As Their First Supernatural

Article excerpt

Byline: Hannah Stephenson

As their first supernatural children's novel hits the shelves, John Barrowman and his sister Carole tell Hannah Stephenson why the sibling team are such a success * OHN Barrowman welcomes me into his Chelsea home - he's got another one near Penarth- dressed in his pyjamas, hair tousled, unshaven, but still strikingly handsome and clean-cut.

He shows me up the spiral staircase to the first floor of his elegant house, which opens up to a large open-plan area adorned with plush leather sofas and quirky Union Jack cushions.

His sister Carole, who is eight years his senior, may not be as physically striking as the man himself, but she shares the star of Torchwood's sense of fun.

They are both warm, funny - and very loud. Although we're sitting close together at his stylish glass dining table, he speaks as though he's projecting himself to a large audience in a theatre.

Together they make an intoxicating, effervescent duo, constantly interrupting each other, one starting a story, the other finishing it off, and there is constant laughter.

It's clear this is a close family. John, 44, who has made a mint from a career that started out in musical theatre and then expanded to TV, flies his parents over from America (where he grew up) regularly and has bought life-changing luxuries for the wider family over the years, including cars and houses, and put his nieces and nephews through college.

When considering this, Carole looks at him with puppy-dog eyes, suggesting jokingly that it might be about time he splashed out on her.

She's a journalist and professor of English in Wisconsin, who previously collaborated with John on his two autobiographies, Anything Goes and I Am What I Am. Now, they have written their first children's book, Hollow Earth, aimed at nine to 12-year-olds.

It's an exciting page-turner about 12-year-old twins Matt and Emily Calder, who can not only read each others' minds but have supernatural powers of imagination that enable them to make art come to life and enter paintings at will.

"My thoughts are much deeper than his," says Carole dryly, on the subject of brain power.

"But I can make money out of my thoughts," he counters.

"We didn't hang out with each other as kids because of the age difference. But since we started working on books together, sometimes I'm over three times a year," she explains.

"And she's here for a month at a time," he laments.

It's amazing that Barrowman has managed to fit projects involving his family into his busy work schedule. He's starred in a succession of West End musicals, been a talent show judge with Andrew Lloyd Webber, skated in Dancing On Ice and hosted his own Saturday night show, Tonight's The Night, on BBC One. He's devoted to his long-term partner Scott Gill, an architect who's been with him for 19 years (they became civil partners in 2006), and to his wider family.

In the novel, the twins' powers are sought by villains trying to access the terrors of Hollow Earth, a place where all the evil creatures ever imagined lie trapped for eternity.

It's awash with devils and demons, set against an atmospheric backdrop of an ancient abbey on a remote Scottish island, where much of the action takes place. …