Andrew Taylor’s eagerly awaited new novel, The Anatomy of Ghosts, is a sophisticated twist on the traditional ghost story with mystery and suspense that leaves you unable to put the book down. Find out what Andrew had to say about his inspiration, the secret to good crime writing and which story stops him from turning the lights out at night.
…about your book
What was the inspiration behind The Anatomy of Ghosts?
Perhaps it really began a winter night in Cambridge, nearly 40 years ago, when there was a power cut and the town and university was a place of darkness illuminated by the flickering flames of occasional candles. It gave the illusion of looking backwards through the centuries. Time passed. Then I had the vague idea of a murder mystery with a ghost set in the eighteenth century, when people thought rather differently about ghosts from the way they do now. This connected with the equally vague idea that it should be set in Cambridge, a city I used to know well but no longer do. A fictional college, Jerusalem, is mentioned in several of my other novels. I felt that perhaps it was time to explore the place. The ideas collided. The title, The Anatomy of Ghosts, came out of nowhere. And then I knew I had something that might eventually turn into a novel.
You create a fantastic cast of characters all with their own demons. Who do you think is haunted the most?
They all have their own ghosts. Holdsworth’s are the ones I thought most about, simply because he is the central character.
Being a Cambridge graduate yourself, did you enjoy researching 1780s Cambridge and did you learn anything new or surprising?
Research is almost always enjoyable – it’s easier than writing, and also novelists have the luxury of choosing settings that interest them in the first place. I hadn’t realised quite how corrupt, elitist and educationally inadequate both Oxford and Cambridge had become (unlike the Scottish universities, which were much better, as it happens). And I learned some incredibly unpleasant things about sewage.
You are granted a wish to meet any author, dead or alive. Who would it be and what would be your first question?
Maybe Dickens – if only because I could ask him how he planned to end The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
You are asked to add a book into a capsule which will be sent into space for aliens to find. What would you choose?
If it’s someone else’s book, why not the complete works of Proust? That would certainly give the aliens something to think about. Either that or Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. If it’s one of mine, let’s have The Anatomy of Ghosts.
You have a growing list of published novels which have had great success. Which book did you have the most enjoyable experience writing and publishing?
That’s a hard one – writing is never easy, but all the books are enjoyable at some points. But in terms of publishing, the most enjoyable experience came with my very first, Caroline Minuscule. When it was published I realised I had become a real writer.
What is the secret behind good crime writing?
A crime, probably murder, and a narrative, often involving some sort of mystery, that makes the reader want to turn the page and read on.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
I’m staying in the 18thc, but the setting will be very, very different. No ghosts, either, or not so far.
Take a look at ReaderIReadIt’s review of The Anatomy of Ghosts.