LAUGHS and screams filled the Wyvern Theatre yesterday as author Jonathan Stroud spoke to schoolchildren about the ghosts and ghouls that feature in his best-selling novels.

His talk was the headline event of the 10th Swindon Youth Festival Of Literature and it went down a treat with the boisterous young audience.

Hundreds of hands shot into the air whenever he asked them a question, they listened attentively to how his passion for writing began when he was an eight-year-old scribbler making books out of glued-together scraps of paper, and the talk ended with rapturous applause.

At one point, Jonathan asked for a volunteer to try on a ghost-hunting kit and brave 11-year-old Luca from St Joseph’s went on stage to wear the shades, coat and utility belt that the young trio of protagonists in the Lockwood And Co series use when they go out to search for a spook.

After touching on the success of his best-selling Bartimaeus books, Jonathan spent most of the hour exploring the world of Lockwood And Co and talking about the final novel in the quintet.

Before meeting a long queue of pupils eager to have their books signed, he had a quick chat with the Adver about ending the Lockwood series and what the future might hold.

He said: “Halfway through the series, I decided that I wanted to make a complete story arc through all the books that would wrap up in a satisfying way.

“Five’s a good number, Shakespeare’s plays have five acts, it’s a nice round number to end things on.

“I don’t know what I’m going to work on next, I have several files with different stories - fantasy, sci-fi, and one that isn’t for young adults - but it’s quite fun to not have to commit to one yet.

“I have an idea for a Bartimaeus sequel set several years after the main series ended but I’d have to be quite confident to take it on, I wouldn’t want to mess it up.

“I love Bartimaeus as a character and am keen to revisit him somehow.”

A creepy trailer for the Lockwood novels startled the students, who also enjoyed shouting out ideas for the least-scary setting for a ghost story (Sainsbury’s was a popular answer).

The event concluded with a quick Q&A from the audience.

One pupil asked if the author had any advice for wannabe writers.

Jonathan said: “Every writer has spent years practicing and messing about; I have boxes of different things I’ve tried and most of it’s not good.

“Just enjoy writing, have fun with it, find time to do it regularly and you will get better and better.”

Ridgeway School headteacher James Povoas, who introduced the author and welcomed pupils from schools all over Swindon to the event, praised the work of the teachers and librarians who organise the festival and have helped it grow over the past decade.