Hi Tamzin! Thank you so much for joining me today at MG Book Village! Your debut MG novel, THE HATMAKERS, is being released February 2nd, by Norton Young Readers. I was delighted to have a chance to read an eARC of it, and it’s filled with magic, adventure, rivalry, and a desperate quest. Can you give us a synopsis of it, please?
Hi Kathie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. A little synopsis of the book… The hero of the story is Cordelia Hatmaker, the youngest member of the Hatmaker family, who weave their handmade hats with magical ingredients.
Though the story begins with Cordelia’s father going missing in a shipwreck, it becomes a race against time as she discovers a plot to start a war with France. Cordelia and her friends must make the most magical hat they can and get it on the right royal head before all is lost!
I understand that the idea for this book was inspired by a dream you had after working on a television series where you were surrounded by many lovely hats. Can you tell us how you turned that dream into the start of a new book series?
The dream I had was so vivid – a family of magical Hatmakers who are rivals with a family of magical Bootmakers – that I woke up feeling really excited to tell it to people! My boyfriend – the first person to hear it, 10 seconds after I’d woken up – wisely advised that I write it down (dreams have a way of slipping away in the morning light, don’t they?). So I wrote down everything I could remember from the dream and found I didn’t want the story to stop! It took seven drafts and a lot of input from wise and brilliant people to turn the dream into an actual book, but all the elements from the dream remain. The dream was like a window into a world, which I climbed through.
There are many likeable (and unlikeable!) characters in this book, but I think Goose was one of my favorite supporting characters. I loved his relationship with Cordelia, and the risk they took to be friends when they knew their families would disapprove. Which character was most enjoyable for you to write?
I love that you love Goose! The friendship between Hatmaker and Bootmaker was so much fun to write. From a sheer chaotically joyful perspective, I especially enjoyed writing Sir Hugo’s scenes. He’s inspired by one or two actors I’ve come across in my career… writing his actorly antics was very silly fun. I also loved writing Great Aunt Petronella. She kept surprising me with the things she came out with!
This book is set in London in the 1700s. Did you have to do a lot of research about the time period?
I think acting in period dramas has made me familiar in some ways with the “everydayness” of the past, so I didn’t feel I wanted to do too much research into the time period itself other than what I knew from reading books set in the 1700s. But I did visit the Victoria and Albert museum archives and saw an ancient bicorn from the period, which felt magical in itself – thinking of the person who had worn it so long ago.
It was most important to me that the magic in the story felt authentic, so I researched Alchemists to try to make sure the magical system was based on something ancient and real. I also learned how to make a hat using a very old hatblock and a flatiron, the way the Hatmakers in the story do!
I loved the magical ingredients added to the Hatmaker creations to inspire certain qualities in the person who wore them. If you could design a writing hat, what sort of items would you include, and why?
That’s a great question! Writing is such a wonderful, challenging, adventuresome thing to do I would need a few things on a Writing Hat to make sure I was well-equipped for the task…
I think the whole hat would be woven out of paper straw and dyed inky blue – starting with paper and ink is always a good way to begin telling a story.
I’d add a Fabula Flower for inventiveness and tie it onto the hat with a good yarn. A Daedalian ribbon would help weave a complicated plot together nicely. I’d tuck a tailfeather from an Upstart Crow into the ribbon, to help me think of entertaining characters!
Lastly, I’d finish off the hat with a sprinkle of stardust. Every story should have a bit of stardust.
The cover of this book is beautiful; were you involved at all in the design of it, and who was the illustrator? What were your thoughts when you first saw it?
Isn’t it beautiful? I am very much hoping that people judge this book by its cover! Paola Escobar is the illustrator and she’s also created the most beautiful interior art for the book. I suggested the front of Hatmaker House for the cover and when I saw what Paola had come up with, it was completely beyond what I had imagined – I was utterly enchanted.
There are several surprising reveals in the course of reading this book, including the ending. Can you tell us when to expect the next book in the series, and is there anything about it you can share at this time?
Oooh I’m not quite sure what I’m allowed to share at the moment, other than the title – THE MAPMAKERS! It will be out in Spring 2022…
Where can our readers go to find out more about your and your writing?
Something I think is especially magical about books is that, once a reader has read a book, it becomes their story as much as it is the writers’. So I would LOVE to hear your reader’s ideas for magical hats!
Thank you very much for talking with me today, Tamzin, and all the best with your book’s release.
Thank you so much, it’s been lovely answering your questions! And I would like to end the interview by asking YOU a question… If YOU could make a magical hat for yourself, what would it be for and what magical things would you make it with?
Oh, thank you, this is the first time I’ve ever been asked a question! I would start with a red cowboy hat, like the one I used as a child when I went on adventures. I’d be sure to add a shimmering silver hatband like the swords carried by brave knights, a very elegant peacock feather so I was dressed appropriately for any occasion, a touch of Slips jelly to get me out of any sticky situation, and a sailor’s gold compass to tap so I could find my way back home.
Tamzin Merchant is a British-born actress best known for her roles in Pride & Prejudice, The Tudors, Salem, and Carnival Row. The Hatmakers is her debut novel. She lives in England.