Prior to the release of Philip Caveney’s new novel, Crow Boy
, we caught up with him and asked a few questions.
Here’s how that went…
How would you describe Crow Boy?
It’s an exciting time travel adventure that will take young readers from modern day Edinburgh to the brutal and sometimes challenging city of 1645 – and several points in between!
Can you share anything about the book, Crow Boy?
I was inspired to write it by a visit to Mary King’s Close, which is the closest a modern person can get to actually being in the 17th Century. The Close has a strange, eerie quality that is sure to get a visitor’s imagination working overtime.
At a time when all Young Adult books seem to be going to vampires, werewolves and magic, you have gone a completely different direction. What made you do something completely different?
As an author, I’m always on the lookout for something fresh and original and I believe Crow Boy offers the reader exactly that.
Single book or first in a series like your previous titles?
I would never rule out the possibility of further adventures for Tom – and Edinburgh offers a wealth of history that seems ripe for exploration.
What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was thirteen years old, I read a book by Ray Bradbury, called Something Wicked This Way Comes. The book blew me right out of my socks – and by the time I got to the end of it, I was convinced that I wanted to be a storyteller. It only took me ten years of trying to get my first book published!
Why did you make the change from adult to children’s writing in 2007?
Absolutely true story. My daughter, Grace, who was around 11 years old and a keen reader, asked if she could read one of my adult thrillers. It was totally unsuitable for a young reader, so I promised I would write a story ‘just for her.’ Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools was the result. The book went on to become a series and was sold to over 20 countries around the world. So I owe it all to my daughter!
What was the inspiration behind Crow Boy?
That visit to Mary King’s Close. I thought to myself, ‘what would happen if a boy on an ordinary school visit to this place, suddenly found himself back in 1645 – the year of the plague?’ Then my imagination took over.
How did you do your research for the novel? Have you been to Mary King’s Close? What did you think of it?
The team at Mary King’s Close were incredibly helpful. When I told them that I was planning to set a book there, they organized a special trip for me. I had time to ask them hundreds of questions. I think the Close is a very special place. The atmosphere just pours out of the stone and it’s almost like stepping into a time machine. If you haven’t visited it yet, then do so at your earliest opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.
Have you been to Edinburgh? What’s your favourite place in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is an amazingly vibrant city. I particularly love it during the festival. I’ve been here for the past three years, sometimes appearing as an author, sometimes just as a punter. I visit with my partner, Susan and my daughter, Grace and we immerse ourselves in back-to-back theatre and comedy. Apart from Mary King’s Close, my favourite spot is up on Arthur’s Seat, where you can see the whole city spread out below you.
Did you have any school trips as interesting as Tom’s from the book?
I went to a boarding school in East Anglia. It made Tom Brown’s schooldays look liberal. The one trip I can remember was a visit to London to watch a Shakespeare play. I’m afraid it didn’t compare with the delights of Edinburgh!
What’s it like to have such a series so successful like Sebastian Darke?
The best thing is that I receive emails from readers all around the world. I’m glad to say that most of the comments are favourable!
How do you start writing a book? (Creative process/thought process)
I start with the characters. They are easily the most important part of any work of fiction. I put them in a landscape where they seem to belong, I give them some problems to solve… and pretty soon, they’re telling me what’s going to happen. The planning stage is always the most exciting part of writing a book. It’s like a game of ‘what if?’ Hammering it out on the computer can be a bit of a slog, but there’s always that exciting moment, two thirds of the way in, when you can quite suddenly see right to the end of it and you know how it’s going to end.
The fantasy genre – did you choose it or it choose you?
Good question. I’ve always liked fantasy; it’s such a diverse genre. My stories are always rooted in reality. No matter how fantastic the world you create, it has to feel ‘lived-in.’ The reader must feel that what they are reading could actually happen, even when you’re describing a talking buffalope!
What books are you reading at the moment?
I tend to alternate between books for adults and books for young adults. I always have a book on the go. It seems to me to be completely arrogant to be a writer and not read. I’m currently halfway through The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I’ve also just finished The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle, which was stunning and absolutely heartbreaking.
Kindle or paperback?
Both. People get themselves into a rare old tizzy over ebooks, but the point is that it’s just a different system of delivery – the words are EXACTLY THE SAME. I must confess that I read nearly everything on kindle these days, simply because we’ve no more room in our apartment for paper books.
Any suggestions for budding young authors out there?
Ask yourself, is this something I want to do, more than anything else? If the answer is yes, then write. Then re-write and re-write again. Every time you do this, your work will get better. Make sure you show what’s happening, rather than telling the reader about it. And don’t give up. You only have one chance in life to do the thing you want to do and you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t give it your best shot.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a movie fan. I’m rarely out of the cinema and when I am, I’m watching what I missed on the big screen on DVD. I also play a lot of tennis (rather badly, it must be said) and I cycle when the weather permits, because one thing about writing is, you spend a lot of time sitting down, staring at a computer screen.
Anything new being worked on at the moment?
I am currently putting the finishing touches to a supernatural tale called The Piper. It’s probably the scariest book I have ever written (and that includes all the adult books I’ve published!) If you fancy some sleepless nights, this is going to be right up your street!
How can our readers get an update on you and your upcoming books?
I have a website which is updated regularly with all the latest news. You’ll find it at philip-caveney.co.uk