The Three Hares
Sara Livingstone’s school trip to the Beijing Palace Museum takes a terrifying turn when an encounter with the ancient Qingming Scroll thrusts her one thousand years into China’s past. With secrets in the shadows and danger around every corner, Sara relies on her wits (and her Granny Tang’s stories) to survive. As dark forces gather, she must take her place in a cosmic battle and find the courage to face an unworldly ancient magic.
Can you summariseThe Three Hares and the series in a few lines?
Scott: Like the three haresmotif and the ancient Silk Road, the three characters in our books areconnected across time and space. They have been selected by the Eight Immortals, legendary figures in Chinese mythology, to fight against an evil shaman and save the world.
David: The Three Hares are teens who have been summoned by the Eight Immortals to defeat an evil shaman that has been set free by one of his ancestors. The Immortals, unable to contact the teens directly, transport them into ancient works of art where each of the children is tested. Their adventures in the artworks not only teaches them valuable life lessons-it readies them for battle!
What was your inspiration for writing the series?
Scott: Archna Sharma, our publisher, proposed writing an adventure series in which culture was a principle part—an artventure. As it was a big project requiring quite a bit of research, I was keen to work with someone who was good at researching and knowledgeable about Asia. In addition,David’s facility with language—he’s a published poet (check out his Maiku, Dancing Verses)—made him an obvious choice. The idea that books should entertain and encourage an interest inculture and history was a hugely exciting idea for both of us.
David: I was invited on to write this story by Scott—a friend I had worked with in Japan. Despite internet searches, Scott and I hadn’t been in touch for over 20 years! Since then, I had begun writing and Scott was gracious enough to ask me on. I was much intrigued by the idea of entering a piece of art-how it would be thrilling, other-worldly. My experience in Asia made the Qingmingscroll speak to me. We began researching the diffusion of the Three Hares image and decided that we wanted to go beyond China to the Silk Road.
How do the books educate and entertain?
Scott: The adventures are set in three historical periods: Song Dynasty China; Byzantium in the6th Century; and Anglo-Saxon England. By including the Silk Road, Chinese Immortals, and the three hares motif, Asian culture forms a backdrop to the action. In each of the books, the characters are thrown back in time and have to overcome challenges, so not only do readers get a flavour of the historical period, there is also an exciting adventure to enjoy.
David: Scott and I have made every effort to ground the story in factual cultural and historical information, researching China, the Silk Road, the Vikings, so that the work resonates with the myths and cultural backgrounds of both those we depict and readers.The books show the protagonists relying on their own internal re-sources.
Why is this strength important?
Scott: All the characters have grit, which allows them to continue under difficult cir-cumstances.We all need grit. Even the most talented people need it. A good ex-ample is the footballer Ronaldo.Although he is naturally very talented, he was often last to leave the training ground. Showing that level of determination to improve, being dedicated to self-cultivation, really appeals to me and seems very congruent with Confucian ideals.
David: We wanted characters that readers could not only identify with but learn with. Literaturegives us a window on how other individuals think, how they muddle their way through problems, what they come to understand on the way. Our characters need to see that they are up to it-they will need to change, but that’s part of becoming both independent and a reliable team mate.
What values do the books promote?
Scott: The books promote the idea that everyone has to persevere when faced by difficult circumstances. In addition, all the characters come up with novel ideas or make connections that help them somehow, so creativity—understanding a problem, figuring out ways to overcome it—is promoted, too. For example, inThe Jade Dragonball, when Sara needs to get off the boat that is stuck under the Rainbow Bridge, she looks around for a method that perhaps no-one else had thought of. Lastly, I think the characters are fundamentally good—sincere in their actions and their interactions with others, which is consistent with Confucian ideals.
David: Our characters learn about the value of integrity, respect, self-reliance, collaboration. We consider the importance of family to be central-a value that is common to each of the cultures we explore.
How will children identify with the characters?
