of us. We all see the funny side though. This good-humoured rivalry continues throughout the session, yet the boys still seem spellbound by Curtis and his line of work. Maybe it’s because Curtis is still a big kid, shown by Bob’s later transformation into ‘Were-Bob’.
And so the topic changes to his current line of work, The Wereworld series. The books are set in the world of Lyssia, in which there are beings called ‘werelords’ who can shape-shift into an animal particular to that person. The first book follows Drew Ferran, the last of the werewolves and rightful King of Lyssia. This is most definitely not Twilight-esque. Curtis explains that since he was a small child, he has been fascinated with the Fantasy horror genre (‘big F, little h,’ says Curtis) and that this project was never going to stray far from his roots. His face lights up as he talks, and he is rather more animated than when he spoke about, well, animation. The Wereworld series is clearly close to his heart.
Curtis keeps it interactive by answering the audience’s questions, and playing a game called ‘Hairy Man or Wolf Man’. It involves looking at a zoomed-in image of either a wolf-man or a hairy-man and guessing which one it is. I am awful, but the children love it.
The extract Curtis reads from the first book emphasises that this is a series to spark the imagination, to take you away to a different world entirely, and wholly engage you while you’re there. There doesn’t seem to be any upper age limit with these books; they are accessible to almost everybody who enjoys Fantasy horror.
The book reading ends, Lyssia vanishes, and we come back down to earth with everybody feeling inspired. I, as a self-confessed Fantasy horror geek, feel compelled to go out and buy the Wereworld books pronto. It seems that this hour has quietly drawn us all into land of Lyssia, and I don’t think there’s any turning back.
Sophie Bannister has just completed her first year studying English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. She hopes to complete a Master’s degree after her time at MMU. MCBF has given her the boost she needed to start her own blog and showcase her work. You can Sophie’s blog here.