Happy Easter to all those that celebrate!
If you are stuffed full of chocolate already I have the perfect alternative “Easter Egg” treat for you all today.
Definition Of An Easter Egg
- An artificial chocolate egg or decorated hard-boiled egg given at Easter.
- An unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software or on a DVD, included as a joke or a bonus.
An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, a hidden message, or a secret feature of an interactive work. The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt. The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that led Atari to encourage further hidden messages in later games, treating them as Easter eggs for players to find.
And guess what?!
Some authors put Easter Eggs in books too!
It may just be me but it kinda blows my mind when I am lucky enough to find a little Easter Egg in a book that I’m reading. It always feels kind of special in some way. But sometimes they are very hard to spot. It may be a link that runs through a particular book series or a reoccurring character from the authors previous book that pops up for a cameo or it may be something else entirely.
This got me thinking…..
Do authors put Easter Eggs in books that could only mean something to a specific person? Or maybe a secret message of some kind? Or even a joke in the hopes an eagle eyed reader will spot it?
I asked some fab authors just that……..
All my books are littered with references to my favourite things – Star Wars, Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest, Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, but the real Easter Eggs relate to books.
In Trouble, in the first paragraph of page 240, Aaron walks into the graphic novel section of a comic shop and opens one at his favourite part. The only clue is that it’s about dreams. This ‘egg’ is a present for my friend Freddie – he knew exactly which part of The Sandman it referred to when he read it, because it’s the story he showed me at university.
In Remix, page 72, Kaz says of her friend Ruby “Tell her she can’t do something and Ruby will rush right in.” She then lists the things Ruby’s done – and the second point mentions something Ruby did because she read about it in a book… any UKYA fan will know the second they read this, that the book I’m referring to is Say Her Name by the inimitable Juno Dawson.
There’s another on page 79 of my forthcoming book, Truth or Dare, where Claire and Kam are deciding what book to read. Kam chooses one “with a silhouette of someone looking up at a colourful sky packed with stars”. It’s the book I bought my friend Lora for Christmas and someone has already realised what book it is…
C J Skuse
Jackson Gatlin appears in some form in three of my YA novels!
Pretty Bad Things – (p174)
‘On our way out of the back entrance to the hotel, we bumped right into this shock-headed rock dude in shades. I dropped one of the candy bags. ‘Sorry,’ he said, scratching his head behind his ear. I thought I recognized him. I think he was famous. He had on a sleeveless vest, and there was a really neat tattoo of a burning rose on his shoulder. It reminded me of the rose tattoo mom had on her ankle.’
This shock-headed rock dude is Jackson Gatlin, who features as one of the main characters in my second novel ‘Rockoholic.’
Rockoholic – (p24)
‘Two emo versions of the spooky twins from The Shining clamber out the back. They both have purple and pink extensions in their long black hair, and are wearing black leather skirts, striped tights, Tippexed black DMs and matching t-shirts. I realize they’ve come as the conjoined twins from the “Freaktasia” video, where Jackson plays a ringmaster and he’s luring all these freaks into his circus tent like some mad Pied Piper. One of the twins carries a small rucksack with loads of badges pinned to it. One of the badges says “Mrs. Jackson Gatlin.” I want it.’
The Shining Twins are actually Camille and Zoe who are the main characters in my third novel ‘Dead Romantic.’
The Deviants – (p18)
‘I opened the envelope. Inside was an oversized card, covered in pictures of us. He must have spent ages sticking them down, shaking on glitter. There were pictures of us on swings. Our school Nativity, with me as Mary, with a cushion up my dress and Max as the innkeeper, with a scribbly black beard. Selfies in Starbucks. Selfies outside the arena in Cardiff waiting to see The Regulators.’
The Regulators are the group fronted by Jackson Gatlin who appear in ‘Rockoholic’ and are mentioned here briefly in my fifth and final YA novel, ‘The Deviants.’
Here’s a couple from Illuminae!
The Copernicus casualty list (page 52 – 59) included a bunch of our author friends, including Leigh Bardugo and Ryan Graudin. We also killed George RR Martin (he deserved it for the Red Wedding), our agents and ourselves when that ship blew up.
If you look at the subject of the medical experiment on page 155, you’ll notice it’s Laini Taylor. Poor Laini!
The movie poster on page 190 feature the names of our editor, senior staff at Random House, and tow of our earliest readers, the amazing Beth Revis and Marie Lu.
And the cousin Kady mentions in her interview on page 2, Asha, is the main character in OBSIDIO!
The names of the school houses at Rookwood School are all secret references. Richmond, the house that Scarlet and Ivy are in, was one of the houses at my primary school, although strangely it isn’t the one I was in. I was considering using all of them, but they were all named after parts of my city and I thought people would recognise it!
So the other houses ended up being named Evergreen and Mayhew. Evergreen is named after Evergreen Terrace, where The Simpsons famously live. Mayhew is named after Richard Mayhew, who is the main character in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – one of my favourite books. And that one is a double reference, because Richard Mayhew is named after Henry Mayhew, the Victorian journalist who wrote London Labour and the London Poor.
I also like to put references in my character names. While most of the main characters have original names, a lot of the side characters have names that link to real people or characters. Miss Simons, the teacher with the long red hair from The Dance in the Dark, is a reference to Simone Simons from the band Epica. And local man Bob Owens in The Lights Under The Lake is another that got his name from a Neil Gaiman character – Bod Owens from The Graveyard Book. That’s a double reference too, because Bod’s full name is Nobody Owens, taken from the Gaimanized version of the old rhyme:
“Rattle his bones
Over the stones
It’s only a pauper
Who Nobody owns.”