Scott: It’s an imaginative leap to identify with a character that has been thrown a thousand years into the past, but then again, children have great imaginations! I think children will enjoy the leap—imagining what they would do, how they would react, what they would say, how they would solve the problems the character is faced with. I also think the three main characters are easy to get to know and understand—Sara with her initial self-doubt, Sanjeev and his geekiness, Salmaand her martial arts.
David: Our characters are kids who have to figure out how to deal with common-place problems that life throws at them. Family demands, trying to make future plans, social insecurities-these are very real challenges for our readers as well as our characters, stuff they need to work through even when they’re not fighting evil shamans.
You taught English as second language in Asia. How did this influence your appreciationof language?
Scott: I’m not sure teaching EFL has helped much in terms of writing these books—reading The Scene Bookb y Sandra Scofield probably helped more. However, the experience of working in Japan showed me how much beliefs—such as the importance of education and what it means to be educated—impact learning.
David: There are several aspects to teaching language that I find very appealing: I am interested in how much language is taken for granted, how dependent we are upon it, how open language is to interpretation. In the classroom, I create opportunities to discuss different cultures and beliefs and show how language study can impact and benefit learners.
How did you do your research?
Scott: The Internet was a BIG help! I also visited two of the museums that are in the books—the British Museum and the Metropolitan in NewYork. Unfortunately, I’ve not been to the Palace Museum in Beijing, but it’s on the list.
David: I did a lot of research using books on Asian art, history and culture; the in-ternet was great for maps and images in museums; I have been fortunate to travel a bit in Asia. I’ve taught in China and Indonesia and traveled through other countries in South East Asia, as well as in India and Nepal.
Why did you choose the Three Hares?
Scott: Archna suggested the Qingming scroll as the first artwork in an adventure story focused on Chinese art and culture. The Qingming scroll is a truly wonderful painting, but I wanted to find some sort of unifying idea, a way of bringing the three main characters from very diverse backgrounds together. I was researching China on the Internet when I came across an article about the 1,700 year old caves in Gansu province which were full of ancient scrolls, statues, and pictures.When I scrolled down the Wikipedia page on my computer, I saw the image of three hares on the roof of Cave 407. At that time, I was reading a book by Jeff VanderMeer called Authority. It was sitting next to my bed and the cover of the book was deco-rated…with rabbits! That’s when I knew I had what I wanted: the series would take the ancient Silk Road as itsinspiration and three hares motif would be the symbol of the characters’ connection to one another.
David: We were amazed to find how widely these mysterious images had diffused through Asia into Europe. Apart from being an interesting optical illusion,they are thought to symbolise fertility,a generative quality we found appealing when thinking about who was going to fight a powerful shaman seeking death and destruction.
What books do you like to read?
Scott: A pretty weird mixture! Right now I’m readingI am a Strange Loopby Douglas Hofstadter along with A Thousand Pieces of Gold by Adeline Yen Mah. I’ve also just finished a book about Hadrian’s Wall.
David: Truth be told, I am a voracious reader. I’ve been deep into reading about neuroscience for a while, especially as it relates to visualisation and learning.
What was the co-authoring process like?
Scott: Mostly we communicated by email because of the time difference—me in the United Arab Emirates; David in the US—and pressure of work. Our modus operandi was/is to start a discussion and then for one of us to respond, to which the other would respond to the response;then there would be a response to the response of the response….It gets complicated pretty quickly. There’s a bit of negotiation (about everything-characters, plot, scenes etc) to be sure, but we are still good friends and are excited by what we have written, so it worked well!
David: Very interesting. Not always an easy thing, but an endeavourthat has helped me grow a whole lot. Writing is such a personal activity, on so many levels. There were times we bounced back multiple emails concerning the use of a single word, or a gesture a character would make. Iam quite pleased with the way that Scott and I have sparked each other’s creativity and negotiated our differences.
Can you explain how you created a novel from two sides of the world?
