Alan Bradley: enjoying the sweetness
Excerpts from the interview by Louise Penny in the October/November 2009 issue of Mystery News
On June 6th, 2007 Alan Bradley, a man I'd never met, sent me this message
"My proposed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was today announced as a shortlisted title on the CWA Debut Dagger Awards.
"I'm off to London for the awards ceremony in July. What an adventure!"
And so began our correspondence, and something far more important and exciting. If he only knew what was about to happen! Adventure indeed...
A few weeks ago I had the delight of chatting with him about this "adventure" of his. I'm actually loathe to include the first part of our conversation and quite agonized over it since this is about Alan, not me. But finally I figured it is part of his story the part that speaks to chance and fate and recognizing when a door opens. And taking that leap Here's what Alan had to say
"Although skeptics might suspect that it's too perfect a tale, I can't let the opportunity pass without acknowledging the fact that, in many ways, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie began with you.
"It was like this: my wife, Shirley, is a quilter, and she loves quilting, for the most part, in silence. The room where she works is directly across the hall from the room where I write, so the two of us work both together, and apart.
"But suddenly there was a particular quilt whose creation seemed to be in need of an audio accompaniment, and Shirley, having fetched out an old Grundig radio, switched it on just in time to hear you being interviewed by Shelagh Rogers, on CBC Radio. When the program finished, she came into the room where I was plugging away at another book, handed me a scrap of paper, upon which she had jotted down the details, and said, 'You have to look at Louise Penny's website. It has all the details of how to enter the Dagger Awards.'
"Dagger Awards? I didn't even know what they were.
"Shirley knew, of course, that I had shelved the beginning-really no more than fourteen pages or so-of a book about an eleven-year-old amateur sleuth and professional poison enthusiast in 1950's England, and realized that this was the perfect opportunity to have it read. She was right, of course!
"Well, to cut to the chase, I followed precisely the advice on your website, submitted my pitifully few pages, won the Debut Dagger-then had to come home and write the rest of the book!
"I know it sounds like a fairy tale, but if it is, then you're the Fairy Godmother. For which I am profoundly grateful!"
After thanking him for being so gracious, a hallmark of this lovely man, we began our chat
How did the wonderful Flavia come to be created?
"I've read somewhere that a writer should never let his or her characters take control, but that's not my experience. Flavia walked into another novel I was writing, sat down on a camp stool, and refused to be budged. I had no idea who she was or where she came from. She was just a girl who materialized sitting in the driveway of a crumbling English country house. I couldn't seem to get past her, or to get on with the story. It took a long time for me to realize that she was the story. When I started listening to her, it all came tumbling out..."
"Book three of the Flavia series. It's tentatively called A Red Herring Without Mustard, and has to do with the Gypsies who once traveled in horse-drawn caravans throughout the villages of England. After that? Books four, five and six. In a way, it's comforting to know what you're going to be doing in 2013..."
Read the complete interview in the October/November 2009 issue of Mystery News