2 posts in one day? Don’t say I don’t spoil you! I have a very exciting post this afternoon for you. I had the opportunity to ask the brilliant author Catherine Bruton some questions about her new book, Another Twist in the Tale, and now you have the pleasure of reading them!
“You have heard, no doubt, the tale of Master Oliver Twist – that rags-to-riches boy; the parish orphan who became heir to the Brownlow fortune. But what few know is that was a second Twist – a girl, brought into this world moments ahead of her brother. This is the story of Twill Twist – and her journey through the gambling dens and workhouses of London, as she attempts to make a life for herself, rescue her friends, and uncover the mystery of her past – while meeting some familiar faces along the way…”
- What inspired you to write a twist on a classic?
When I’m not writing books, I am an English teacher and I run a creative writing club at school. One term we did a project telling the stories of ‘unheard voices’ from history and literature. I can’t claim it was my idea – I was inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s wonderful collection ‘The World’s Wife’, and by Virginia Woolf’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s Sister in ‘A Room of One’s Own’, or Jean Rhys who gives voice to Bertha Rochester from ‘Jane Eyre’ in her ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ and Imogen Russell Williams’ feminist retelling of the classics in ‘The Women Left Behind’. I think I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for characters on the margins, poor relations of the famous and infamous who never even get a mention, but whose voices demand to be heard! But I also think that it’s a brilliant way to get young readers excited about stories and authors they haven’t encountered before.
So my talented pupils wove incredible tales of Grendel’s mum, Hermione Granger’s baby brother, Dracula’s sister, Gatsby’s daughter … they created sequels and prequels and spin-offs, scribbling yarns in the margins of history and literature, bringing to life people who had been hidden or silenced or just written off. (N.B. if this is something you’d like to try yourself at home or school I’ve created a writing resource which you can find on the Nosy Crow Website.)
So, that’s where I started writing ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ – on Tuesday lunchtimes in Q15! And even though I only wrote a fragment that term, the idea stayed with me long afterwards. Twill Twist, Oliver’s feisty and fearless twin sister seemed to nag at me, demanding to have her story told. For ages afterwards, I found myself dreaming up new twists to her tale, jotting down ideas in random notebooks, dreaming up weird and wonderful new characters – but still with no idea where anything was actually going…
2. What was your favourite scene to write?
Ooh, there are so many but I think it was probably the scene where Twill first meets Dodger! Jack Dawkins – The Artful Dodger – is possibly my favourite character in the whole of literature – ever – and so the day he sauntered (or perhaps darted!) onto the pages of my story (after nearly getting Twill arrested!) was one of the best of my writing life!
3. What was the writing process like?
This novel was an absolute joy to write! I’d had Twill’s story in my mind for so long, that when I came to get it down on paper, it felt more like I was reading than writing – I was just desperate to keep turning the pages and find out what happened next! I experienced the thrill of writing you get when you are a kid, letting my imagination have full reign, reacquainting myself with some of Dickens’ most beloved characters – Dodger, Fagin, even Oliver Twist himself – creating my own Dickensian heroes and villains, and dreaming up ever more glorious adventures – it was just an unmitigated joy from start to finish. I wrote it in some really strange locations – freezing rugby clubhouses, a book signing table at The British Gymnastic Championships, on snowy station platforms – but I was always so caught up in the story, I forgot where I was and was transported to the streets of Victorian London in the company of Twill Twist and companions!
3. Can you tell us a bit about what the book is about?
Well, you may have heard the tale of Oliver Twist – the boy who asked for more – but did you know there was a second Twist? A girl, brought into this world moments ahead of her brother.
This is the story of Twill Twist – the orphan baby cast out into the snow, rescued by a young kitchen maid named Baggage Jones and raised in the ‘Black Jack Gaming Hell’ where she learns that that girls have to fight to survive in Queen Victoria’s England.
When Twill finds herself suddenly cast adrift on the streets of London, she encounters a young man by the name of Mr Jack Dawkins – the Artful Dodger to his friends – who, after nearly getting Twill arrested, introduces her to the Sassy Sisterhood of Saffron Hill, an all-girl band of pickpockets who take orders from no man, and welcome our brave heroine under their wing.
But something is rotten on the streets of London, Child Snatchers are abroad and kids keep disappearing! Twill and Dodger team up to try and solve the mystery – which seems to involve Oliver’s guardian, a mysterious poisoner called Mrs C and a terrifying shadowy figure with an all-too-familiar red beard!
It seems the only person who can unravel the tangled web and come to the rescue is Oliver Twist – but Oliver is nowhere to be found. If only there were another Twist in this tale to save the day … after all, anything boys can do, girls can do better, right?
‘Another Twist in the Tale’ is a rip-roaring page-turning adventure story set in Victorian London amongst the workhouses and slums and street kids and sweatshops, featuring many of Dickens’ beloved characters, along with a host of weird and wonderful new faces too. I hope it will be the perfect way to introduce young readers to the delights of Dickens, keeping them hooked till the very last page and the final thrilling twist in the tale!
4. If you could write another story with a twist, which would you choose? Whose perspective would you write it from?
I am currently writing a sequel to ‘Frankenstein’ called ‘The Monster’s Child’ which comes out next year. It’s like a combination between ‘ET’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘The Greatest Showman’ and Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece! It explores the story of the monster’s child, and sets out to challenge how ‘Frankenstein’ presents disability/otherness. But, like ‘Another Twist in the Tale’ it is also a page-turning adventure, and I hope it will be the perfect way to introduce young readers to the glory of the Gothic!
5. We love a recommendation here – what have you read recently that you can recommend?
I recently listened to the audio version of ‘The Wolf Wilder’ by Katherine Rundell, whom I completely adore, and which I cannot recommend enough (it was the perfect thing for long journeys on the M6 – transporting me to the snowy woods of Russia!). Oh and I just finished reading ‘October, October’ by Katya Balen which is just exquisite – it’s like ‘The Curious Incident’ meets ‘Wonder’ with that timeless flavour of classic children’s tales. I loved it both as a teacher and as a writer.
6. What’s your favourite thing about being an author?
Dreaming up stories! Being a writer legitimises my tendency to daydream when I really should be doing something more practical like cleaning the toilet or sorting out the gutters! I get to spin tales in my head and travel to distant worlds, dream up fantastical stories, inhabit the lives of my characters all day long. It is the best job in the world!
7. What can you tell us about what’s next for you?
Well, ‘The Monster’s Child’ comes out next year and I am working on final edits for that at the moment. I’ve also just started a new story that I am very excited about but which is in such a very early stage – really just a spark of an idea which I am carefully nurturing into a flicker – so I daren’t even say anything about it in case I accidentally puff it out and extinguish it! Ideas are like that – or maybe it’s just me!!!
Another Twist in the Tale by Catherine Bruton is published by Nosy Crow and is out NOW!! (Released: 5th November 2020).
A massive thank you to Catherine for answering my questions! I always love hearing from authors… but authors who are teachers have my heart in a way you guys can’t even imagine!
What tale would you write a twist on?
What tale would you like to read a twist on?
What’s one of your favourite well-loved stories?