How would you describe The Feathered Man to a potential reader?
It’s an adventure, a dark, frightening adventure. I wanted to take the science and thought of the early nineteenth century - that Gothic world of Mary Shelley in which the boundaries of medicine and anatomy were being pushed forward - and mix it up with murder, and curse and the belief in an after life from an earlier, more distant time. It’s about a search for that unanswerable question - where does life go when we have breathed our last? Maybe it’s an answer it’s better not to know.
What sparked the ideas for this new book?
A present to my daughter Alice. A friend of ours gave her a life-sized wire and feather sculpture of a kneeling man. Alice hung it on her bedroom wall. I would go in to her room to say ‘goodnight’ and see its shape in the dark. I’d sit there on the edge of her bed and think to myself ‘there’s a story there.’
If you were to 'sell' The Feathered Man using a single quote or line from the book, what would you choose?
The warning given to Markus by Professor Karolus - ‘Curiosity is a killing thing.’
The Feathered Man is set in a German town in a long ago era. Did you need to carry out any research to help you write the book, and if so, what did you research?
I needed to have a grasp on the science and philosophy of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and of the beliefs and ritual of the Aztecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The town itself is made up - I dipped into every mental picture I had of a northern German town and fitted them together, though the twin-spired church is based on the Marienkirche in Lubec. It was on a postcard that someone once sent to me.
I liked writing Frau Drecht. She is simply so horrible. Cruel people are bad enough, but scheming cruel people are even worse - they are an absolute gift to a writer.
The Feathered Man touches on some thought-provoking issues such as life after death. Has writing this book taken you on any emotional/philosophical journeys.
It made me think about the conflict between religious belief and science, and the conflict between different religious beliefs themselves. And I had to think about an after life. I ended up asking myself what if there was one, but what if it was more broken and disfunctional than life itself?
When you were writing The Feathered Man what were the positive or challenging elements?
I found the difficult part was combining the real world and an after life - finding a way of running them together as one. The positive part? Actually making it to the end of the book.
Who would you say inspires you and your writing (people you know, authors etc).
I find I’m more inspired by object and image than by people or by other authors. I find it really difficult to read any fiction while I’m trying to write it myself. But it’s not the case that I see an object and think ‘I could make up a story about that,’ it’s more that it sets in motion a train of thought that leads to other things. Old photographs do that for me too. I love old photgraphs - they are a gold mine for imagination.
How has writing your second book differed from writing your first? Has it been easier, with the experience behind you, or more challenging?
It was far more challenging. When I wrote my first - The Toymaker - it was as a weekly instalment to tell to children at a local junior school. The only pressure was to make sure there was another instalment ready to tell them come Thursday. It was a different thing altogether knowing that I was writing a book that a publisher was waiting for. I think it’s an almost universal fear among second time novelists that the first was a complete fluke and that you are about to be found out in a big way when you try to write a second.
What can we expect next from Jeremy de Quidt?
I don’t know yet. I still haven’t quite put down THE FEATHERED MAN - I need to get a little more distance between him and me, and by then one of the ideas that is quietly working away in my head will have pushed it’s way to the front. I’ve got an opening scene I’d like to use though, and in it there is snow on the ground, and the breath of the man makes a small cloud as he walks towards the door of the carriage.
Thank you so much Jeremy for taking time to talk about The Feathered Man. If you would like to find out more about Jeremy de Quidt or his latest book you can find it here:
Jeremy's Blog on the David Fickling Books website
The Feathered Man was released on 1st November 2012 by Random House. You can read my review of it here or you can head on over to Amazon to grab yourself a copy.