Your first book, City of Halves, is aimed at teenagers. What made you decide to write a book for a younger audience?
I’m not sure I made the decision to write for teenagers, the story just told itself that way. But, I do naturally seem to write YA, probably because I made so many amazing book discoveries when I was a teenager, and still love those stories now.
Is Lily or Regan based on anyone you know or are they completely made up?
Lily is based on a real girl I saw in the City once, although I never met her or spoke to her, just watched her for a few minutes. Regan, sadly, is completely made up.
Now that City of Halves is just released, is there anything, looking back, that you would change?
I try not to think that way, or I’d never finish anything! Giving up your manuscript for the final time, and signing off on proofs is the hardest thing for a writer to do. Because then it’s gone and you no longer have any control.
How long did it take you to write City of Halves and is there any advice you could give to someone struggling to keep writing?
Ages and ages! About six years from the ideas to now. Never, ever give up is my only real advice. And the first novel is the hardest because you’re learning your craft, and what works for you.
Your background in London history must have been a great help in writing a book like this. What parts of the book do you feel were particularly influenced by your prior knowledge?
The Clerks, Lucas and Elijah, I think are particularly ‘London’ characters, and I deliberately tried to make them eighteenth century people. I also tried to bring in lots of places in London that have a real sense of history, like the Temple, Bank, and of course, the Rookery.
Do you plan on writing a sequel, carrying in on as a series, or starting a something completely new?
Lily and Regan have more adventures to write about, but my next book is a standalone set between Montana in 1867 and now, which is out next year with Chicken House.
Apart from history and writing, what else interests you?
Food and cars, especially cult American muscle cars.
Have any authors really inspired you to get writing?
Donna Tartt is a constant inspiration, along with the crushing knowledge that I will never write anything as good as she probably tears up and bins every day.
Are you currently reading any books and if so, how are you finding it/them?
I’m reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle and absolutely loving it.
Who is your favourite fictional character and why?
Oooh, tricky. I think I need more than one. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights because he’s so unrepentantly vile. Theo Decker from The Goldfinch because he thinks exactly the same things as I do at parties (like let me out of here!) and Amber, from Forever Amber, because no matter how silly her actions, she is full of love and courage.
If you could live in the world of any book, which one would it be and why?
All good books make you want to live in their world but when I was a teenager I really wanted to live in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall, because frankly, who doesn’t want to be a girl-knight instead of a boring princess, and hang out with a prince, and a prince of thieves.
When you were younger, did you read any books like City of Halves and if so, what?
I read a lot of folklore when I was younger, which definitely influenced City of Halves, but I wanted to bring folklore into modern times.
How did you feel when you finished City of Halves?
It’s always a big moment to ‘finish’ a book, and I generally feel very emotional. It’s weird to think I won’t be spending all my time with Lily and Regan any more!
If you could sum the book up in one word, what would it be?