First, tell us a little bit about you.
Where did the idea for the world of KOTBD come from?
I grew up reading books about kids discovering magic, but, as someone who second-guesses everything, it always bugged me how they never second-guessed anything?
My aim with the world of the Knights was to write about real magic and real heroism, and how both come with a cost. Heroes aren’t born, or slotted into destiny by handy prophecies – they’re people who have every reason and chance to give up but, crucially and thankfully, don’t.
Also misery-drinking shapeshifters.
Why did you decide to set the novel in Ireland?
Because everything is set in London! Irish people are placed perfectly between childhoods steeped in eleven types of mysticism and being the least-easy-to-impress people in the universe. Irish kids are shrewd, sharp and also fiercely loyal when you get them on your side – in short, perfect protagonists.
The books are about an ongoing fight against darkness leaking into our world – is this a metaphor for how our real world is going? Or is it all just a story?
NOTHING IS EVER JUST A STORY. Ahem. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and KOTBD is very much informed by everything around me. This is particularly evident in The Forever Court, where the antagonists have the same gifts as my Knights but believe it to be a mark that they are chosen – (they have a giant woman made of wire in their basement and they think she’s God) – because what they know of the outside world is strictly controlled. It’s not an uncommon story anymore, unfortunately…
I think people assume kids and teenagers are a lot less politically aware than they actually are. They’re seeing the same news we are, and we can’t protect them from that – we can only prepare them.
Just in case you’ve read this far and you haven’t read the books, here’s a stunning trailer for the latest book, mentioned above, THE FOREVER COURT.
Your characters all feel very real, developed and authentic – they have both light and dark elements to them – do you base them on people you know, either partly or fully? Or not at all?
Oh thank you! I’ve stolen physical appearances, specific details (Denizen’s freckle on his lower lip is from my friend Aideen) names, favourite sayings… (all with permission obviously!) Many of the main characters’ personal journeys come from my own experiences, broken down and repurposed. Everything is up for grabs when you’re a writer, and the best way I can find to make my characters authentic is to pull them from authentic experience.
Writing inspirations? Why did you start? Who do you admire?
I started writing because books are the architecture of my personality – for better or worse, I think in stories. From plotting out conversations to organising memories, it’s just how my brain works. As soon as I started college and met other neophyte writers as I found out I was allowed be a writer all I wanted to do was contribute to that same network of narrative that got me through my lonely teenage years.
A quantum leap in that was discovering the work of Neil Gaiman – particularly his short story collections, where he details out where he got the idea for many of his stories. Previously, I had believed his work to simply alight from writer Gehanna on the back of a gilded seraphim, so to find out that he came up with them out of his brain made me realise that there was a chance I could maybe do the same.
I’ve been lucky enough to read, meet or hear tons of writers who’ve been kind enough to drop that guide-rope, generous with their time and advice to show other people how to not make the same mistakes they made… or, in all honesty, to still make the same mistakes, but to do so knowing that their heroes made the same mistakes too.
Desert Island books? (you only get 3 😂)
- The Goneaway World by Nick Harkaway
(my favourite novel – a beautiful existential pulp novel with ninjas, mimes and mechanically perfect twists)
- The Truth by Terry Pratchett
(this answer will change tomorrow. Esme Weatherwax was a massive inspiration for Vivian Hardwick. Pratchett’s prose is genius, properly genius, with a casual sparkle that still defies and inspires and breaks me. But The Truth pops in at No. 25 on a series full of incredible gems, doesn’t trade off previous characters, and delivers a heartbreaking, hilarious, still politically relevant tale.
‘He’d made it news.’
- The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
I say this for two reasons – firstly, because it’s the book I’m reading now and I’d rather chew off my arm than stop reading it and secondly, I would rather chew off my own arm than stop reading this book. It’s expertly put-together, with that knack of surprising inevitability where you realise what’s going to happen a half-second before it utterly devastates you.
Who is your favourite current author? And give us your best book of the last year?
I’m currently inhaling everything I can find by Jonathan Stroud – and my huge find of last year was finally starting Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga – a space-opera-family-love-story-violent-sexcapade. It’s brilliant and horrible and sprawling, while at the same time wound taut as a guitar string.
Where can we get your books?
The phrase ‘all good bookshops’ has always seemed a bit passive-aggressive to me, and also made me think of bad bookshops, pulling up on motorcycles with leather jackets so let’s just say ‘most bookshops’ and if they don’t have it you should ask!
Also, here’s Dave in a superb video all about being published. Unpublished writers reading this should definitely watch.