How did you bridge the gap between Master Benedict being a parent and a master?This came from my research. We have these wonderful letters preserved from Christopher’s time, written between masters and their former apprentices, in which we see a lifelong bond formed, very much like the bond between father and son. My original idea was that Christopher’s master wouldn’t really care about him, but I changed that completely when I read about these letters. And I think the book is much better for it!
What inspired the book’s puzzle theme?I’ve always loved puzzles: solving them, reading about them, watching them played out in movies and television. So when I had the original concept of an apothecary’s apprentice, I thought this would be the perfect story to include them, since their trade requires dealing with all kinds of secrets.
How long did it take you to plan this book?Around five weeks: three or so weeks of research (during which I started working on the story) and a couple more weeks to finish plotting it.
Would you make more books in this theme?I already have! I’m working on the sequel to The Blackthorn Key right now. It’s set during the Great Plague of London, during which Christopher and Tom find themselves embroiled in a new mystery. There’ll be more codes to decipher, more potions to make, and more traps to set—and avoid! Plus, we’ll see some old friends, and meet a new enemy. As for who those are, you’ll have to wait until next September!
What inspired your choice of 1665 as the era?Restoration London offered such a rich period for storytelling: the return of Charles II after the fall of the Commonwealth; the conflicts, plots, and conspiracies; the level of technology; the liveliness of the city; and so on. Basically, it was too good a time to pass up! As for the specific year, 1665 was chosen because the Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire in 1666 would make great backdrops for future stories.
Do you have a favourite part of your book?That’s a tough one. Avoiding spoilers, I think chapters 11, 22, and the final confrontation stand out. Plus the aftermath. See, I can’t decide.
How long did the book take?About 6-8 months of full-time writing, spread out over a couple of years.
I loved the cover, did you have much input picking it?I did. Puffin sketched out three different conceptual designs, and we discussed which I liked the best, which led to further discussions and the final cover. I agree with you—I love the cover, too!
Who do you envision reading your books when you write them?I don’t know that I have a specific reader in mind. I’m really hoping to entertain anyone who loves adventure, young and old alike.
Were you good at English in School?Yes…but I didn’t like it! I had no interest in writing when I was in school; if you’d have told me I’d grow up to be an author, I’d have thought you’d gone mad. A teacher tried to encourage me to study English in university, but I went into math and physics instead. It wasn’t until much later that a friend of mine got me interested in telling stories of my own. It’s a good reminder that even when you don’t like something, you should still work hard at it, since you never really know where you’ll end up!