Behind the Books; A Q&A with Jenny Moore

A Must-Read Middle Grade, The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb

From portaloo time-machines, to robot clones on cruise ships, and a tale involving a mistaken kiss between a parent and Santa Claus, Jenny Moore’s titles always combine a great mixture of humour, wit and character depth. In her upcoming middle grade, The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb, there is also an element of something darker… something for fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

We’ve put together a little Q&A for all the avid readers out there, who want to learn a little more about where Jenny’s brilliant ideas come from, and also why The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb should be next on your to-be-read pile!

We’re so excited for The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb to come out! Without giving away too much, tell us what it’s about!

It follows the trials and misadventures of Victorian orphan, Nicholas Nabb (Nick), who’s been living in the sewers since he escaped from his harsh life at the orphanage. He gets caught stealing a bread roll but is rescued from the long arm of the law by a mysterious veiled widow. Unfortunately, she vanishes before Nick can find out who she is, or why she’s been searching for him, and it’s not long before Nick’s quest to find her puts him in danger too. In fact, danger might be Nick’s middle name…  

I can’t say too much more as there are some big twists and reveals in this book, but you can expect villainous villains, a generous pinch of smoke-and-mirrors magic, a secretive sidekick, and all the fun of the fair. Oh yes, and pies. Plenty of pies!

‘Nicholas Nabb’ is a little different to your previous books, was it more challenging to write?

Trying to juggle the darker strands of cruelty and exploitation with Nick’s resilient cheeky humour was tricky at times, but I like a challenge! And of course the historical setting meant lots of extra research, which I enjoyed. It was fascinating learning about Victorian funfairs and magic shows etc. I particularly enjoyed reading Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear by Jim Steinmeyer – with chapter titles like ‘The Ghost’ and ‘The Formula for Invisibility’ I knew I was in for a treat! Overall, I wanted to give The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb an authentic period flavour while keeping it accessible and pacey, so there’s a touch of poetic license too.

Where did your inspiration come from? Are there any books you read that helped ‘cement’ your ideas?

Oliver Twist was one of my favourite ‘grown-up’ books when I was young, and The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb definitely owes something to Dickens, although it’s set at the later end of the Victorian period. Nick himself is probably more like the Artful Dodger than Oliver, but there’s a vulnerable, yearning side to him too. And Mr Rodfear, the mean master of the orphanage, would get on very well with Mr Bumble (the poorhouse Beadle in Oliver Twist)!  I think there’s also a touch of The Greatest Showman in there too, but I didn’t actually see that until after I’d written Nicholas Nabb!

Another important research book was one about Julia Pastrana, whose tragic life will stay with me for a long time. I can’t say much about her here, without giving away an important part of the story, but she was famous in her day for very wrong and cruel reasons.

What is your favourite scene from the story?

Ooh, that’s a tricky one – I’ve got so many favourite bits! I really like Nick’s visit to the fortune teller, Madame Mystica, and I loved writing the scene with the detectives, Chalk and Cheeves. Mrs Grubson, the owner of the pie shop, always makes me smile too.

Where do you feel most inspired? Do you have a favourite place to write?

Most of my ideas come when I’m out walking. If I don’t have a notebook with me, I send myself emails on my phone in case I forget them before I get home! Last thing at night – just before I fall asleep – is another prime time for ideas to pop into my head, which is why I keep a noteblock and pen next to my bed. I have to switch on the light and put my glasses back on before I jot anything down though. I’ve learnt the hard way that sleepy notes written in the dark look a lot like indecipherable scribble the next morning!

I do most of my writing on a PC in my writing room. I painted it green during the first lockdown and filled it with houseplants so it’s a nice place to work. During the summer months I’ll sometimes sit out in the garden with a pad and write by hand. I love writing in the library too – being surrounded by all those books feels inspiring! I’ve really missed the library during the pandemic.

Are you writing anything at the moment?

I’ve been working on the first book in a brand new middle grade series, which is very exciting. It’s a funny fantasy adventure, so a bit of a change from Nicholas’ world. I’ve swapped mysterious widows and villainous Victorians for evil necromancers and dragons!

Can you sum up The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb in 3 words?!

Ooh, another tricky one! I think I’d have to go for ‘secrets’, ‘daring’ and ‘rats’!

Thank you, Jenny! 
Enjoyed reading this Q&A, and want to read a sample of The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb?! Well, you can read a Chapter 1 here; The Misadventures of Nicholas Nabb – Chapter 1
Pre-order the full book here too!

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