The rhyme is fitting for Bod’s story, and I felt that was fitting for Bob’s story, too.
Perhaps the one that fewest people would spot is Madame Boulanger. One of my best friends insisted that he had to be a character in my books, and I joked that I would put him in, but he had to be the French teacher. That is why Madame Boulanger (French for Baker, his surname) is not actually very good at French, and sometimes sounds a bit Welsh.
Both Othergirl and Wonderboy are stuffed with comic book Easter eggs, some of which even I’ve forgotten!
The biggies are Louise, the protagonist’s, last name, which is Kirby, after one of the fathers of superhero comics, Jack Kirby. Also, the other main character, Erica Elland, has an alliterative name, which is super common among the famous superheroes! In Wonderboy I name a company ‘Ditko’ after another of comic book’s great creators.
The other big Easter egg is in Othergirl, which has a few references to one of my favourite films: Heathers.
Jay is named after Christian Slater’s character JD, and in my head he looks entirely like him. I even have Jay say ‘greetings and salutations’ at one point, which is a direct quote from the film!
In the opening chapter of The Fallen Children, on page 14, halfway down the page, there’s a reference to Aliens – the TV snaps back on and we hear the line ‘They mostly come at night. Mostly.’ It’s a bit of a cheeky wink given what’s happening in the story!
Otherwise there are several callbacks to The Midwich Cuckoos!
My love of Easter Eggs goes back to the early days of DVD. I would diligently watch all the extras on my favourite films and listen to the directors’ commentaries, soaking in the titbits of process and creation (I’m still a huge process nut). My favourite moments were when they identified an allusion or intertext―a little nod to a book or film or painting that had been an inspiration―and these added a new layer of enjoyment for me. I still love the wee flash in my brain when I spot an Easter Egg in a book or film today. And if it’s a nod to something that’s inspired me too, it’s as though the writer has leaned out of the page and given me a conspiratorial wink. So writing Riverkeep naturally meant I’d bury some Eggs of my own!
And there are lots, there really are. Plenty to Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the Naked Gun films (check the map!) and more. Here are a couple of examples…
The town of Canna Bay, page 10, is a facsimile of Amity, the place terrorised by the shark in Jaws. Its name is also a reference to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, the best piece of briny shore-writing I’ve yet found; ‘canna’ is Scots Gaelic for ‘can’, as in tin can.
Gilt Murdagh’s whaling vessel, the Hellsong on page 57, is a derivation of Dracula’s nemesis’ surname ―Abraham Van Helsing. This was perfect for a ship designed to hunt the unhuntable, and allowed me to nod towards another favourite book.
The ‘suire’, mentioned in the encyclopaedia extract on page 71, is a reference to Buggy Swires, the first gnome in the Ankh Morpork City Watch. It’s a close call between Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes for me, but the Watch books probably just edge it as my favourite Pratchetts!
And finally, there’s a wee nod on page 147 to another favourite film (or, to be strictly accurate, its sequel). But I’m not saying exactly what it is, because I’ve already put the same reference in my second book―The Sacrifice Box, January 2018―and I’m planning to bury that particular Egg in every book I write… happy hunting!
Jessie Hearts NYC, page 14 there is a Sesame St mention.
Emma Hearts LA, page 45 Emma is wearing Elmo pyjama bottoms.
Starring Kitty, page 105 Dylan is wearing a Cookie Monster t-shirt.
And finally Spotlight On Sunny, page 204, a man on the train has a Big Bird tattoo.
All my books contain a Doctor Who reference!
Usually they happen quite naturally; when I was writing The Secrets of Sam & Sam, about the Paget-Skidelsky twins, it would’ve been almost rude not to throw in a passing mention of The Twin Dilemma.
Some are pretty easy to spot – like Pea’s school librarian, the lovely (if Blyton-hating) Miss Pond. But a few are a teensy bit more obscure.
If you’re a completist, you might like to know that on page 240 of Pea’s Book of Big Dreams, you’ll find the home planet of the Tractators from the splendid Fifth Doctor story Frontios. But I bet you knew that already, right?
One of the best things about writing is being able to put little flags in for your close friends and family, so it’s definitely something I do with every book.
There are two in particular in Beautiful Broken Things.
The first is the paraphrasing of a song I love called Bluetonic by an old band, The Bluetones. The actual lyric is this:
There’s no heart you can’t melt
With a certain little smile
And no challenge should be faced
Without a little charm and a lot of style
And it’s one I love because it sums up Suzanne for me, so it felt like a neat trick to be able to give her a line of dialogue in the book that referenced it. She’s asked how she got away with something and she replies, “A little charm, a lot of style.” It won’t have meant anything to anyone but me and it makes me smile each time. That happens on page 208.
The second is more of a personal one. The adolescent in-patient unit that Suzanne is referred to at the end of the book is fictional, but it needed a name. I decided to call it Gwillim House because Gwillim was my Nan’s maiden name. She died a long time before she could see my writing dream become a reality, so it felt nice to be able to put a tiny part of her in the book. The first reference to it is on page 307.
I hide an Eric in every one of my books after an editor changed a character name in my debut novel, Fairytale of New York, because she didn’t like the name.
Also there are repeated mentions of a fictional village Stone Yardley (my debut protagonist’s childhood home).
And in my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, the main character receives comments on her blog from characters in my first two books.
So there you have it! A lovely bunch of Easter Eggs for you to sink your teeth into! And I’m sure there’s lots more….it’s just finding them!
A huge thank you to all of the authors that got in touch when I popped a twitter call out or replied to my DM and were happy to share their little Easter Eggs with me especially at such short notice too!
Have you ever found an Easter Egg in a book? If so which book? Do you like it when you find them? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!