So, without futher ado (apart from me thanking Rob - THANK YOU!!!), I shall hand you over to the Q&A!
What inspired Wild Boy?
Wild Boy really began in the pages of Seventy Years a Showman - the memoir of a 19th century circus owner called Lord George Sanger. I loved Sanger’s descriptions of travelling fairs, and of the freaks shows. I imagined one of the performers – a boy covered in hair – watching the crowds and dreaming of being ‘normal’. I realised that he would learn to read their lives from tiny details about their faces and clothes...He would be a detective.
When writing Wild Boy, how much research did you have to do?
I got addicted to research - newspaper reports, and writings of journalists such as Charles Dickens or Henry Mayhew, who described their city in incredible detail. I lived in London, so walked around a lot and hung out in the story’s locations. I even acted out some of the scenes, to make sense of the events – but only when no one was watching.
What was the journey from coming up with the idea of Wild Boy to publication like for you?
It was one big effort to stay confident. I convinced myself that the book would get published – I had to or I’d never have finished the draft. Going into it thinking ‘Will anyone want to read this?’ is too negative. Instead I told myself that everyone wanted to. That helped me get it written, and settled my nerves as I waited to find out if any publishers really did like it.
What is your "typical" writing day?
I wish there was a typical writing day. I envy people with a set routine. I’d love my life to happen around writing, but really it’s the other way round. I just fit it in whenever I can – on the train to work (I have a long commute to my job as a children’s book editor), a early morning if I feel awake. But the story and characters are always there, in my mind, demanding attention.
Wild Boy has elements of murder mysteries novels (such as Poirot and Sherlock Holmes). Are you fan of crime/mystery stories as a whole or do you like elements within them?
I love some detective books – especially Sherlock Holmes stories, which are tight, clever and packed with great characters. But others, especially those from the 1920s and 30s, are all about the puzzle, and not the characters. The puzzle is important of course – the mystery that must be solved – but I wanted to write a story that began with a character, and then worked outwards.
Were you surprised by readers reactions to Wild Boy?
I am, always. I said I was confident it would get published, but that was just a way to silence my inner critic. When it actually did get published, and then people liked it and it won awards, I was gobsmacked and delighted and grateful. It charged me up again to write the next story.
Were they any characters that surprised you while writing the sequel, Wild Boy and the Black Terror?
Clarissa, Wild Boy’s foul-mouthed acrobat best friend, always surprises me. Black Terror turned out to be her story as much as Wild Boy’s. I didn’t realize at first how angry she was about the dark things that happened in the first book. That rage became a big part of the story.
I, personally, think Wild Boy would be great as a family drama on TV, radio or film. Do you think the story would translate well onto either of these medias or would you prefer the book to remain a book?
Thanks for saying that. There’s a Wild Boy film in the works, which is very exciting. I’ve read the screenplay, and love it. I think the production company – Warp Films – is getting a director attached at the moment. Fingers crossed…
[Edit: this BETTER happen!]
Ok, without spoiling us (OK, me. Without spoiling me!), what can you tell us about Wild Boy's second adventure, Wild Boy and the Black Terror?
Black Terror picks up Wild Boy and Clarissa’s story a few months after the first book, as they use their skills – freak show detective and circus acrobat – to solve a new case. Someone is poisoning members of London’s high society, a supposed demon that makes you see your darkest memories before you die. Wild Boy and Clarissa’s hunt for the killer forces them to confront their own dark pasts and their worst fears. Whereas the first story was set in London’s seamy underworld, Black Terror takes place among the city’s palaces and grand townhouses, where even darker things lurk.
One final question: are you planning any more adventures with Wild Boy?I don’t think that Wild Boy and Clarissa’s story is finished, so hopefully! My next book for Walker though will be an adventure tale, partly set in the 19th century and party today, and packed with adventure, tombs and giant snakes. I love giant snakes.