The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Christopher Bowden about 'The Purple Shadow'

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Christopher Bowden about 'The Purple Shadow'


Summary: It's not long since Jill enjoyed Christopher Bowden's novel The Green Door, so she was delighted when she had the opportunity to read his latest book The Purple Shadow.
Date: 17 August 2016
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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It's not long since Jill enjoyed Christopher Bowden's novel The Green Door, so she was delighted when she had the opportunity to read his latest book The Purple Shadow.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Christopher Bowden: People who most enjoy the novels probably like the same sort of books as I do – good stories, well told, with interesting characters and settings and underlying themes that make you think. Readers are, I suspect, quite varied but with a preference for literary fiction, perhaps, and novels involving mysteries or problems that need to be solved.

  • BB: The Purple Shadow focuses on art and acting. Who is your favourite artist and which your favourite film?

CB: Among artists, I'd single out Howard Hodgkin and Hundertwasser for their use of colour, Hammershoi for his understated interiors (quiet and still with a sense that something is about to happen), and Eric Ravilious for his evocation of England between the wars. The film I go back to is Amélie starring Audrey Tautou, for its quirky charm and depiction of (a version of) Paris.

  • BB: Are your characters completely imagined, or do they take on any aspects of people you know?

CB: I don't use real people as models - the characters are entirely made up – but imagination necessarily draws on experience. For example, in The Purple Shadow, gallery-owner Madame Ducasse and her assistant Véronique are, I think, people you would recognise on the streets of Paris but they are not based on any specific individuals.

  • BB: The Purple Shadow describes both London and Paris very vividly. Are you a city person or a country person?

CB: I live in London and spend time wandering there, in Paris and New York. A flâneur, like Colin Mallory in the book. That said, I enjoy the countryside and ramblings in Dorset, Sussex and Hampshire have found their way into the novels too.

  • BB: Some of your novels have a slightly supernatural flavour. Do you believe in otherworldly things yourself?

CB: I'm neutral! In my books, there are sometimes elements of the unexplained but they are there to serve a purpose. In The Green Door, for example, the meddling of the fortune-teller, Madame Pavonia, releases forces long held at bay and bring the past into the present in ways that confront both her and the main character, Clare Mallory (sister of Colin).

  • BB: A theme of the novel is the enduring power of love. Do you think it's possible for love to transcend time and place?

CB: That's certainly the suggestion in The Purple Shadow and I would like to think that it is not entirely fiction. The question, perhaps, is how far the characters share this view and how far it bears on the things they say and do.

  • BB: How do you find the process of seeing a novel through to publication?

CB: Taking a novel from manuscript through to printed book is a very rewarding experience. Only then does it all seem real. The book, both inside and out, reflects a whole series of design decisions made in collaboration with professionals. Most obviously, the cover, which in this case has a striking image taken specially in Paris in the Place des Vosges (where the gallery of Madame Ducasse is located).

  • BB: What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

CB: Keep reading and keep writing and don't give up. Carry a notebook with you (and a pen!). You may think you'll remember plot and character ideas that suddenly occur to you, snatches of conversation overheard, etc – but the chances are you won't. Seek advice on work in progress from people whose judgement you respect but learn to distinguish between good advice and the not-so-good (not always easy). Always use a professional editor.

  • BB: What do you do when you are not writing?

CB: Travel, gardening, reading, going to films, plays, galleries.

  • BB: What's next for Colin Mallory?

CB: As the protagonist of both The Red House and The Purple Shadow (and with a walk-on part in The Green Door) he probably deserves a rest for a while. I quite like the idea of giving Hugh Mullion (The Blue Book) another outing but it depends how ideas for plots and themes develop

  • BB: And finally, what's next for Christopher Bowden?

CB: The first three books had primary colours (blue, yellow, red) in the titles. I then moved on to green and purple. So, if I stick to a colour approach, I shall complete the secondaries - with orange. Not the easiest of colours to handle but that will make it more fun to try.

  • BB: Good luck with that, Christopher and we look forward to seeing the result.

You can read more about Christopher Bowden here.

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