In Alan Bradley’s fourth mystery set in early 1950s England, Speaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce once again plays detective.
Where did you get the idea of involving an 11-year-old girl in murder investigations?
Flavia materialized in the pages of another novel I was trying to write, and completely hijacked it. She demanded her own book, and after far too much resistance, I finally gave it to her. Eleven-year-old girls are perfectly invisible. No one pays the slightest attention to Flavia, or ever dreams that she will make use of the information she’s able to extract from their gossip or indiscretions.
How did you come up with her name?
When Flavia first appeared, I didn’t know her name. As in Rumpelstiltskin, we went through a period of long, reflective walks, with me picking names out of the air and asking, for example, “Is your name... Margaret du Marchant?” Each of these would be met, on Flavia’s part with great snickers and rolling of the eyes. One day I asked, “Is it Flavia de Luce?” and there was a vast silence. I ran home and began work immediately.
How has your background in electronic engineering helped you write fiction?
During a long career in TV broadcasting, I spent a lot of time contributing to other people’s creations. I always knew that I wanted to work on my own material—something that would be more long-lasting than short-lived electronic transmissions. TV and film taught me to think cinematically. Teaching others to edit, for example, provides a great deal of insight into the millions of ways in which given elements can be put together to tell a story.
You’ve also written children’s books. Is there a difference for you in writing for adults?
No. Except I’m aware that as a writer you can’t get away with as much writing for children as you can with adults. Children have much more finely tuned senses of justice, morals, and ethics. They are much more Platonic: children are symmetrical, before we begin to fragment them with our own nonsensical ideas and squelch their natural joy in knowledge.
Why not set the books in your native Canada?
Flavia is a uniquely English character. I grew up in a family of English ex-pat storytellers, totally immersed in books and newspapers and talk about “back home.” My British blood has always contained the seeds of tales about that time of bittersweet, genteel decay during the postwar years. Apart from herunquenchable youthful enthusiasm and her intensity of focus, the books highlight Flavia’s limitless optimism in dealing with a tired world that’s in the process of vanishing.