Not many people would willingly give up the hills of Hollywood for the Pentlands, but for author Charlie Fletcher the choice was simple.
Having spent ten years living a glamorous lifestyle as a scriptwriter in Los Angeles, he knew the time had come to leave Hollywood behind and enter a more grounded world when his five-year-old son, Jack, started talking like a “studio exec”.
Since settling down in his wife’s old childhood home in Musselburgh – where he has a “two-floor commute” to his study which boasts unspoiled views of the Pentlands – Charlie has written his hugely popular Stoneheart trilogy, as well as a standalone children’s novel, Far Rockaway, and his latest novel, The Oversight.
Although his lifestyle is vastly different, his success has been just as prominent – if not more so – since moving back to Scotland and turning his hand to children’s fiction.
“It was completely the right decision,” says 53-year-old Charlie. “The reason we came home was because we went to the LA premiere of The Borrowers with Jack, who was five at the time.
“It was his first Hollywood premiere and got carried away by the drama and fantasy of the story. He talked about it non-stop all weekend.
“Then on the Monday I picked him up from kindergarten in LA and a bus went past with an advert for The Borrowers on the side, so I pointed it out to him.
“He leaned forward and, in the voice of a 45-year-old studio exec, he said, ‘I heard it didn’t have a very good opening weekend’.
“I literally drove home, left him strapped in the back of the car, went in to my wife and said, ‘You know how we were talking about going back to Scotland? Let’s go’. And within six months we were gone. We didn’t want to bring the kids up with LA values.”
As well as the children being the main reason for his family’s decision to leave California, Charlie also used his children, Jack and Ariadne – now 20 and 17 – as the inspiration for his Stoneheart fantasy novels.
He says: “Screenwriting is a funny business. You get paid to write the stuff that never gets made – or even worse in some cases, you get paid to write stuff that does get made.
“So I started writing for my kids. When I finished the book, I sat in the doorway between their two bedrooms and read it to them over ten nights. It was the most fun I had ever had. That was the point of having done it – everything else was luck and jam.”
Since that first reading to his children, the trilogy has been translated into a dozen languages and has fans ranging from eight to 80 years old.
“I would be lying if I said I was writing it and didn’t think it might sell,” admits Charlie. “I’m a professional writer, I wasn’t mucking about, but the primary focus was for them.”
His latest novel, which will be released next week, is Charlie’s first book for adults.
Maintaining the fantasy genre, The Oversight is about a secret society that polices the lines between the mundane and the magic, set to a backdrop of Dickensian London.
“With the adult book, I’m still writing for them,” says Charlie. “They are still the same target audience, it’s just that they are now older. I will just keep writing for them until they tell me to stop.”
While Charlie’s next milestone is the book release on Tuesday, there’s no time for a break. He has already written the second book in The Outsider series – which he says is “at least a trilogy” – and a simpler version of the Stoneheart books for less proficient readers will be coming out later in the year. He is also working on an as-yet-untitled new adventure series for ITV, set in Scotland – the details of which Charlie is keeping top secret at the moment.
All this while negotiating the film rights for Stoneheart, which he is also remaining tight-lipped about, but says it is likely to be in the “middle distance” rather than the near future.
“Stoneheart has been sold twice – once to Paramount and then to Disney. It’s gone up again and my agents are pursuing a third option.
“It’s something I get asked about all the time but the honest truth is I have no idea when it will happen.”
* The Oversight is published by Orbit and is released on May 6.