I recently wrote a post about Whitby and how, historically, it has inspired and attracted literary greats. I explained why I chose Whitby as the setting for my forthcoming novel, Black Eyed Boy. Now, I bring you authors who have felt the same need to set their stories in this wonderful Yorkshire seaside town. Below is an interview with the brilliant, talented writer and illustrator, Robin Jarvis.
What is about Whitby that made you want to write about it?
Robin: I first went there on my 21st birthday when I was at college at Newcastle. I stepped off the train with Carmina Burana playing on my walkman, and there was the ruined abbey high on the cliff. What a perfect soundtrack to see it for the first time. Winding my way through the town to reach the abbey, I just fell in love with the place. It has so much character that it's pretty impossible NOT to have stories
popping up inside your head. The more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became. This was long before I ever thought about becoming a writer. It has the kind of atmosphere that just impels you to create stories and characters.
Where is your favourite spot in Whitby?
Robin: Favourite spot ...umm, so many to choose from, whether in the abbey ruins, leaning into the wind whilst walking through the churchyard, standing at the end of either pier, going through that spooky little tunnel in the Khyber Pass at night, in the Pannett Park Museum staring at Mr Merryweather's glorious Tempest Prognosticator...but no, my favourite place is kind of half way up the 199 steps, when you're level with the red pantiles and chimneys on one side, can see across the harbour, and the rich scent of Fortune's kipper house is tantalising your senses as gulls wheel and cry overhead - that's Whitby.
How did you get into writing?
Robin: I got into writing through my drawing. For some reason I spent an entire weekend coming up with mouse characters in my sketchpad and creating a world for them to inhabit and be terrified in. A friend of mine saw them and said I should write a story about them - and that was it. I never had any ambitions to be a writer before that, or even thought I could do it. But I wanted my mice to have their story.
Can you tell us a bit about your books?
Robin: My books are described as dark fantasy and sometimes as horror. I don't really think of them that way. I try to write exciting, supernatural thrillers. I just don't pull any punches and make the threats as dangerous as possible, so the heroes really have to struggle and are put through the the mangler. It's always good vs evil but for good to win they have to sacrifice a lot and not every favourite character makes it to the end. Just because some books are about mice, doesn't mean those stories are twee, the torments inflicted in them are some of my all time worst. I want to keep the reader of the edge of their seat and constantly surprise them.
What are you currently working on?
Robin: At the moment I'm working on something a little bit younger and a lot shorter than my last trilogy but nothing is signed yet so I can't elaborate unfortunately. I've also got an idea for something else which I'm looking forward to and excited about.
What are you the most proud of?
Robin: I think most authors will say their books are like their children and you don't really have favourites, but I'm very pleased with the way the Dancing Jax trilogy turned out. It was something a little bit different and set very much right now which is always unnerving when the world you know falls apart. It had some juicy grotesques and monsters in it too, which I always love coming up with, and the characters faced harrowing decisions in their struggle to win through. Yes, I'm really pleased with Dancing Jax. The world was very intoxicating and I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about it and the things I could have added to it. But they were already very long books.
How much research do you need to do for your writing?
Robin: I spend a lot of time doing the research, even a fantasy novel needs more research than you'd probably expect. I love that stage, you learn so much and you'll never ever use most of it.
Where can we buy your books?
Robin: You should be able to buy the most recent titles, the Dancing Jax trilogy in a bookshop, or online. Some of the older titles, including the Whitby series, are currently out of print, but the Deptford Mice are available as ebooks, so hopefully the Whitby stories will follow.
Can you describe Whitby in five words?
Robin: I can do it in one word – Mirificus
Do you have a message for your readers?
Robin: I'd say thank you for continuing to read my work, it means the world to me to hear how much people enjoy my books. For long term fans, I'd say there's a possibility of revisiting a familiar but forgotten race so watch this space and keep your fingers crossed for me.
Thank you, Robin, it was a pleasure to interview you. Good luck with all of your future writing projects.