Thursday 3 February 2011

*** Interview with Robin Jarvis (author of Dancing Jax)

Yesterday I posted my review of Dancing Jax, the new novel from the brilliant Robin Jarvis. I have been a fan of his work ever since I read his Wyrd Museum trilogy, and I loved Dancing Jax, and so I was really chuffed when Sam at Harper Collins asked if I would be interested in hosting a Q&A with him.

How would you describe your book Dancing Jax to potential readers?

Not for the faint hearted. If you don't like scary books, this isn't for you. If you’re brave enough though, it’s about an old children’s book, which was written by one of the most evil men ever to have lived and what it does to you.

What was the original inspiration for Dancing Jax?

Believe it or not (and even I’m still sceptical even though it happened to me) I dreamt the very last scene in every detail. It’s the only time that's ever happened but it gave me everything I needed, the title of the book, the characters and their names and other key "ingredients". I had to jump of bed and write it all down straight away - I got 2 and a half pages of synopsis out of it. It freaked me out a bit.

This is obviously the first book in a series. Do you know how many books there will be in the series and have you planned them out already?

Yes, there will be 3 in total, I've almost finished the 2nd one and I know what'll happen in the last.

I think the Ismus is one of your creepiest characters to date. Did you have fun creating him and is he based on anyone you know?

Again I can't really claim any credit for him. He was there in the dream, fully formed - and fully dressed! I just filled in a bit of shading.

I loved the passage in Dancing Jax where the Ismus justifies his actions to Martn Baxter. Did you intend for there to be an element of social comment in the story when you started writing it?

Oh absolutely, and I agree with the Ismus in that the modern world is ripe and ready for the power of Dancing Jax. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as effective if it had been distributed back in 1936 as Austerly Fellows originally intended.

Your Wyrd Museum trilogy and Dancing Jax contain elements of British folklore. How do you go about carrying out the research for your work? Are you a ‘collector’ of folk tales?

Its an area that's always fascinated me and when I was young I received big encyclopaedias on the subject every Christmas. For some reason though our folklore is seen as uncool and something to be sneered and giggled at so people look to other countries for theirs instead. I've never understood that.

Having read a number of your books I would guess that you are a fan of horror and fantasy. What are your favourite books and/or authors from these genres?

I'm never really sure what the term "horror" means. It’s different for everyone, isn't it? Some "horror" writers can't wait to get to the blood and guts, which just puts me right off because I don't think its particularly interesting or original. I'm a lover of good, inventive storytelling that keeps you on the edge of your seat and if the writer can make an impossible thing plausible then that’s the best hook for me there is. M. R. James did that all the time.

Which books/authors did you read as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare with the children’s/YA books available today?

Alan Garner, Lucy Boston, Tolkien, Susan Cooper to name a few. I don't actually read much YA fiction today, because I don't want to be influenced either way by what other people are doing. From what I've absorbed osmotically though I'd say the older books had an innocence to them that just doesn't exist any more, which is very sad.

What scares you?

Many of my books deal with loss of personal identity and a lack of control. That frightens me. Dancing Jax is all about that.

Your books are very dark. Have you ever come up with something so wild that you scared yourself?

Haha - I never think of my books as being dark, but people tell me they are so I guess they must be. I just try to put my characters into frightening situations, if that's dark then okay. I think of them as scary thrillers though.

When I'm writing the frightening scenes I'm right there with the characters and have to make myself scared by whatever it is they're going through in order to write them. It’s the same with the sad parts - I'm always making myself cry.

Some people think that horror writers must be a little weird to come up with their stories. Would you agree with them?

There’s that "horror" label again, I wouldn't really class myself as a writer of "horror", but then some readers might, I suppose. As for "weird"... yes okay I am a bit. I write at night till about 5am so that’s not really normal I guess - whatever "normal" is.

If you were to have a dinner party and you were able to invite any three people alive or from the past, who would those three people be and why?

