What!? Two Author Interviews in the space of a week! Why, yes actually. Aren’t you lucky! It gives me great pleasure to introduce Jack Croxall, author of Victorian YA debut Tethers. Tethers is the first book in a trilogy and introduces us to Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson; two teenagers who get more than they bargained for when they sneak inside a man’s house to steal a glimpse of a strange looking box. Here’s the blurb:
In the wake of a cold Victorian winter, Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson discover an anonymous journal filled with strange passages and bizarre scribblings.
The journal soon draws them into a covert and sinister conspiracy, a conspiracy centred around an otherworldly artefact with the power to change everything …
Karl and Esther have spent almost every day of their thirteen years in the quiet market town of Shraye. Stifled by their rural surroundings and frustrated by their unfulfilled ambitions, they find the allure of the journal’s mysterious pages impossible to ignore. The book seems to be beckoning them away from Shraye, away from their homes and towards the coast where an unsolved disappearance has set in motion a dark chain of events.
The voyage the teenagers soon find themselves undertaking is one of desperate importance and true peril; it will change the way they see the world, and each other, forever.
Curious and mysterious I’m sure you’ll agree! Jack, like myself, enjoys YA fiction and I’m currently a quarter of the way through Tethers myself and believe you me, this is one addictive book. It’s very sharply written and you can see his influences shining through his own unique voice. But more on that when I come to review it … let’s get on with the interview shall we?
Tethers tells the story of two teenagers who stumble upon a journal, which leads them into a conspiracy cantered around an otherworldly artefact. Do tell us more.
That’s a brilliant summary but to expand upon it a little: the two teenagers in question are Victorians, Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson. Karl and Esther are frustrated by their quiet lives and unfulfilled ambitions and so they find the allure of the mysterious journal impossible to resist, especially considering the final entry cites them both by name …
What is it about the Victorian era you found so appealing? Did you have to do much research?
Yes, I had to do a lot of research but you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Dan, I find the Victorian era hugely appealing so it never felt like a chore! I think I’m attracted to the period because it was a time of great change; the Industrial Revolution had transformed daily life, but there was still a great contrast between city living and rural life. On top of that it was the time of the great Victorian polymaths – incredibly intelligent individuals who possessed great expertise in a number of areas. I suppose my thinking was that this dynamic era was a great setting for a novel, particularly one which explores life outside of London; a setting that has already been well explored in Victorian fiction.
I have always been fond of YA fiction – I find the genre can appeal to both younger and older readers. When the idea of Tethers sparked, did you have YA in mind, or did it develop into that genre?
Tethers was always going to be YA because, ever since I was a teenager, I have been hooked by the genre. I think this is because some of the trials and tribulations that teenagers go through are universal, hence I can still relate to them well into my twenties!
The protagonists within Tethers are Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson; what is it about this male and female dynamic that you think works so well?
I love Karl and Esther’s relationship! I had immense fun writing their dialogue because they’re not afraid to tell each other what they think, and together they make better decisions (if still slightly rash) than they do alone. Esther is very good at coming out with a quick quip, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing her insults and teases because it gave me a chance to play with some of the gorgeous Victorian language I had discovered during my research.
At the beginning of the novel, we find ourselves in the quiet market town of Shraye. Did being based in rural Nottinghamshire help influence your little town and if it did, how so?
Yes certainly, that sense of community, that phenomenon of everyone knowing everyone else’s business; it’s all a reference to what I have observed in real rural life. As Karl and Esther discover, it can have its pros and cons!
What do you think are the strongest themes in the book?
For me, the most important theme is the nature of predestination or fate if you will. I don’t want to give too much away, but the title of the book is a direct reference to this.
Who are your literary heroes?
Gosh, too many to name without boring your readers, Dan! But keeping it limited to a select few: Philip Pullman for inspiring me to become a writer, William Nicholson for showing me that a novel can talk directly to you, JK Rowling for getting an entire generation to read and Richard Adams for showing me how to combine intimacy, peril and natural beauty.
If you could pick any character from literature, who would you most like to be for a day?
What a great question! I would have to say, the Gruffalo – he’s big, he’s strong and he can talk to all the animals!
A little birdie tells me you have a degree in Environmental Science. Have you used anything from your degree in the novel, or did you try and stay away from it?
I expect it would be impossible to keep such a huge part of my life out of my work, and I think my love of the natural world infiltrates Tethers in the form of my descriptions of scenery and wildlife. Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire have some wonderful natural habitats; from ancient woodland to breath-taking coastlines and I tried to describe the ones Karl and Esther travel through as best as I could – I just hope I’ve done them justice.
With Tethers now available, what is next for you, Jack?
I’m not entirely sure as that very much depends on the success of the book. I am currently working hard on the second instalment of the trilogy though.
Now a tricky one 🙂 If you could describe Tethers in just five words, what would they be?
Ah! That’s tough, but here’s my attempt: A fast-paced teenage adventure story (using a hyphen isn’t cheating, right?)
Oh, I think we’ll let you off, Jack. Remember how I predicted that Candace Knoebel’s Born in Flames was destined for big things … and recently she won the Turning Pages Book award? Well trust me. Tethers is shaping up to be something special indeed – check out the hype whilst it’s still hot off the press.
Born in High Wycombe, Jack Croxall now lives in rural Nottinghamshire with his chocolate Labrador, Archie. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nottingham and currently toils away as a science writer in between working on his books. He tweets via @JackCroxall and blogs at www.jackcroxall.co.uk
Here’s Jack in the flesh with his short interview:
Tethers is now available on Amazon in the UK and the US/AUS. Why not like the Tethers Facebook page to get more insights into the trilogy and drop Jack a message or two – he’s a friendly guy, he won’t bite. As i’ve already mentioned, Jack is also a Science writer, working on a site called Unpopular Science – check it out!
Tethers on Goodreads: