The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Michelle Lovric

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Michelle Lovric

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Summary: Bookbag loved Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child. It's a wonderful alternate world historical fantasy, pitting myth and legend against science. We jumped at the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Date: 20 May 2009
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Bookbag loved Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child. It's a wonderful alternate world historical fantasy, pitting myth and legend against science. We jumped at the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

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

Michelle Lovric: I see young people very like Teo and Renzo in the novel: children who are not afraid of ideas and big words, but who are very afraid of nasty insects and sharks, who are on the edge of adolescence, but with one foot still in childhood. They are poised in this curious, fraught dynamic, where sometimes only a good long book and a dozen chocolate biscuits will really help.

  • BB: The Undrowned Child has the saltiest mermaids we have ever encountered and we loved them! How long did it take to dream up some of the choicest epithets used by Chissa?

ML: I love the language of insult. The best language comes in extremes: love, anger, hunger. My mermaids have a serious job to do: to save Venice from a vile enemy – they were never going to be girly-types who sat around combing their hair. So they needed fierce, rude language to suit. I found some of the insults in old sailor word-books from the 19th century, and then put them together in clashing combinations to suit the situations in the book. To make sure that they sound fierce enough, I practice all the insults on my cat.

  • BB: Do you think Venetian Treacle could cure Bookbag's hay fever? It suffers most dreadfully.

ML: I have hayfever too. The minute the sun comes out. Bookbag is onto something! I suspect that Venetian Treacle is just the thing. Bookbag should come with me to the Two Tousled Mermaid Apothecary in Venice (yes, it still exists) and ask the owner, Signora Fiore, if she will mix up a few vipers for us?

  • BB: Definitely! Will we ever meet Teo and Lorenzo again, or are their Venetian adventures over for good?

ML: Oh, Renzo and Teo are currently very busy in London, in Clink Street, as it happens, battling Ghost-pirates from Bad Belching and the Half-Dead Disease, among other perils. The sequel to The Undrowned Child is set half in Venice, half in London. London mermaids turn out to be quite different from Venetian ones...

  • BB: We loved the parallel world you created in Venice. If you were ever to slip between the linings of any other city, which would it be?

ML: Well, I also love the mysterious city of Arequipa in Peru, where my next adult novel is set. And to research it, I had to go between the linings of a strange, beautiful convent as big as a small town. And learn Spanish.

  • BB: Science or magic?

ML: Something in the middle: quack medicine. For Teo and Renzo’s next adventure sees them dealing with real Victorian patent medicines like Bile Beans for the Bilious, and Dr Williams Pink Pills for Pale People. Although utterly useless in curing ailments, these medicines have a curious and useful side-effect.

  • BB: Venice or London?

ML: Gelato, gondoliers, canals, palaces and sunshine versus fish and chips, cabdrivers, the Old Kent Road, office buildings and grey skies? Do you really have to ask? Also, in Venice, egrets fly onto my jetty.

  • BB: What books inspired you as a child?

ML: I adored Joan Aiken, Charles Dickens and I also loved history books. Fat ones, with no pictures, even.

  • BB: What are you reading now?

ML: Laurie Graham's extraordinarily funny and touching novel Life According to Lubka.

  • What next for Michelle Lovric?

ML: Well, of course I have to extract Teo from the jaws of a Colossal Squid, and Renzo from Newgate Prison … but my next adult novel to be published is called The Book of Human Skin. It comes out with Bloomsbury in March 2010, and I am just finalising the manuscript. I am also working on a Gothic story set in Jack the Ripper’s London, Egypt and Venice. And a very short, very noir story set in Venice in the present day.

  • BB: Ooh, excellent. We can't wait. Good luck with all that!

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