Ooh, tough question. Umm... I'd have loved to have met the young Elizabeth I, she was an absolute genius, then Victoria Wood because no one has made me laugh as consistently as she has over the years and Al Bowlly to give us a song after the dessert because he had such a mournful, haunting voice.

I am not the only one who feels that Deathscent was brilliant. Are we ever likely to see a continuation of the Intrigues of the Reflected Realms?

Oh thank you for that! I loved the world of Deathscent and had the second book all worked out and ready to write but circumstances in the real world got in the way and it never happened, unfortunately. I still intend to write it one day though. It begins in the uplifted French court of Catherine de' Medici where a council of learned scholars from across Europe have gathered to debate various matters concerning life and theology of the floating islands but most especially what to do about the increasing shortage of black ichor for the mechanicals. Adam o' the Cogs and the Tizzy are there, accompanying Dr Dee and Lantern. Also present is the Spanish Ambassador, on a nefarious intrigue of his own, and a mechanical the like of which no one has ever seen before.

I know Dancing Jax has only just been published, but is there anything you can tell us about the second book in the series?

Sure! It begins a few months after Dancing Jax has been published and the whole of the UK is in its power. Well, not quite, there are still a tiny few over whom the words of Austerly Fellows have no power. This is the story of what happens to those aberrant children.

Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of The Book Zone?

First of all, thank you for asking such good questions! Secondly, I hope everyone enjoys reading Dancing Jax. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I hope that comes through. I suppose I should end with "Blessed be", but that might be too creepy...


Huge thanks to Robin Jarvis for taking the time to answer my questions. If you are a big fan of the author then I imagine that like me you will be keeping your fingers firmly crossed in the hope that the sequel to Deathscent will one day see the light of day. In the meantime though, get out and read Dancing Jax - it is released today and in my opinion it is his best book so far (although I should remind you that I have not read any of his Deptford stories - see my review of Dancing Jax for my reasons).


  1. OMG I just cannot imagine having an imagery friend who is that scary - I would be terrified.
    I can completely understand the story coming to you in a dream - weird stuff happens in dreams :D
    Fantastic interview - thank you to you both

  2. I just finished Dancing Jax, and I have to say it was amazing! It was so scary it almost made me scream out loud. The book was brilliant!

  3. My dancing jax 2 book arrived in the post today, 30 more long minutes and I can pack my daughter off to bed and get stuck in! Arggh excited. I cant believe a Robin Jarvis fan hasn't read the deptford mice or history trilogy's! Absolutely amazing books! (all his books are!) if you see his name on something...definitely buy buy buy :)

  4. The books are bloody amazing, I am deeply into Freax and Rejex at the moment I hope there are many more.

    Wyrd Museum ones are the best by the way, in my opinion of course! Zooks Hurrah and all that.

  5. I remember reading The Ravens Knot years ago and thinking I must be a total Jessie if these are kids books! The same with The Final Reckoning! Absolutely brilliant

  6. Thank you for asking about Deathscent! I've been waiting forever for news of a sequel, always wondering why a man who writes trilogies dropped it so early. And here's news. And it has a plot ready and everything. Good work.

  7. Found this page after searching for hints of the Deathscent sequel - thanks so much for asking about it! I love Jarvis' Wyrd Museum and Deptford stories, but they are all complete - Deathscent was the first Jarvis book I read as an adult, not a teen like the others, and I have never been so gripped! I LOVE the concept of the Uplifted Isles, and am very excited to see the rest of the Reflected Realms universe. Please Mr Jarvis, make it happen!

  8. I've spent over ten years waiting for Deathscent Two! I was really excited to see what role the Tizzy was going to have in the sequel, I really hope we get to see her in action one day!

  9. Just remembered this book from when i was about 12. Would love to see a sequel written, and I am not ashamed to say that just like the Mortal Engines books I would gladly read it even though i am now in my twenties.

  10. So there is a deathscent sequel planned? Kid me just got his birthday wish (10years late)!

    Anyone know of a petition to get this long-awaited masterpiece written? :)
    I think Mr Jarvis needs to know how much interest there is in this book!

  11. Deathscent 2 and 3 please!!!!