5 QUESTIONS

WITH ALAN BRADLEY

Our bookseller Sandra got the chance to ask one of her favorite authors five questions. Of course she couldn't stop at just five...
To find out more about Alan Bradley and to see a list of his books, click here.  

1. First of all, I want to thank you for sharing Flavia with all of us, she is a remarkable character! I understand that she made herself known to you as you were working on a separate project. How much time did you spend getting to know Flavia before her story was put to paper?


Flavia came pouring out of the pen like water from a faucet. Like the book’s ultimate readers, I only got to know her as she revealed herself on the page. It was as if she’d been waiting patiently for seventy years for someone to pick up a pen. It sounds facile, but that’s the way it happened.
Alan Bradley quote
 

2. You definitely have a gift for bringing a setting to life. Reading the Flavia series feels like taking a trip back in time. If you had an opportunity to "visit" another time and place, what would you choose?


Victorian London. I’d give almost anything to be standing in the smoky mist of Ludgate Hill, below St. Paul’s Cathedral, amid the hubbub of the Hansom cabs and the wooden rumble of the knife-board buses with their Fry’s Cocoa and Oxo adverts, and Sherlock perhaps just round the corner.
 

3. I love the fact that Flavia uses chemistry to solve crimes! She is appealing because she looks at things a little differently than the rest of us, and is smart, but a bit "cheeky" at the same time. How would she react to society today?


Flavia, like all good people, is just a bit prudish. I think she’d be appalled by much of what we nowadays are forced to take for granted.
 

4. I get the sense that you have a great respect for women. Your wife, Shirley, must offer an abundant supply of support. What other female figures have inspired you?


My mother and my grandmother. They, along with my wife, showed me that the Eternal Female is neither vapid nor worthless, but rather a highly-functioning brain in a rather lovely disguise.
Alan Bradley quote
 

5. We seem to be drawn to dysfunction, from the distant father and devious sisters to the shell-shocked butler-cum-chauffeur-cum-valet-cum-estate manager. Besides your delightful heroine, of course, who is your favorite character?


Your question has made me realize that most (but not all) of my favourites are anything but “dysfunctional”. I admire hugely Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, George Macdonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman, and any of the thousand-and-one characters in Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. T.H. White’s Merlin is sublime. But of them all, Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge is a creation fit to sit with the gods. Oh, and of course, Robert Graves’s White Goddess, who never appears in person but reveals herself only through the words of others.
Alan Bradley quote
 

6. You are lucky to have found a profession that brings you such joy. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?


I have nothing to add to the commonly given advice “(1) apply backside to chair, then (2) activate brain and fingers”. If there’s a trick to the profession, this is it.
 

7. Although you most likely have little to no spare time for reading, what is the last book that you read and give us a brief critique?


I’ve recently moved house, and relaxed at the end of each exhausting day by reading, for the first time, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. I was quite stunned to find it a postmodern masterpiece. Although, like most postmodern masterpieces, it sags in places (the chapters spent on the continent, for example) it was a generally a gripping read, and I plan to ferret out more Thackeray - but not until I complete the next Flavia book, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, which will be published next April.
 
 
To find out more about Alan Bradley and to see a list of his books, click here.
Friday, November 27, 2015 - 11:15am