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An Interview with Jenni Spangler

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Congratulations on the publication of the bewitching The Vanishing Trick! Are you able to give readers an idea for what’s in store?

Thank you! The Vanishing Trick tells a story of reluctant thief Leander, who accepts a job offer from a mysterious woman who travels the country conjuring ghosts. Alas! It’s a trick and Leander is now her magical prisoner. He teams up with two other captive children to break the spell before one of them disappears forever.

What three words would you use to describe The Vanishing Trick?

Spooky, mysterious, adventure.

What was the original inspiration behind The Vanishing Trick?

I was always interested in ghosts and the people who want to see them ever since I was a child. As an adult I got interested in early photography and that’s when I learned about the Victorians who attempted to photograph ghosts, and the story grew from there.

Your book is rich with magic, illusions and séances. Did you undergo much research during your writing process?

There’s always a good chunk of research involved in a historical book, but the nice thing about the Victorian Era is that we still have lots of books and newspapers which give a real insight into their lives. I especially enjoyed learning about the real people who claimed they could speak to the dead!

Leander, Charlotte, Felix and the villainous Madame Augustina Pinchbeck are all such brilliantly original characters, where do you get your inspiration to write your characters?

That’s a hard one! Like most writers I suspect, I steal personality traits from people I meet, and put a little bit of myself into the characters too. Twelve year old me definitely had a healthy dose of Leander’s desperation to be liked, and Charlotte’s harsh temper.

What was your favourite part about writing The Vanishing Trick?

It’s a nerdy answer, but I love editing. Once I’ve got a rough draft on paper I feel like I can finally see the whole story clearly, and then I get to shine it up.

The Vanishing Trick is set during the Victorian times, if you could travel in time to any time period, which would you choose?

I would go to the future and see whether we figured out climate change, and how see if I could bring back useful knowledge… but would anyone listen to me?! I’d be reluctant to go back in time, because let’s be honest – lots of history was not kind to women.

This is your debut children’s book, do you have any tips or advice for someone writing their own debut?

Reach out to other aspiring authors and offer critiques of each other’s work. Mine improved 100% from this – sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes.

2020 has already proved to be a difficult year, but I always like to ask, what else is on the horizon for you this year?

I hope to do a whole heap of school visits in the next school year – circumstances allowing!

Any plans of writing a second children’s book? Please say yes!

Yes book two is in the works – it’s about a machine which speaks the future, and the plucky stagehand Hannah Rabbit who tries to avert the tragedies it predicts.

What are your favourite children’s books at the moment? A childhood favourite and a current one!

Childhood favourite – Tom’s Midnight Garden – it was mysterious and magical without ever being too scary, and even as an adult I occasionally re-read it.

A current favourite – very hard to pick from all the AMAZING kids books out at the moment but Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum is really special – I wouldn’t have thought it possible to do Black Mirror for middle grade but she makes it work! I am in love with it.

And finally, my favourite question I like to ask, if you could invite any five people – past and present – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Can they all be writing related? I’d love to meet Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Dodie Smith, Eva Ibbotson and Marcus Zusak – they’ve all written books which have been hugely important and influential to me and hopefully some of that magic dust might rub off onto me!

Theatre school drop out, ex-999 operator and occasional forklift driver, Jenni Spangler writes children’s books with a magical twist. She loves to take real and familiar places and events and add a layer of mystery and hocus-pocus. Check out Jenni's website here, and follow on Twitter @JenniSpangler1.


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