Local author, Christopher Bowden, has recently published his fourth novel, The Green Door. He shares his writing process and plot summary with Dulwich OnView.
I wanted to give Clare Mallory a book of her own. She has a walk-on part in The Yellow Room and a larger one as the sensible elder sister of the feckless Colin in The Red House. I felt there was much more to her. In the latest book, we find she is impulsive and less level-headed than she appears, with fears and insecurities of her own. This is developed and tested through a plot involving the unexpected loss of a locket that means a lot to her. Her quest to find it draws her into a dark episode of her family’s history and strands of past and present gradually intertwine in ways that pose a threat to her and others.
For those who haven’t read your previous three books, how did they lead into the development of your fourth book, The Green Door?
The latest book reunites characters from the previous ones and builds on themes explored in those, albeit in different settings and circumstances. For example, the relationship of past and present and how far we are in control of events that have the potential to change lives. Art and artists also have a significant role to play in The Green Door, partly through reintroducing us to the painter, Lucy Potter, who appeared in The Blue Book and was a silent character in the other two. Each book is self-contained, though, so potential readers of The Green Door do not need to have read the others.
Did this novel prove to be the most challenging for you to write, or did you find the plot taking shape on its own? What new challenges arose during the writing process of this novel?
I had various ideas to set the ball rolling and I knew some of the characters and places from the previous books. But we meet new people, visit new places in this novel and, for the most part, the plot evolved in the writing. The story developed a momentum of its own, influenced by the characters themselves and by possibilities suggested during research for the book. I had to keep writing to find out what would happen!
Are there any links to South London/Dulwich in this new novel?
The book is set partly in south London, where Clare and several of the other characters live. Sydenham and Streatham get a mention but I have drawn upon the Dulwich area in producing otherwise fictitious locations. And the clump of Hampshire woodland that features in the book may owe something in its inspiration to Paul Nash’s Oxfordshire Wittenham Clumps that I saw some while ago in an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The four colours in the books you have written are blue, yellow, red and green. Do you have plans for a fifth novel? If so, what is the next colour?
The first three covered the primary colours and the fourth is one of the secondaries. So, if (as I would like) I write another novel and stick to the colour theme, it could be broadly in the orange or violet part of the spectrum. Suggestions welcome!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Travel, gardening, reading, theatre, cinema and going to galleries.
The Green Door is published on 23 October and will be available in local bookshops, libraries, Amazon and other on-line suppliers. The book launch is at Dulwich Books at 7.30pm on Thursday 23 October.