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Disappearing children, ghosts and villains

27th Apr 20

THE VANISHING TRICK is a Victorian-era adventure that follows a group of enterprising children who are up against the darkest of villains. Author JENNI SPANGLER tells us more about THE VANISHING TRICK!

Q: Have you had other careers, apart from being an author?

A: I've been a 999 operator, police dispatcher, domestic violence advocate and a metal recycling site manager. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do!

I also used to teach drama classes and that's how I began writing seriously. I was frustrated with the lack of fun and challenging parts for my students so I started writing my own plays.

I created characters to fit particular members of the class, their talents and interests, and realised that I might have a knack for writing.

Q: What is The Vanishing Trick about?

A: Three children - stolen children - race to break the magic spell holding them captive, before one of them disappears forever.

Q: What gave you the idea for trapping children inside magical 'cabinets'?

A: Good question! It's hard to pinpoint exactly where each idea comes from, but I had a very clear image of a cork pulled from a bottle, and a person pouring out.

Q: The book is set in the Victorian age, why did you set it in the past, and why choose that period?

A: The Victorian era is such an interesting time to explore. There were amazing inventions and scientific discoveries, but also still a lot of superstitions. Great riches and terrible poverty. It was a time of amazing change which I find so inspiring.

I knew I wanted to write a spooky, ghostly story and the Victoria Era felt like the perfect setting. At this time, people claimed they could make spirits appear, and charge a lot of money for the service. They were all fakes, of course, which gave me the idea for my wicked villain.

Q: How much research did you need to do into the Victorians before you could start to write your book?

A: It was fairly easy to get started on the book, but later I had to research a lot of little details - the right clothing, the food available, how much things cost, when things were invented.

The hardest part is not accidentally using modern words that my characters wouldn't have known.

Q: The book focuses on three children, who are all very different. Can you tell us about them?

A: The children each hold part of the key to their escape. Charlotte is sharp, smart and angry, Felix is sensible, thoughtful and reserved, and Leander is playful and a little bit naive.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your fabulous villain, Madame Pinchbeck?

A: Madame Pinchbeck seems like the answer to Leander's prayers when she offers him a job and an escape from his life of poverty, but it's all a trick.

She catches a piece of Leander's soul inside a locket and makes him vanish and reappear on command. She travels the country pretending to summon ghosts - for a price - and Leander and his new friends are all part of her plan.

Her ghosts are fake, her kindness is fake, even her name 'Pinchbeck' means fake - pinchbeck was a type of metal used as fake gold in Victorian jewellery.

I love a good villain. The one I remember most from childhood is the terrifying Miss Slighcarp from The Wolves of Willoughby chase. Chilling!

Q: Why did you decide to link her to the Victorian's interest in seeing 'spirits'?

A: It's a topic I've always been interested in. Even as a young child I loved reading 'true' ghost stories and wished I could see one myself. I was always destined to write about the Victorian spirit conjurors eventually.

Q: Where and when are your favourite places and times to write?

A: I have children and a day job, so whenever I can snatch the time! But I always write well in a coffee shop, or if the weather is nice, sitting outside listening to the birds.

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: I love a trip to the theatre or a museum, but most evenings I'm happy to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good comedy to watch.

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