The Sirens of Suspense

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An Anthony Award-nominated website on all things mystery.

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Christopher Edge is the author of TWELVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT and SHADOWS OF THE SILVER SCREEN. He grew up in Manchester where he spent most of his childhood in the local library dreaming up stories, but now lives in Gloucestershire where he spends most of his time in the local library dreaming up stories. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an English teacher, editor and publisher – any job that let him keep a book close to hand. When not writing, he also works as a freelance publisher and education consultant and has written publications about encouraging children to read.


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You have been an English teacher, and work as an education consultant to create programs encouraging children to read. Is the drop in young readers being overstated? What’s the best thing we can do to get young people interested in books?

When people talk about the problem of children not reading for pleasure any more, they sometimes seem to hark back to a mythical golden age where every child came home from school to curl up with a book or five before bedtime. However, reading has always been in competition with lots of different attractions - whether this is cinema, TV, videogames or the Internet.  What we need to do to is to celebrate the unique appeal of books and show how they can fire the imagination in ways that TV, films and videogames can only dream of. I think the role of libraries and librarians is an absolutely crucial one in helping young people find the right book that will turn them into lifelong readers.


We find a lot of classic Victorian mystery references in your books - Dartmoor, the Penny Dreadful, spirit photography, Bedlam…What about Victorian England made it the right time and place to tell your story? Was it a challenge to write these locales authentically through a teen’s eyes?

I love the late-Victorian period - it's a time where great advances in science were celebrated hand-in-hand with a stubborn belief in the supernatural, and so from a fictional viewpoint it made it the perfect time to set Penelope's adventures. Penelope's view of the society she lives in is shaped by her age and gender, and I hope this gives an authenticity to the settings she finds herself in - from the dank corridors of Bedlam to the hallowed halls of London's Natural History Museum - and helps modern-day readers to see these places afresh through Penny's eyes. 


I’ve read that you think Monty is the character most like you - yet, you felt it was important to make your protagonist, Penny, female. Why? 

I think every character I write is a reflection of me in some way and whilst Monty might reflect aspects of my more trepidatious nature, Penelope is a recreation of my younger self who was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. However in Conan Doyle's detective stories, female characters are only there to beseech Sherlock Holmes for his help - with the honorable exception of the formidable Irene Adler - and I wanted to create a heroine who was brave, quick-witted and able to take the lead in investigating the mysteries she encounters, as well as battling against the conventions of her age, where women and children were expected to be seen and not heard. 


Although Penny pays homage to some authors who wrote under male pen names, can you tell us a little about Daisy Ashford, who you discovered researching your second book?

Daisy Ashford was a Victorian author who wrote her first and only book, The Young Visiters, at the age of nine years old. When this was finally published in 1919 it was acclaimed as a comic masterpiece, with its foreword written by J.M. Barrie - who many wrongly suspected had written the novel himself. I even toyed with the idea of introducing Daisy Ashford as a character in one of the Penelope Tredwell Mysteries as a literary rival for Penelope, but couldn't quite get the chronology to work. It had great fun however including cameos from authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling and H.G. Haggard in Twelve Minutes to Midnight and the story even offers an explanation for the accuracy of many of H.G. Wells's fictional predictions.


What’s coming next for you?

The next Penelope Tredwell Mystery is Shadows of the Silver Screen which will be published in North America in autumn (sorry, Fall!) 2014, whilst the third and final book in the series, The Black Crow Conspiracy will follow in spring 2015. On the writing front, I'm currently working on a couple of new projects, but I'm afraid these are still shrouded in secrecy at the moment!  





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Book he wishes he could read again for the first time: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Writing ambience: On a train, at my desk, on the sofa or in the bath. 

Reading now: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

Cats or dogs? Duck-billed platypus

Period in history he'd most like to visit: Unsurprisingly, I'd like to visit literary London in the Victorian era - it would be great to drop in on H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle in their gentleman's club. 

Favorite online resource: Lee Jackson's marvellous website 'The Dictionary of Victorian London'. 

Most effective promotional tool: I don't know if it qualifies as a promotional tool, but Twitter is a great way of connecting with readers.

Favorite independent bookstore: Foyles in London - a temple to reading.

If he could have one superpower: Time travel - it would make writing historical fiction so much easier!  

If he could invite four people to a dinner party, who would it be: Richard Feynman, Russell T. Davies, Kate Bush and Alan Moore.