Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Q&A with Gareth Brown




Gareth Brown is the author of the new novel The Book of Doors. He lives in Scotland.


Q: What inspired you to write The Book of Doors, and how did you create your character Cassie?


A: The Book of Doors really came about during the Covid pandemic. My wife and I love to travel and we have been lucky enough to visit a lot of amazing places around the world.


Just at the start of the pandemic I really had a hankering for a trip to New York City - a place I love - but of course, due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, it wasn’t possible for us to travel anywhere for a number of years. If I couldn’t travel there for real I thought the next best thing was to write about the city.


Separately, I’d had the idea for the “Book of Doors” device for many years, but I’d always imagined it as a magical item in a fantasy setting.  


It was only during this pandemic period, and with this desire to travel, that it occurred to me that this device could work in a contemporary, real world setting. The idea of being able to open my door and go anywhere instantaneously seemed very compelling to me.


Cassie herself appeared almost fully formed in my mind. The main character had to be someone who loves books - someone introverted and comfortable by herself, but also independent and who knows her own mind.


I also knew that I wanted her to have lost her family and to be, essentially, alone in the world. That gave her a vulnerability, but also made her strong.


The character in the book changed very little in the course of writing, but what I did enjoy was fleshing out some of her backstory, her history with her grandfather, and with her best friend Izzy. Those little everyday moments Cassie shared with the important people in her life were lovely to discover.  


Q: The writer Sunyi Dean called the book a “brilliant page-turner - a clever and beautiful novel about the power of books, and a tribute to those who champion them.” What do you think of that description?


A: It’s lovely! Anyone saying something nice about something you’ve written is a real treat, but coming from someone as talented as Sunyi it’s a real “pinch me” moment!  


I love that she described it as a “page-turner” - I wanted to make The Book of Doors compelling as I read and love a lot of page-turners and thrillers and I’ve always wanted to write that sort of book.

I’ll leave it to others to decide if they think the book is clever and beautiful, but it certainly is about the power of books - both literally and figuratively. Sunyi is absolutely spot on about that! 


Q:  Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: When I started writing I only had the very first scene in my mind, as well as an important scene later in the book. I also had an idea for some of the magical books I wanted to include.


Other than that, I had nothing, and I made the story up as I went along, sometimes having to go back and rewrite when I worked out what I wanted to do.


For example, for a long time I didn’t really have a clear idea who the villain was and why they were the villain, and I also had a completely different motivation for the character of Drummond Fox until very late in the drafting.


This is normal for me - I don’t really plan books. I like to discover them and work it out as I write; that is the joy of it for me. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Honestly, I want no more than for readers to be entertained and to be taken away from their troubles for a while. That is what books are for me, an escape, an adventure.  


That said, if there is a message in the novel, it is probably about the importance of kindness and friendship. There are some very dark moments in the book, but I think they only work because they are balanced by the lightness that comes from the friendship and the kindness between the protagonists.  


(Some readers might also observe another message in the book, about the importance of good food, particularly cakes!)


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have just finished a draft of what I hope will be my second published novel - it has gone to my agent and will shortly go to my editors in the UK and the US. I can’t say too much about it but hopefully it will be published sometime in 2025.  


It is not a sequel to The Book of Doors but is similarly about magic in our contemporary world. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I live in Scotland, but The Book of Doors is primarily set in the United States and many of the locations are inspired by trips my wife and I have made over the years.


We love visiting the US, there is so much to see and everyone we’ve met has always been incredibly friendly and welcoming. Our most recent trip was just before the pandemic in 2019, when we visited friends and relatives in various parts of the country.


During that holiday we had a few days in New York City and then flew across to Seattle. We drove down the Pacific Coast (we loved Oregon in particular) and had a few days in Las Vegas. These locations are featured in the book, to a greater or lesser extent, as well as New Orleans, which I visited during a trip for work in 2012.


We’re returning to the US for a week’s holiday in early 2024, our first visit since the pandemic, and we can’t wait! I am planning to spend a lot of time in bookstores in New York City, just like Cassie! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment