Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Revenant Express by George Mann, hosted by Titan Books. Please enjoy my Q&A and make sure to visit all the other stops on this tour for plenty more information and insights. Thank you Sarah for including me on the tour.
12.02.19 / Titan Books /Crime-Steampunk / Paperback / 288pp / 978-1781160060
About George Mann
George Mann is the author of the Newbury and Hobbes and The Ghost series of novels, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and audiobooks. He has written fiction and audio scripts for the BBC’s Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. He is also a respected anthologist and has edited The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy. He lives near Grantham, UK.
About The Revenant Express
Q&A with George Mann
Thank you George for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest instalment of the Newbury & Hobbes series, The Revenant Express. Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary! Could you give us your own personal overview of what readers should expect in within the book?
Hopefully people are in for a fun, exciting read. This is the fifth book in the main novel series, and things are starting to come to a head between Newbury and Veronica, as well as between them and the Queen. We’re building up to something, and I think the threads of that are starting to be felt here. We follow two threads throughout the book, separated by a few months – an investigation by Veronica and Chief Inspector Charles Bainbridge into a series of grotesque corpses, from before Veronica was injured at the end of the previous book, and a train journey across Europe for Newbury and Veronica’s sister, Amelia, as they try to get to Faberge to collect a clockwork heart that could save Veronica’s life. Things don’t go quite as planned, for any of them!
For those who are new to your series, including myself, could you give some insights into what has happened over the course of the series?
The series follows agents for the Crown, Sir Maurice Newbury, Miss Veronica Hobbes and Sir Charles Bainbridge, as they investigate everything from crashed airships, deadly automata, strange cults, occult terrors and rogue agents. Each book is a self contained ‘case’, but there are character arcs developing through the novels that, as I mentioned above, are now starting to come to a head. Things are not well in Buckingham Palace, at the heart of the Empire, and Newbury and Veronica have begun to question whether they’re actually still working for the good guys…
I am a huge fan of both your Steampunk and Mystery writing, What was the inspiration for Sir Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes and their stories?
When I first created Newbury and Veronica, I was at a low point in a project, trying to write a big, epic space opera that never really got going. A friend suggested I write something fun, just for me, to remind myself why I love to write, and so I did – drawing on inspiration from all the things I love, such as Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Steed & Peel from The Avengers, Hammer Horror and folklore. I’d never really intended to write steampunk, per se – more that I have a great fondness for fantasies set in the Victorian era, and the way the Victorians embraced the supernatural and occult, and that’s where this all started, really. Telling the sorts of stories that I love to experience myself.
How does it feel to have a series that has reached its 10th Anniversary?
It’s amazing. I feel very, very lucky, and honoured that people are still reading. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be working on the sixth novel, have a short story collection out, a comic book series, multiple soundtrack albums and a board game in the works, I’d have laughed you out of the house. There’s so much I still want to do with Newbury and Veronica, though, and there’s definitely more to come!
What was the most challenging part of writing a fifth instalment of a series?
A couple of things, really. You want to keep it interesting for your readers, so it needs to feel fresh and exciting, and not just another retread of what they’ve already seen from the series. That can be challenging when you’ve written so many stories for the characters already – not to mention all the other books and series set in the same universe, where Newbury and Veronica make occasional cameos. The second thing is just keeping track of the continuity you’ve established. After so long, and so much material, it’s hard to hold it all in your head, and if you’re not careful you can go down a rabbit hole trying to search out descriptions of minor characters or places from the earlier books. Thankfully my wife has annotated copies of some of them for me, so I have a bit of reference I can look back on!
What is it about the Steampunk genre, and its themes, that really appeals to yourself as a writer?
I think for me the attraction is that it allows you to create a fantasy out of the past, evoking a time that’s not too long out of living memory, but seems distant enough to be alien, too. That allows you, as a writer, to explore the themes prevalent in the modern world through a different lens, and also to explore the echoes and errors of the past, too. Plus, it’s fun!
How long did it take you to write The Revenant Express compared to the other instalments?
It took me a while, as I found after book four that I needed a breather between books, a chance to refresh my palate and write some other stories, about other characters, before coming back to Newbury and Veronica with renewed enthusiasm for continuing their tale.
Is there a part of the book that you are particularly proud of? And do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
I’m particularly fond, looking back, on the thread featuring Veronica and Bainbridge. That was a story that didn’t even exist when I first sat down to write, and it was only upon realising that I needed Veronica to have more of a presence in the book that it started to come together. I like how weird it gets, as I started to allow the mad fantasy elements out of the box a bit.
In terms of quotes, this exchange between Bainbridge and Veronica makes me laugh:
“So you found the place all right, then?”
“Evidently,” said Veronica, amused.
“It’s a house of ill-repute,” said Bainbridge, as if expecting Veronica to be at a complete loss. “A lushery.” He was quite red in the face, as if the very notion of explaining this to a woman represented a terrible contravention in the natural order of things.
“I gathered,” said Veronica.
“You did?” Bainbridge looked almost affronted. Veronica caught Foulkes’s eye. He was grinning.
“Quite so, Sir Charles. It’s not the first brothel I’ve visited in the course of my duties, and I dare say it won’t be the last.”
Bainbridge opened his mouth to speak, but no words were forthcoming.
Did you always have your eye set on being a writer/author? And what sort of books did you grow up reading?
I always wrote stories, but it wasn’t until the age of 18 that I dared to think that I might be able to have a go at doing it professionally. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction stories, along with a smattering of crime and classics – Wells, Verne, Conan Doyle, Dickens, Mary Shelley. The books that are lodged very clearly in my mind are things like The Hobbit, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Chronicles of Narnia, Stig of the Dump, along with lots of Roald Dahl. I think as a child I always had a leaning towards the fantastical side of things.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Aside from being a voracious reader, I’m a gamer, too – particularly board games and card games. I play them with a group of friends, as well as my 15 year-old son. I also like to get away from it all on a Sunday afternoon, taking the dog for a long ramble in the countryside. That’s when I truly relax – when I’m out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woodland and muddy fields.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
I’m halfway through Steven Erikson’s remarkable Malazan Book of the Fallen series at the moment, having just come to the end of book five (of ten). It’s probably, at this point, the best fantasy sequence I’ve ever read. It’s really that good. I implore you all to go and read it!
Thank you George Mann and Titan Books for the opportunity to share some excellent insights into The Revenant Express and The Newberry & Hobbes series. George is definitely playing a huge part in the recent successes of the Steampunk genre and it all started with this series. Newberry and Hobbes are celebrating a huge milestone with their 10th anniversary and George still has plenty planned for this series so make sure you join me in getting involved with this ground-breaking collection of novels. Thank you for your continued support of my blog and the books I feature.