An Interview With Robin Jarvis
Robin Jarvis is a British children’s fantasy novelist who is most well known for his Deptford Mice series. Dancing Jax – a supernatural thriller with a modern twist – is his latest novel, published on 3rd February 2011 by Harper Collins. To read my review of Dancing Jax please click here.
If you could sum up ’Dancing Jax’ in three words what would they be?
frightening, relentless, cautionary.
What inspired you to write ‘Dancing Jax’?
This sounds improbable but it was all down to a dream. It was the most realistic dream I’ve ever had and it gave me everything in that final chapter, including the title of the book, the minchet, the Ismus, the Jockey, what was happening between Paul and Martin.. everything I needed. That kind of thing has never happened before – or since. I don’t like to think about where the dream came from, I might not like the answers.
Was the character of Austerly Fellows based on a real person?
Austerly Fellows is still a real person…
What made you set the story in the town of Felixstowe?
Apologies if I’m repeating myself but that dream gave me a coastal town with old wartime defences, so to me it was obviously somewhere in Suffolk. I looked on a map and there was Felixstowe which, on satellite photos, looks as if its being attacked by black mould – what could be better? Out of season seaside resorts are wonderful places for stories, there’s such a sense of melancholy and isolation about them.
How much research did you have to do for this novel?
The main research for me was to go to Felixstowe, soak up the atmosphere and work out the best way for certain big events in the book to happen. I was very happy walking down Viewpoint Road imagining a speeding car skidding out of control, whilst listening to Bohemian Rhapsody on my ipod.
There are a lot of negative comments on today’s society throughout ‘Dancing Jax’, on topics such as the NHS, the publishing world, the school systems, and childhood. Are these a reflection of your own beliefs and is it something that you feel is important for kids to recognise now?
I had to get inside the head of many characters in this book and put their viewpoints across. They don’t all reflect my own thoughts. I’ve got friends who are teachers and others work in the NHS, so conversations I’ve had with them filtered down onto the pages. It was important for the modern world to be portrayed as shallow and broken for Dancing Jacks to take such a hold. I hope certain comments will make the reader think but I’m not trying to preach to anyone. For me the story is the most important thing, anything else is a bonus but a compelling narrative has to come first. Having said that though, I was quite alarmed when I found myself agreeing with certain things the Ismus was saying. Perhaps evil is at its most dangerous when it sounds reasonable.
My favourite character has to be Martin because he is such an unlikely ‘hero’. Who is your favourite and why?
He’d be my favourite too. He just tries his best the whole time but he’s stuck in a job he hates and has found an escape from that with his love of all things fantasy. The huge irony is that the reality around him becomes far more fantastical than anything in his dvd collection and yet he refuses to believe it and keeps looking for a mundane explanation for what’s happening. The book is all about identity and the fact no one really knows who they are anymore – or are dissatisfied with who they are. Martin is one of the main examples of that.
I also really like Conor as a character. Here’s this poor lad who, at such a young age, has no dreams left. Yet, in the space of a week, he saves the lives of at least three people – but no one ever knows.
I’m sure many who have read Dancing Jax will be very eager to read the next book. Can you give us any ideas on whats to come?
There is a tiny percentage of the population over whom Dancing Jacks and the minchet have no power. The second book deals with what happens to those aberrant children… it isn’t good.
And finally, if you had the choice of living in the ‘real world’ or the world of the Dancing Jacks – which would you choose?
Ooh great question. The realm of the Dawn Prince appears so enticing and magickal, but its not a safe place, in fact it can be quite repulsive, so I’d better stick with this world. It isn’t perfect, its full of disappointments and can be brutal and unjust but at least we’ve made it that way ourselves. Its a mess of our own making. There’s no freedom of choice in Mooncaster. That’s the difference.
Thanks goes to Robin for taking the time to answer my questions and also to Sam White at Harper Collins for arranging it all! Dancing Jax is out now so go and buy yourself a copy – it will not disappoint!