20% Murder, 30% Mystery, 30% Decisions, 20% Historical
When the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past. AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change – but he could never have imagined how much.
Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain's means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They've gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?
A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the UK's finest writers, The Door That Led to Where will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.
Sally Gardner is a multi-award winning novelist whose work has been translated into more than twenty-two languages. Her novel MAGGOT MOON (Hot Key Books) won both the Costa Children's Book Prize and the Carnegie Medal 2013. Sally's genre-defying novel THE DOUBLE SHADOW (Orion) received great critical acclaim and was also longlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2013. THE RED NECKLACE (shortlisted for 2007 Guardian Book Prize) and THE SILVER BLADE are set during the French Revolution, the film rights for which have been purchased by Dominic West.
Sally also won the 2005 Nestle Children's Book Prize for her debut novel I, CORIANDER. She is currently writing the popular WINGS & CO Fairy Detective Agency Series (Orion) for 7-11 year olds – hailed as -Agatha Christie for kids' – and has recently released her latest Young Adult Fiction novel, which is a gothic tale called TINDER, illustrated by David Roberts (Orion).
The Door That Led to Where
The Five Mile Press
Author: Sally Gardner
Question: What inspired the story of The Door That Led to Where?
Sally Gardner: I always start my stories with a question. The question I asked myself was, -would young boys from a disadvantaged background who had not taken to school, who were what I call -Govian failures' after our ex education minister, fare better if they were sent back to the 1830s?' 1830 was a London pre-industrial revolution where everything was handmade, there's the absence of plastic, and there was more opportunity for a man to rise, without the need for exam results.
I became really interested when I looked at the history of one young man in particular. I wondered, if he had applied for a job in this day and age would even get an interview? He was educated from the ages of three to seven, then had a gap and was educated again from thirteen to fifteen. After that he was largely self-taught. The job he wanted to have was to be a political correspondent. When I mention this to anyone they tell me he would be laughed out of the water, and that he wouldn't even get as far as the front desk at The Times. I rather enjoy telling them that this young man was Charles Dickens. It made me think, what the dickens are we doing with our young people and this tick box education that England has gone in for?
Question: What was the best part about creating the character of AJ?
Sally Gardner: I always love creating characters. What I love about AJ the most is that he is a real survivor, an out-of –the-box thinker. He is clever and sassy, and emotionally astute, having spent his life with a mother who didn't care for him very much at all.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Sally Gardner: I walk a lot and I use a lot of what I see around me. I happen to live in Stoke Newington where there are a lot of young men, a lot of children in gangs who seem fairly lost and I feel they have been de-franchised from our society in a way, which saddens me greatly because in the end they will be the future.
Question: Can you talk about the research that went into The Door That Led to Where?
Sally Gardner: I do a lot of research. I grew up in Gray's Inn, so that part I knew a lot about already. I was lucky enough to go and find a very senior clerk at 29 Bedford Row to give me help on the legal side of it. Also, my mother was the second female judge in England and I grew up spending a lot of time at the old Bailey. As for 1830s London I have a lot of very old books that I was left in a will which are endlessly helpful, as well as the London Library and the British Library.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Sally Gardner: Read and read again. Listen, observe and watch. Try and make mental notes, even if you can't write them down. Try and think how you would describe things without a -like'. With speech, all it needs is a said, asked, replied. It doesn't need any adjective before that. What is being said should be the engine, not the action.
Question: What's next for you?
Sally Gardner: At the moment I'm writing a grown up novel, rather nerve-rackingly. I'm doing it under a pseudonym. Hopefully it will be out next year, and then I'm back to writing YA.
Interview by Brooke Hunter