How imaginary realms of Brontë siblings inspired new book by children's author Peter Bunzl

When Peter Bunzl picked up a copy of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre a decade ago, little did he know it would spark the idea for a children’s book inspired by the lives of one of the country’s most famous literary families.

With a new interest in the history of the Yorkshire sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne - and their brother Branwell, Bunzl found himself fascinated by the imaginary realms the siblings created as children.

“I just thought that was really interesting and exciting," he explains. “That was the genesis of the idea for [my latest book] Glassborn, hearing about their childhood and how they were writing long before they were published writers. I loved their imagination.”

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“They would make up stories of their own, about the various places they imagined,” he continues. “They would write these stories down as tiny newspaper articles, or in miniature books so small you’d need a magnifying glass to read them.”

Author Peter Bunzl was inspired by the Bronte family.Author Peter Bunzl was inspired by the Bronte family.
Author Peter Bunzl was inspired by the Bronte family.

With the idea for Glassborn beginning to blossom, Bunzl visited the Bront ë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, where the siblings once lived. There, he was inspired to bring objects from the museum’s collection into his own story, and to set it in a house similar to the parsonage itself.

That wasn’t the end of Bront ë inspiration for the book. Bunzl has also named his characters – Cora, Bram, Elle and Acton – by drawing on the family and the sisters’ androgynous pseudonyms – Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. “I thought it was a fun way to reference back to the Brontës,” Bunzl says.

His story, Glassborn, follows four Belle siblings, who find a key to Fairyland and must overcome the Queen and her deadly curse. Like many of his books, it is described as a tale of magic, history and mystery.

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Though Bunzl has always been interested in telling stories, before becoming an author, he worked in children’s animation. Growing up in London with an antique dealer dad and an artist mum, he found inspiration visiting film and television sets where his mother worked as a costume designer.

As a child, he’d write picture books and comic strips, before going on to study animation, working on two BAFTA-winning TV shows and directing several short films. He made the switch from scriptwriting to children’s literature quite by accident.

“I wanted to direct and make a children’s animation so I started to write this script and it became a prose novel which became my first published children’s book,” Bunzl explains.

"It was a long process, but when I started to write prose fiction, I loved it and how free it was compared to script writing.

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You don’t have to think about budgets or whether things are physically possible, you can just let your imagination run wild.”

Like the Brontë siblings, that’s what he’s done with Glassborn.

The book, published by Usborne, is out now.

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