Interview with Elizabeth Haydon, documentarian, archanologist and translator of Ven’s journals, including The Tree of Water
Little is known for sure about reclusive documentarian and archanologist Elizabeth Haydon.
She is an expert in dead languages and holds advanced degrees in Nain Studies from Arcana College and Lirin History from the University of Rigamarole. Her fluency in those languages [Nain and Lirin] has led some to speculate that she may be descended of one of those races herself. It should be noted that no one knows this for sure.
Being an archanologist, she is also an expert in ancient magic because, well, that’s what an archanologist is.
Being a documentarian means she works with old maps, books and manuscripts, and so it is believed that her house is very dusty and smells like ink, but there is no actual proof of this suspicion. On the rare occasions of sightings of Ms. Haydon, it has been reported that she herself has smelled like lemonade, soap, vinegar, freshly-washed babies and pine cones.
She is currently translating and compiling the fifth of the recently-discovered Lost Journals when she is not napping, or attempting to break the world’s record for the longest braid of dental floss.
We had the chance to ask her some questions about the latest of Ven’s journals, The Tree of Water. Here is what she shared.
- Dr. Haydon, can you give us a brief summary of The Tree of Water?
Certainly. Ven Polypheme, who wrote the, er, Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, lived long ago in the Second Age of history, when magic was much more alive and visible in the world than it is now. His journals are very important finds, because they tell the story of ancient magic and where it still may be found in the world today.
In the first three journals we saw how Ven came to the mystical island of Serendair and was given the job of Royal Reporter by the king of the island, a young man named Vandemere. The Royal Reporter was supposed to find magic that was hiding in plain sight in the world and report back about it to the king. As you can imagine, this could be a fun but dangerous job, and at the beginning of The Tree of Water, we see that Ven and his friends are hiding from the evil Thief Queen, who is looking to find and kill him.
Amariel, a merrow [humans call these ‘mermaids,’ but we know that’s the wrong word] who saved Ven when the first ship he sailed on sank, has been asking Ven to come and explore the wonders of the Deep, her world in the sea. Deciding that this could be a great way to find hidden magic as well as hide from the evil Thief Queen, Ven and his best friend, Char, follow her into the Deep. The sea, as you know, is one of the most magical places in the world—but sometimes that magic, and that place, can be deadly.
The book tells of mysterious places, and interesting creatures, and wondrous things that have never been seen in the dry world, and tales from the very bottom of the sea.
- The main character in The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series is Charles Magnus “Ven” Polypheme. Tell us about him.
Ven was an interesting person, but he really didn’t think so. He and his family were of a different race than the humans who made up most of the population where he lived, the race of the Nain. Nain are an old race, a little shorter and stockier than most humans, with a tendency to be on the grumpy side. They live about four times as long as humans, are very proud of their beards, which they believe tell their life stories, don’t like to swim or travel, and prefer to live deep in the mountains.
Ven was nothing like the majority of Nain. He was very curious, loved to travel, could swim, and longed to see the world. He was actually a pretty nice kid most of the time. He had the equivalent of a baby face because only three whiskers of his beard had grown in by the time The Tree of Water took place, when he was fifty years old [around twelve in Nain years]. He had a great group of friends, including the merrow and Char, who were mentioned earlier. It is believed that his journals were the original research documents for two of the most important books of all time, The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic. The only copies of these two volumes were lost at sea centuries ago, so finding the Lost Journals is the only way to recover this important information.
- What kind of research do you do for the series?
I go to places where Ven went and try to find relics he left behind. Usually this is with an expedition of archaeologists and historians. I am an expert in ancient magic [an archanologist] so I don’t usually lead the expeditions, I’m just a consultant. It gives me the chance to learn a lot about magic and lets me work on my suntan at the same time, so it’s good.
- What is/are the most difficult part or parts of writing/restoring the Lost Journals?
Here’s the list, mostly from the archaeological digs where the journals have been found:
4] Sand flies
5] Dry, easily cracking parchment pages
6] The horrible smell of long-dead seaweed
7] Grumpy members of the archaeological expedition [I could name names, but I won’t]
8] Expedition food [when finding and retrieving the journal for The Tree of Water, we ate nothing but peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives and yellow tea for six months straight]
9] When salt water gets into your favorite fountain pen and clogs it up. This is very sad.
10] Unintentionally misspelling a word in the Nain language that turns out to be embarrassing [the word for “jelly” is one letter different from the word for “diarrhea,” which caused a number of my Nain friends to ask me what on earth I thought Ven was spreading on his toast.]
- What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your other books?
Getting to write about a lot of cool magic stuff that used to exist in our world, but doesn’t anymore. And getting to travel to interesting places in the world to see if maybe some of it still does exist. Also getting to show the difference between merrows, which are real, interesting creatures, and mermaids, which are just silly.
- What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope, in general, that it will open their eyes to the wonder of the sea, which takes up the majority of our planet, but we really don’t know that much about it down deep. There is a great deal of magic in the sea, and I hope that if and when people become aware of it, they will help take care of it and not throw garbage and other bad stuff into it. I have a serious dislike for garbage-throwing.
Probably the most useful secret I learned that I hope will be of use to readers is about thrum. Thrum is the way the creatures and plants that live in the ocean communicate with each other through vibration and thought. As Ven and his friends learn, this can be a problem if you think about something you don’t want anyone to know about when you are standing in a sunshadow, because everyone gets to see a picture of what’s on your mind. Imagine how embarrassing that could be.
- Are there more books coming in this series?
Well, at least one. In the archaeological dig site where The Tree of Water was found was another journal, a notebook that Ven called The Star of the Sea. We are still working on restoring it, but it looks like there are many new adventures and different kinds of magic in it. The problem is that it might have been buried in the sand with an ancient bottle of magical sun tan lotion, which seems to have leaked onto some of the journal’s pages. This is a very sad event in archaeology, but we are working hard to restore it.
As for other books, it’s not like we just write them out of nowhere. If we haven’t found one of Ven’s journals, there can’t be another book, now, can there? We are always looking, however. We’ve learned so much about ancient magic from the journals we have found so far.
- You are a best-selling author with other books and series for adults. What made you want to write books for young readers?
I like young readers better than adults. Everyone who is reading a book like mine has at one time or another been a young reader, but not everyone has been an adult yet. Young readers have more imagination and their brains are more flexible—they can understand magical concepts a lot better than a lot of adults, who have to deal with car payments and work and budget balancing and all sorts of non-magical things in the course of their days.
Besides, many adults scare me. But that’s not their fault. I’m just weird like that.
I think if more adults read like young readers, the world would be a happier place.
- Tell us where we can find your book and more information about where you are these days.
You can find The Tree of Water anywhere books are sold, online and in bookstores. There are several copies in my steamer trunk and I believe the palace in Serendair also has one. I also sent one to Bruno Mars because I like his name.
At the moment, I am on the beautiful island of J’ha-ha, searching for a very unique and magical flower. Thank you for asking these interview questions—it has improved my mood, since I have only found weeds so far today. I am hoping for better luck after lunch, which, sadly, is peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives, and yellow tea again.
All the best,
Dr. Elizabeth Haydon, PhD, D’Arc