We are very happy to welcome Rosie and her blog tour for The Illusionists which has just been released by HarperCollins. We chat to Rosie about her book, her fantasy dinner party guests and where in history she would like to go…
Can you tell us about The Illusionists and how did the idea originate?
In one sense The Illusionists is about imagination and reality, and I have taken stage magic as a means of illustrating how we don’t always know the difference between the two. Devil Wix, my anti-hero hero, is struck as a young boy by the gift of ‘wonder’ in a harsh world, and he sets out to create wonderment through magic and illusion. The setting is Victorian London, starting in the 1870s, so it’s quite creepy and gothic in places. It’s also a love story between Devil and Eliza Dunlop, who is a modern woman looking for more from her life than marriage and motherhood. There’s also a cast of strange characters including a dwarf, an engineer of automata, and a woman made of cogs and springs. Their theatre of magic and illusion, the Palmyra, is a character too. The idea for the story came to me when I was researching a classic ‘box trick’ for a scene in The Kashmir Shawl.
Which authors do you admire and is there a book that’s stuck with you?
I like Anthony Trollope. There’s so much sly wit and energy in his books, but he is full of human sympathy too and he doesn’t caricature the way Dickens does. I’ve always loved Georgette Heyer – such lightness and sparkle. Sarah Waters is one of my modern favourites. The Little Stranger was so scary and atmospheric, I can taste it right now. I can’t wait for her new one.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Intimacy. We can’t exist without it, we don’t value it enough.
Do you have any writing rituals? Do you plan and edit as you go?
I plan to a certain extent, but only as far as half way into the book. If I try to go any further I feel I’m not going to surprise myself enough in the actual writing, and therefore might get bored. A state of constant anxiety about how to go forward seems to be what I need, although it’s very uncomfortable. I don’t have any real rituals, except to exercise hard before I start work so at least I’ve got that over and done with.
Who would you invite to a fantasy dinner party?
Where in history would you like to visit if you could?
I love mountaineering, although I’m getting a bit past it now. So I would go back to the Alps in the 1860s, the golden age of mountaineering when all the big peaks were being climbed for the first time. But I’d have to come back as an upper-class Englishman, so maybe that wouldn’t be ideal.
The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas is published by Harper Collins £16.99 hardback
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.