Ben Aaronovitch attributes his dull childhood to driving him to think up the fantastical science fiction he has become widely known for. The new book in his Rivers of London series, Foxglove Summer (Gollancz, £14.99), finds supernatural PC Peter Grant outside his comfort zone.
You have a diverse readership – did you have a target reader in mind when you began Rivers of London and which bracket of reader has surprised you the most?
It’s not that I had a target readership in mind – it’s just that I had, or so I thought, a realistic idea of who the book would appeal to. Honestly I thought it would be people like me: SF readers who like a bit of crime on the side. Mid-list is what I was aiming for – just a little bit extra to stop me from going bankrupt and losing my flat. The first inkling I had that the audience was a bit wider was when a friend said that his mother had stolen his copy and that she was planning to introduce it to her reading group. To this day nobody, not me or my publishers, really understands who’s buying the book – I’m just grateful they are.
Why did you decide to take Peter out of London for this book?
Writing rule #57 – every once in a while remove your protagonist from their comfort zone.
Where would you like to take Peter next?
The big limitation of taking Peter out of London is the amount of research required to make the setting credible. In London, if I’m towards the end of a book and I suddenly need to know whether you can see such or such a building from such or such spot, I can hop on a bus and check. But for an outside location I’d have to catch a train, maybe stay the night. It’s worth doing but it makes the book logistically harder to write. I have considered a novella in Oban, Scotland and I’m seriously considering a story set in Bradford because it’s a terribly interesting city. Further afield I’m also thinking Sweden and/or Paris.
Do you like to think there are police seriously dealing with supernatural cases?
There are police dealing with crimes committed that have a religious or supernatural motive but I doubt any involve any actual magic or miracles.
Do you have any guilty pleasures in crime and supernatural fiction?
I am a man of low tastes generally so I rarely feel guilty – Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series, Stuart MacBride’s Aberdeen books. Suzanne McLeod does a mad urban fantasy series, which is a lot of fun.
Is the foxglove symbolically significant in the story?
It’s all about the tea you make from it and what that tea was used for.