Author Interview: Ian Joseph

The Rising Tilde had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Joseph (or Tony Abramson), the author of The Fantastical Adventure of Magic Mazik and Mazik and the Miss Fitz.

Who is Ian Joseph?

[According to mazikspark.com]

Ian Joseph is an alias. It’s not the name the author is known by in his everyday life… the real author is a small, bald Yorkshire grandad who is quite good at sums and likes money. Not heaps and heaps of money, but old money – coins – coins dug out of the ground. Old coins that have been there for ages. Absolutely ages. He’s a bit of an expert in those fascinating fragments of lost history.

Just imagine finding a tiny little coin, dropped underfoot in deep mud at a medieval market in a little town not far from where you are now. Thirteen hundred years ago! It has not been touched by another human hand for that long! Thirteen hundred years!

It has no writing on it, just some weird design. You gently brush off the dry soil. You roll it round in your fingers but can’t make it out. You keep rolling it slowly and suddenly…there’s a face! A face staring straight at you! You’re sure it’s trying to tell you something, but you don’t understand. The language has changed. The message makes no sense.

You flip the coin to look at the other side, Again, you rotate the tiny round coin until you see something – you reel in surprise – it’s a snarling mouth with fangs and a twisting serpent tongue! Now the whole frightful monster head is revealed.

That’s just one of hundreds and hundreds of different designs on England’s remarkable early pennies. They’ll make no sense to you just yet, but if you work hard enough, one day they will, and a wonderful treasure trove of forgotten fragments of history will burst open.

 For you. 

Just for you.

It’s a gift.

Here’s how the interview went.

Hi Tony. To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Since 2019, I have written fast-moving, fantastical adventure stories about the Spark children – Jammy Jimmy, Awesome Annie and Magic Mazik – for my grandchildren, encouraging them to be fun-loving, bold and rebellious. 

He thought he would share them with you – the stories, not the grandchildren – and hopes you will enjoy reading them as much as he loved writing them, whatever your age.

A native of Leeds, born in 1949, I am a graduate Chartered Accountant, prominent in early Anglo-Saxon numismatics.  My specialist books have been short-listed for both national and international prizes.

In 1995, the nanotechnology firm I founded won the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement and, in 2017, I received the North Award for services to numismatics. On 17th May 2021, The Times reported:

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been publishing in numismatic for 25 years – see here. Some of my books have been shortlisted for prizes.

More relevantly, I’ve been writing fiction for children for about 5 years. See the Mazik website.

Where do you get ideas for your books from?

Search me! I sit at the keyboard with an empty head and start typing. I’m as intrigued as I hope the reader is to see what happens! I try to box Mazik into such a tight corner that I can’t imagine how he’ll escape – then I’m forced to get creative!

The editing process adds structure and direction. I’m happy to excise anything not directly related to the story. I’ve learned not to accept everything editors suggest. The true guide is how children respond, though I’ve had senior editors disparage this. I do like to return to the opening theme for a sense of completion.

The Series does have an overall and ambitious, indeed apocalyptic, direction, but it will take many episodes for this to crystallise.

It is mentioned in the books that you wrote the stories for your grandchildren. Could you tell us how you came about publishing the books?

The grandchildren encouraged me saying the stories were of sufficient merit to share with a wider audience. Besides, it was timely. I’d retired to take a PhD and when this was completed, I evaluated what I might do next, and writing children’s literature appealed most. After the academic rigours of the PhD, something completely different was needed.

Peter Hudspith’s fabulous illustrations add a whole new dimension to the stories. These alone merit publication.

Why did you choose to use a pseudonym for your series?

Mainly because I’d written serious numismatic stuff and, excuse the immodesty, have a considerable reputation in that field. I wanted to distance my children’s literature from that, so chose to use my middle names for fiction. I’m not obsessive about compartmentalising these identities.

How many more works can readers expect in the future?

For Mazik, I’ve drafted nearly a dozen. The next two have been edited and illustrated – see below. There are three books apiece for Mazik’s two elder siblings, but these need some, possibly drastic, editing. However, I need commercial traction before proceeding with further publication.

Mazik and the Miss Fitz is a little out of kilter with the rest of the Series, with its focus on horror rather than humour. There are only a couple of recurrences of such horror. However, kids typically aren’t that squeamish and love being scared; to give just one example, most watch Dr Who, even if it is from behind the sofa!

What can readers expect in the forthcoming books?

Well, of course, Mazik continues to be humorously irresponsible – just a typical, lively, little boy – with Kizam providing an understated counterpoise. A more dominant female role model is Mazik’s elder sister Annie, later in the Series. There are usually a few comic diversions before the underlying story bubbles to the surface. Mazik is reluctant to (or even forgets to) use his magical powers to escape his routine misadventures, saving these for when he’s in mortal danger.

His older sister, Annie, comes more into the story, with an emerging subtext based on an existential conflict within Qua. This erupts much later in the Series to become the dominant and apocalyptic theme.

Very brief synopses of the next two or three planned publications are at the end of this interview. Again, Peter Hudspith’s illustrations add enormously to the atmospherics.

Anything you would like to say to your readers who are reading this interview?

Thanks for reading some of Mazik’s adventures. I hope you really enjoyed them and have told all your friends and teachers. If enough people buy the books, there will be lots more to follow. Please check out the website and join Mazik’s Book Club. Let me know here you what you think of the stories – the bits you enjoyed the most and anything you didn’t like. Let me know what you think of the characters, the storylines and the illustrations.

And, by the way, all the money from the sale of the first two Mazik books goes to charity – Blood Cancer UK (BCUK) – so you’re really helping people who have this disease and putting money into researching better treatments. It’s a win-win! You get laughs and screams and BCUK saves lives! Go tell!

Thank you for your time, Tony!


Forthcoming Titles in the Sparks Fly series [information provided on the back of Magic Mazik and the Miss Fitz e-book version]

Awesome Annie

Annie, the middle Spark sibling, discovers she has some remarkable, and quite unnatural, talents gifted by an alien lifeforce, Qua, through its avatar, Yorke Barnsley.

When a friend disappears, Annie sets out on a quest of recovery against desperate odds. But she has been lured into a trap – her situation is hopeless.

Ian Joseph leads us on a trail of discovery and adventure in this first Awesome Annie story

Mazik and the Masterpiece

Ever hit the wrong keys on a computer keyboard?

Our cheeky young hero, Mazik Spark, does just that and lands Gramps in a terrible mess. Meanwhile, Mazik has had a confrontation with his PE teacher who is fired and goes on the rampage. The enraged teacher’s revenge has catastrophic consequences.

See how this wacky story unfolds hilariously – and explosively!

Yet again, Ian Joseph’s wonderfully imaginative narrative progresses at lightning speed, with the usual firecrackers, taking Mazik and the reader in new directions.

Mazik’s Mash-up

Mazik and his recently-adopted twin, Kizam, celebrate their birthday with a series of increasingly chaotic, Mazik-inspired disasters, the last of which is truly revolting!

Gramps takes the twins to the High Woodley art gallery, but Mazik finds a growth capsule of QuanTum in his pocket and spreads it around the shrubbery, with shocking consequences.

A mad professor has spied Mazik’s magic and is desperate to profit from it personally. He embarks on a reckless escapade, with an earth-shattering outcome in which Mazik and Kizam face lethal danger. Will the twins survive the catastrophe?

Yet another madcap, high-speed adventure from the pen of Ian Joseph, full of hilarity and horror in equal measure.