Scott: Lots and lots of emails but fewer Skype calls than we would have liked. The initial period of planning was intense. Later, the amount of correspondence lessened as the books took shape and we exchanged emails once or twice a week (rather than once or twice a day, which is how often we pinged ideas at one another at the beginning).
David: We are fortunate to live in a world where contact has become so easy. This kind of project would have been unimaginable years ago-we would have run out of carrier pigeons by chapter 3!I think we’ve gotten our best results when we brain-stormed together, went off to work independently, and then Skyped to discuss how it had gone for each of us. That said, there’s no substitute for shooting off a quick text when inspiration hits. Because of the time difference, we’ve increased our working time-I’m sleeping and Scottis busy thinking.
David, you’re also a musician. How do your different forms of creativity influence eachother?
David: I like the ways that they lead to similar metaphors-weaving lines, motifs, counterpoint,rhythm, nested structures, cadences, etc.I also enjoy how both reveal themselves in time, how thereaders’ or listeners’ expectations can be met-or how they can be turned upside down.There’s such a focus on science, technology, engineering, and maths-is creativity still important for young people?
Scott: I think science and creativity aren’t separate. Without creativity, scientists would have a hardtime sorting out what parts of a problem to focus on, what ways to explore the problem, how to explain their results, and how to create alternative explanations. Einstein’s thought experimentsand his ideas about gravity and space time would have been impossible without creative thought and a deep knowledge of Physics. As for young people, finding an interest in something—inmaths, art, sport,music, anything—is crucial because it is the first step towards having the kindof expertise that encourages creativity. And creativity is important because it has the power to reimagine and recast the world.
David: I am fascinated by improvisationas a way of looking at learning, a metaphor for our action in the world. We learn, sometimes by rote, but our application of what we’ve learned is often acreative recontextualisation. The fields you’ve mentioned provide rich opportunities for looking at the world anew, provided young people are encouraged to see them as such.
What’s next for you?
Scott: I recently collaborated on two EFL textbooks—one for MacMillan; the other for Express.I’ve also just finished the final part of a trilogy of graded EFL readers for Helbling called An Eye for an Eye, which was also a collaboration with Walter McGregor. Not sure what is next. Maybe a YA novel?
David: One aspect of the Three Hares series that excites me is how evocative the story, the locations,and the cultural references are. One of the goals we had in writing the books was that they be immersive, that readers could enter them much as our characters enter other works of art. I think that not only are the books fun and exciting to read, but that they would transfer fabulously to the movie screen as well. But that’s a bit further on. I’m currently working on a number of books-one on how to become a secret agent, a book that’s half pirate yarn, half math text, a picture bookseries-that are just about done. Almost. After that, we’ll see…
Thank you, Scott Lauder, David Ross and Literally Public Relations Ltd.
About the authors
Scott Lauder has always been fascinated by other cultures, which inspired his choice to live in myriad countries including Greece, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Japan,throughout his life.Born in Ayrshire, Scotland Scott now lives with his wife in Sharjah.History is another of Scott’s passions; both of his graded readers for Oxford University Press were set in the past, one in Ancient Egypt, the other in Ancient Rome.He cites researching the periods for those books and the Three Hares series as“great fun,”a passion that emanates throughout the novel.
David Ross has taught English since 1987, when he began working in Japan.There,he me this co-author, Scott Lauder, when they both taught at thes ame English school. While in Japan,Davi dperformed with a rock band for a couple of years and produced an album(Los Turbines).His decade of teaching in Japan provided with the opportunity to travel in Asia, Africa, and Europe. After returning to his homecountry of the United States of America,David taught at Loyola University in New Orleans,before moving to NewYork in 2004, where he taught elementary school–and where he still lives with his wife and two sons. In 2010, David received his doctorate in Educational Studies from McGill University in Montreal.He has spent four summers of the last decade, two in China and two in Indonesia, teaching at universities.