Today’s interview is with the author of the newly published The Tigers in the Tower, Julia Golding!
Julia Golding is amulti-award winning writer for adults and young adults. She also writes under thepen names ofJoss StirlingandEve Edwards. Born in 1969, she grew up near Epping Forest. Shestudied English at Cambridge University, then joined the Foreign Office and worked in Poland, before returning to Oxford University to study for a doctorate in literature of the romantic period.Sheworked for Oxfam, lobbying on conflict issues, before becoming a full-time writer. Over three-quarter of a million of her books have been sold worldwide in many languages.
“A Little Princess – with tigers! Orphan and outcast Sahira Clive is a brave and plucky heroine with a brightly burning heart. I was rooting for her all the way to the end of this thrilling – and thought-provoking – adventure.” Ally Sherrick, award-winning author of Black Powder
Sahira’s family are travelling to England to deliver two majestic Indian tigers to the menagerie in the tower of London.
But tragedy strikes and sickness steals Sahira’s parents from her on the journey. Left alone in London, Sarhira finds herself confined to a miserable and dangerous orphanage. Despite her heartache and the threats she faces, Sahira is determined to carry out her father’s last request – to protect God’s beautiful creatures: her tigers. To do so, Sahira must set out on an adventure and use all her powers of persuasion to engage the help of some new friends along the way.
Can the quest to find her tigers a safe home, lead Sahira to find her own place of hope and belonging in this strange and foreign land?
Without further ado, here are the questions I asked Julia:
Honestly, I never knew I would be so excited about a book in my life. My question is; what made you write Tigers in The Tower?
Julia: Books tend to creep up on me so in this case think of it like a tiger slinking through the jungle. I was looking at the history of science and became interested in how the 19th century treated animals in captivity. Three things came to a head at this time: rapid growth of travel in the days of empire opening up the animal trade to new countries; the decline of the freak show attitude to animals where they were regarded as something to be gawped at; the rise of a more scientific approach and the advent of zoos. The place at the centre of this was the menagerie in the Tower of London. It had lasted centuries but was now finding itself on the wrong side of history. I wanted to tell that story and Sahira and her tigers then pounced!
Before being a writer, you were a reader. What are your top three books? Did they inspire you to write Tigers in The Tower?
Julia: I have so many favourites that I’m going to redefine this question as my top three picks in children’s books. When I was a child, I’d say it was A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett), The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien), and The Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder) – these were the books I either bought or borrowed repeatedly from the local library. One reviewer picked up the FHB echoes she noticed in The Tigers in the Tower. I don’t think I consciously used the stories but it is in there as part of my writing DNA. Not many tigers in Tolkien so he is let off the hook! And I think the idea of writing an historical novel must be influenced by the Little House sequence. Maybe you can tell me if you spot anything?
A bit of a basic question, but have you always wanted to be a writer?
Julia: A writer interrupted. When I was at school, that was my ambition, but as I got older I realised it wasn’t a career you could just walk into. It is also very hard to get published. I gave up the idea temporarily but, thankfully, I decided to live a life that would provide me with great material in case it became possible one day. I headed off into the British Diplomatic service after college. I didn’t return to writing until I had my own children.
A writer is somebody who writes, but I know it can be hard to label yourself. When did you feel comfortable calling yourself a writer?
Julia: I often call myself a storyteller as that sums up how I see myself and covers the work I do in screenwriting and non-fiction. I became most comfortable with the label once I had a contract, but, of course, I was a writer long before that. If you are trying to make that breakthrough and haven’t yet got your deal, relax and acknowledge you are already a writer, just not yet published.
As an aspiring writer myself, I usually struggle with writer’s block. How do you deal with it?
Julia: Take the dogs for a walk. The answer usually emerges by thinking about the problem sideways. If you don’t have dogs (!), you could try writing down all the things what wouldn’t happen and the answer will emerge from the fog.
Let’s get to know you a bit more; who is your favourite character form Tigers in The Tower?
Julia: Sahira, my main character. She is the child of two cultures, is brave and kind. Thanks to her upbringing, she has lots of songs, stories and poems – something I really like in a person and try to gather myself. My mother-in-law, Ann, who passed away in September, was like this – always able to complete a quotation thanks to her education learning things by heart, so a little of Ann is in Sahira. Sahira is also lost in 19th century London just as you and I would be if we were transported back in the past to that moment so I think I feel close to her for that reason.
Now, who was the most challenging character to write?
Julia: Oddly enough, the tigers, Rama and Sita. I had to research their behaviour and stretch my imagination. I wanted to keep them as wild tigers, ‘burning bright, in the forests of the night’, even though they have a kind of spiritual connection with Sahira. They aren’t the talking Disney sort. As Sahira says, you would be mad to go into a cage with them.
Are there any future projects we should look forward to seeing?
Julia: Yes! Thank you for asking. I’m really excited about my next challenge which is also an historical novel, the first in a series. Enter young Jane Austen, detective. It’s 1789, and Jane is sent to be a companion to Lady Cromwell of Southmoor Abbey. She is challenged by her older brother to solve the mystery of the ghost that supposedly haunts the abbey but finds herself plunged into another adventure when an audacious theft takes place.
The idea behind the series is to write in the cracks of history (the quiet years when Jane is at Steventon Rectory) and put in lots of Easter Egg clues to the future novels. I’m trying, I suppose, to solve the mystery for myself of Jane Austen’s brilliance.
Special thanks to the author for agreeing to do this interview with me!