Philip Coleman has lived and worked as a biologist in four countries, including a sojourn in Brussels that inspired this story. Currently he lives in France and works for a conservation NGO based in Switzerland. Apart from writing, his hobbies are reading (fiction and history), painting, cinema, cooking and enjoying Alpine scenery. He has a grown-up son and daughter (and no, their names aren’t Sean and Maeve!)
My website is still in development and will feature a blog. In the meantime, here is my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/philipcolemanauthor.
Thank you for joining us today, Philip Coleman. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
Well, in my day-job I’m a biologist, but I’ve always loved books, a liking I was happy to pass on to my children. One of the happiest periods in my life was when I lived in Brussels, where I had a very exciting job but also had the opportunity to share with my children their discovery of many beautiful places in Europe that were easily accessible by road or rail. I enjoyed writing this book because it was a way of re-living that experience.
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I used to write as a teenager but I abandoned it until a few years ago when, on my daughter’s recommendation, I picked up Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. That prompted me to try my hand at young adult fiction; my first attempts were fantasy but then I came up with this idea for a story in a contemporary setting with a historical twist.
Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?
Maybe it’s a way of re-capturing my children’s growing years! They are both grown-up now, but that time when they hadn’t completely lost their sense of wonder was very precious.
What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?
The fun part is sharing the healthy irreverence and sense of mischief of young teenagers, and trying to convey this in my writing; it’s the time when they want to shake off adult supervision but are still a bit unsure of themselves. The greatest challenge is simply to be entertaining and not to lecture my readers.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
The Master’s Book is a thriller about Sean, an Irish boy in Brussels, and Stephanie, his pretty mixed-race classmate, who discover a rare medieval illuminated manuscript in Sean’s basement, sparking off a theft, several murders and an attempted kidnapping.
Most people who haven’t been to Brussels think of it as a grey, boring city, dominated by EU office blocks. They aren’t completely wrong, of course. But they don’t appreciate how quirky – and sometimes beautiful – parts of the city and its surrounding towns are. And the sense of a long history is never far away, since the city changed hands from the Holy Roman Empire to the Duchy of Burgundy, to Spain, to France, and to the Netherlands, before becoming capital of the new country called Belgium in the 19th century. So I wanted to capture this exciting mix of the old and the modern.
Where can readers purchase a copy?
What is up next for you?
I am currently working on a sequel, which will revolve around fugitives from a recent historical event with a Belgian connection: the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Do you have anything else to add?
Just to say thank you for the interview! It’s been fun.
Thank you for spending time with us today, Philip. We wish you much success.