Author Christopher Edge sat down with his editor Kirsty Stansfield, to discuss his latest book, The Longest Night of Charlie Noon – a mind-bending mystery for 9+ readers combining cutting-edge science, gripping adventure and real heart.
What was the inspiration behind The Longest Night of Charlie Noon?
I always find it difficult to pin down exactly where the inspiration for a story comes from as for me it’s often just the flotsam and jetsam of thoughts and ideas swirling round my head gradually coalescing into the shape of a story. I wanted to write a story about the times we are living in now. When you turn on the news it’s so easy to feel consumed by worries about the state of the world, but when I visit schools the compassion and intelligence of the young people I meet also fills me with a real sense of hope. When writing the novel I was reminded of the sense of powerlessness I felt as a child and the worries that I had back then. This might feel a world away from a story about three children getting lost in the woods, but I think The Longest Night of Charlie Noon at its heart is a hopeful story about the power that young people have to find a way out and change the world.
How much research did you do? And what books and or authors have influenced your work?
So, so much research! In my last novel, The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, lots of the research is right there on the page as Maisie Day herself talks about entropy, relativity and other mind-bending scientific theories, but in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon most of my research is holding up the scenery. As well as visiting Lower Woods where the novel is set to map the story to its landscape, I immersed myself in nature writing from authors such as Robert Macfarlane, Roger Deakin and Peter Fiennes. When I’d actually completed the first draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon I rediscovered a novel called Brendon Chase by the author, illustrator and naturalist Denys Watkins-Pitchford, who wrote under the pen name BB, which is about three children who run away from home to live in the woods, and in the second draft of The Longest Night of Charlie Noon I actually reworked a couple of scenes to sharpen the echoes between these two stories. There are many more influences in there too, from Kate Bush to T. S. Eliot, to name but two, and I actually list many of the books and authors I read in the acknowledgements section at the end of the novel for any readers who want to go on an intertextual treasure hunt!
It’s hard to avoid spoilers here, but there are a couple of twists and turns in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon to surprise the reader – how much did you enjoy putting those in?
I always knew the story I wanted to tell and these twists and turns emerged naturally from this. In many ways The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is a mystery story and the clues to these twists and turns are all there on the page. I’m not trying to trick the reader, but I think the element of surprise is important in a story – it’s what makes us want to keep on reading. I’m aware too that many readers, especially younger readers, enjoy re-reading a story, so I hope these twists and turns help create a novel that rewards re-reading as the story takes on a different light when you read it for the second or even third time, with details and dialogue taking on new meaning in light of the knowledge you now have. Having said that, I have enjoyed reading the reactions of some early readers to the twists that are there!
You’ve written about many mind-bending scientific concepts before, all very accessibly and with great clarity, but Time feels the big one. Did you get a headache?
Yes! Time is something we innately feel we understand, but actually it’s incredibly difficult to define. Our experience of time is different from a physicist’s understanding of time, whilst for a philosopher time can be something else entirely. In a way these different views of what time might be are what fuel my fascination with this subject and influenced the story I told in The Longest Night of Charlie Noon.
Where do you write and do you have any quirky authorial habits?
I have an office at the bottom of my garden which is where I do most of my writing, although sometimes the most productive writing time for me is when I have a decent seat on a long train journey. I don’t know if it counts as a quirky authorial habit, but I always write the first draft of a story in longhand in notebooks, which I tend to carry around with me everywhere I go. I know this causes you some stress though, especially the thought of me losing one of these notebooks when I’m getting close to a deadline!
Thank you, Kirsty and Chris! You can take a look inside The Longest Night of Charlie Noon below:
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