Three Times A Charm with Philip Coleman

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with my readers.

Today’s guest is author, Philip Coleman. Philip tell us a little about you, please.

I’ve worked as a biologist for most of my lifein Ireland, Belgium and now in Switzerland, where I work for WWF (the panda people, not the wrestlers!). I used to write stories as a teenager, and even co-edited the school magazine, but I didn’t come back to writing until 2006 (and I won’t tell you how long after my schooldays that was!). This is my first published novel, after a couple of failed attempts. I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the time I spent living in Brussels, when my kids were around the same ages as Sean and Maeve in the story (though my kids are NOT like them and anyway they’re grown-up now. I live in the French Alps now; it’s a long commute to work but I’m surrounded my stunning scenery and, of course, I’m learning to ski.

I visited the French Alp when I was a teenager. The little village I stayed in for a couple weeks, Méribel Les Allues, was the inspiration behind the fictional village in my Weaver Tales books. LOVED it there. You must be inspired all the time.

Can you tell us more about The Master’s Book?

Sean moves to Brussels to a house that is a crime scene...

In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 24. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.
The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at once.

Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?

Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 books you recommend reading and why you recommend them.

Well, I have could offer lots of highbrow recommendations (see below) but, for a combination of something that’s entertaining but educational at the same time, I’d pick the following:

1.      Empire of the Sun, by J.G. Ballard.
Forget the Spielberg movie; the book is much better. All kids in their early teens – but especially boys – should read this excellent portrayal of a brave and smart young boy who sharpens his survivor skills in a Japanese internment camp in WWII.

2.      The Siege of Krishnapur, by J.G. Farrell (that’s another J.G.!)
Set in the Indian mutiny, this is part of Farrell’s Empire Trilogy but it’s the most exciting and accessible of the three books. I read it aloud to my kids and the loved it. It’s edge of the seat and very funny.

3.      My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
Durrell wrote lots of very funny books about studying and collecting animals for his zoo but his account of life in Corfu in the 1930s with his eccentric family is the best of all, with both the animals and the humans as key characters.

  • Top 3 most admired people and why you admire them.

Lots of brave people in history and recent times have risked and lost their lives in pursuit of justice but, for completely emotional reasons, it’s always more poignant (and more shocking) when the person concerned is a young woman. In this regard I would mention Sophie Scholl, who was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets, and (yes I know this may be controversial) Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while defending the home of a family in Gaza from demolition.

My third choice is also a martyr in his own way and that would be Abraham Lincoln. He was more human than he is sometimes portrayed and he didn’t always do the right thing but, as well as being a fundamentally decent man in a very difficult situation, he was extremely smart (much more than the people who worked with him, most of whom came from less poor backgrounds) and I like smart!
(I like smart too, Philip. A lot!)

  • Top 3 authors OR Top 3 illustrators.

How about two authors and one illustrator?

Well, I said I could go highbrow so for the authors I would choose Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of masterpieces like Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov, and Joseph Conrad, famous for Lord Jim, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent, among others.

For illustrators it has to be Mervyn Peake (also a talented author of works like the Gormenghast trilogy), who did superb illustrations for books such as The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Hunting of the Snark and several of his own books, including the whimsical Letters from a Lost Uncle.

Philip, how can our tech-savvy readers keep up with you and your writing?

I’m in the process of setting up a new website with a blog. In the meantime, my email address is

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Philip. Best of luck to you and your writing.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.


  1. Mervyn Peake is a good illustrator, but I think that as for the Snark, Henry Holiday still is the best.

    1. Henry Holiday does do nice work! Thanks for stopping in, Goetz.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Three Times A Charm with Kathy Sattem Rygg