As anyone who’s met the literary acquaintance of Flavia de Luce knows, Alan Bradley is a devilishly clever and mysterious writer. Formerly a radio and television engineer who also taught scriptwriting and production, he has long been a storyteller and devotee of mysteries. He has written numerous children’s stories as well as a controversial book, Ms. Holmes of Baker Street (in collaboration with A.S. Sarjeant), which theorized that Sherlock Holmes might have been a woman.
Hmm. Children’s stories, a great yet inscrutable female detective… fertile ground for the emergence of a character such as 11-year-old Flavia, sleuth and poisoner extrordinaire. She stormed onto the scene in Mr. Bradley’s first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, demanded her due, and got it. The book won the CWA Debut Dagger Award in 2007, the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, the 2010 Spotted Owl Award, nominations for both the Anthony Award and a Macavity Award. There are more—quite a few more—but something tells me that Miss Flavia would insist I get on with it. So I will.
Alan Bradley’s latest novel, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, continues Flavia’s adventures. Hard at work in his comfortable home office in Malta, he has recently put the finishing touches on the third book in the series. Let’s take a peek at his desk, shall we?
What does your desk—the bare desk itself—look like, and how did you acquire it?
My desk is a maple kitchen table which, with its extra leaves inserted, once sat a family of ten. My wife bought it at a garage sale years ago to use as a quilting table, but, at least for now, has kindly handed it over to my writing activities.
What’s on your desk?
An oilcloth covering, two computers, two cats, a dictionary, a map, a dish of almonds, and several boxes of assorted “stuff”: paperclips, highlighters, elastics, postage stamps, letter-openers.
What do you wish wasn’t on your desk?
A small clear area in the far corner.
Are there artifacts in your office that relate to your current project?
Other than books, no.
Are there living things in your office (besides yourself)?
What else surrounds you?
Tall windows, stone arches, bookcases.
What’s on the walls?
More bookcases, and a number of lovely awards.
What have you lost in your office that you really wish you could find?
A guidebook to London.
What tools do you write with?
A laptop running Microsoft Word and a treasured collection of outdated reference books, such as Whitaker’s Almanack for 1950.
Is anyone allowed to come in and clean?
Only occasionally—and by appointment.
T. Myers is a writer who—okay, I know you’re not going to believe this, but it’s true—suddenly finds herself sitting at a clean desk, in a clean office.
(Photo by Jeff Bassett, all images courtesy of Alan Bradley)