I have just read and reviewed a book called “Mr Magenta” by Christopher Bowden. It is a contemporary mystery story with lots of subtle twists and turns as the reader goes from a house in a London square to a Brooklyn bookshop to the romantic theatre setting in Marseilles and up to the wilds of the East Coast of England. The story begins with Stephen Marling who inherits a house in a leafy South London square that belonged to his Aunt Flora, and he decides to take up residence, leaving behind his life in Brooklyn and his actress love, Nancy. Looking through some old papers of his aunt’s past, he uncovers a side of his Aunt Flora that he never realised existed, he reevaluates his own life and he tries to unravel who exactly was “Mr Magenta” . I found this novel a lovely read – just the book to curl up with on a winter’s night 😊 Author Christopher Bowden has written seven books so far, all with a colour in the title … a mystery I hope to solve and I am pleased to welcome Christopher onto the blog to find out… Hi Christopher!
Hello! I’m Christopher. I’ve lived in South London for 40 years and my interests include gardens and gardening, reading, films, theatre, galleries, travel. All of which feed into the writing in one way or another. My younger son, David, is the bass player of the Fergus McCreadie trio, nominated for the Mercury Prize this year. I like jazz and that finds its way into the books too.
Mr Magenta is your seventh novel – all are standalone stories despite having colour in the titles – The Blue Book, The Yellow Room, The Red House, The Green Door, The Purple Shadow, The Amber Maze and Mr Magenta. What inspired you to write novels with colour themed titles? What comes first – the novel itself or the title?
I have synaesthesia (in my case, seeing words, such as days of the week, as colours). Colour brings the world to life and has intriguing possibilities in book titles. The colour in each one is reflected in the plot or themes of the individual novels. With the new book, it was partly the word magenta itself, with its slightly exotic connotations, and the alliteration in the title: Mr Magenta. And partly the qualities of the colour: bright and vibrant but also ambiguous: not blue, not red, but somewhere in between. Also the fact that it is an artificial colour, an invention (in the nineteenth century). That too offered plot possibilities and resonates with what we come to know about Mr Magenta himself. Oh, and the title always comes first and shapes what follows.
Mr Magenta is a mysterious figure – when Stephen Marling inherited a big rambling house in London from his Aunt Flora, he discovers through old notes and letters references to a Mr Magenta …. he wonders who he is… and then there’s the Brooklyn bookshop and Nancy Steiner that he left behind in New York whilst he is in London; add in a theatre in Marseilles and a windswept corner of the east coast of England where all is revealed. A great mystery entwining past and present. Who were the hardest characters to portray? Did you base any characters, however loosely, on people you know?
The hardest was probably Stephen himself; his character reveals itself gradually as the story unfolds and he is more complex and thoughtful than first appears. His search for Mr Magenta becomes a journey of self-discovery and learning the lessons of Flora’s own life. All the characters are creations and do not correspond to real individuals. That said, creating characters (appearance, voice, foibles, etc) inevitably draws on the stock of experience of people I’ve known or observed or simply overheard.
Were there any aspects of writing Mr Magenta that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written six other books)?
The whole thing was a surprise in that I did not know how it would end when I began it. As with the other books, I need a few ideas to kick start the process; after that, plot and themes develop in the writing. Finding out what will happen is part of the pleasure of writing and, I hope, of reading the books too.
Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?
Having had jobs involving a lot of drafting for others, I wanted to write creatively on my own account. Eventually, it became like an itch that I had to scratch and I took a career break to give me the time and space to produce a draft of my first novel, The Blue Book. After that, I got the bit between my teeth…
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
I live in a house full of books, many of which I have actually read. Mr Magenta itself is full of references to books and bookshops. My reading is fairly varied but tends to be at the literary fiction end of things. For example, Paul Auster and William Boyd for plot, character and evocation of time and place, Barbara Comyns and Barbara Pym for a certain kind of English quirkiness (or quirky Englishness), and the ‘strange fiction’ of writers as different as Shirley Jackson and Reggie Oliver. And always physical books.
Is Mr Magenta available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, on the likes of Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. And also through any bookshop in the UK.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
At the moment, anything warm and waterproof. Clothes colour co-ordinated, of course.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Boots or Shoes?
Shoes (suede if it’s not raining). Boots (wellingtons) confined to the garden.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook etc
Thank you for the chat, Christopher! My thanks goes to Christopher Bowden (and Ben Cameron) for the advance copy of Mr Magenta for reviewing. All views expressed are 100% my own. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Christopher Bowden apart from the photo for pinning and where marked.