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This year, autistic author Richard Haslam released the fourth instalment of his extraordinary Now.Here saga. A continuation of the Young Adult series, The Tree of Agape invites readers to jump back into the alternate world, joining heroine Kiona for a compelling fourth adventure.

Richard’s journey as a published author began in 2020. The Autism Initiatives team in Penwortham worked alongside Richard to revise and release his first book in the series, supporting Richard in honing his creative spark and developing unique illustrations to accompany the story.

Autism Initiatives team member, Tiah Houghton, who worked alongside Richard, shared: “Richard has really grown in confidence with an additional identity as an author.”

To shed light on Richard’s work and growing collection of stories, we sat down with the author himself to learn more about the man behind the mysteries…

Richard, please could you tell us how ‘The Tree of Agape’ follows on in the series?

“The Tree of Agape is part of the Now.Here saga and continues on from the last books. You can follow the numbers on the side of the books and they all have the same characters. On my website, I also have an overview of the characters and a map of the world to follow.”

Could you tell us a bit about any authors, books or other sources that have inspired your writing?

“Yes, there’s the Redwall series, The Wind and the Willows, bits of The Chronicles of Narnia and also The Hobbit. It was a long road of coming up with ideas, but those were in the back of my mind. I also gathered more inspiration after reading and watching the adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel When the Wind Blows.

I also gained inspiration from a handful of anime and manga series, so if anyone is a fan of a certain anime or two, be sure to keep a look out for any references hidden in the pages.

In 2015, I was on a narrow boat holiday in the Oxford Canal with my family and noticed the remains of medieval farming methods called ridge and furrow on the hills, which also influenced my work. When we’ve been away on trips, we’ve been looking at scenery which inspires my illustrations. I decided to use the North of England too, as hardly anyone thinks of that backwater!”

We wondered what your process is like for illustrating your books?

“I use Clip Studio Paint, a stylus and 3D dummies to draw. I start off with posing the dummies, then I sketch the character around it, then I outline the sketch before colouring it. I zoom in on every detail and scenery, and the illustrations can take a number of days. I like using the anime style, as it makes noticing the expression in the eyes and face easier to understand.”

Has any feedback about your books from friends, family, or other readers stood out to you?

“Yes, one reviewer said that my books could be turned into a TV series or even a movie!  My brother helped me look through the fourth book, and my mum and dad have given praise for my books and helped out too. Nana and my friends like my books as well.  I even had a dream that a little girl picked up my book and saw that it’s a story about the unsung heroes. Girls do play a vital role in my books alongside the male characters.”

What’s Next?

Following this year’s release, Richard is already at work on his fifth book in the saga. A Zephyr Before the Tempest will explore the four ring masters and Kiona’s little brother, Levtiqvah. Readers can also look forward to meeting some new characters.

Before we finished up our chat with Richard, we asked him if he has any advice for aspiring authors or young people. Richard shared: “If you have a dream that is not selfish, if you have an idea that you wish to showcase to everyone, if you have friends who are always there to have your back, and if you have the time, you will do well.”

Richard’s books are available to purchase in many bookshops and on Amazon.

Check out his first book on the Book2look website: We look forward to seeing where Richard’s journey as an author takes him next!