What a perfect book series to read heading into the Halloween season! I’m so excited to celebrate the release of The Empty Grave, the latest novel in the Lockwood & Co. series, with a Q&A with author Jonathan Stroud. Be sure to check out our interview below and enter the giveaway!
About the Book
Title: THE EMPTY GRAVE (Lockwood & Co. #5)
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Pub. Date: September 12, 2017
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.
So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London’s top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.
What they discover will change everything.
But there’s little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start – as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.
With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of ‘the problem’ will finally be revealed.
Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.
Additional Books in the Series
1) I love that The Empty Grave features one of London’s top ghost-hunting agencies. Is ghost hunting something that you do yourself?
There’s a little village not too far away from me called Ayot St Lawrence. It’s in the middle of the country and you can only reach it by way of some long, winding lanes. Its main claim to fame is that the playwright George Bernard Shaw lived there, but it also has not one, but two spooky churches. A few hundred years ago, the local squire decided he wanted to move the parish church out of the village and build a new one. So he partly demolished the old medieval one to force the villagers to abandon it. This is now a gothic ruin beside the road, surrounded by dark trees. Then he built an insanely grandiose classical church, complete with a row of columns at the front, out in the lonely fields. You can only get to it by a long, solitary track, and it’s surrounded by a desolate graveyard with many sinister bumps just under the tussocky soil. When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to visit Ayot St Lawrence after dark and go hunting for ghosts (or vampires – we weren’t fussy) in both these locations. We never found any, but we did see bats, jump at shadows and owl cries, and tread in a whole world of cowpats. And the atmosphere of these strange, desolate places sunk deep into my imagination…
2) In your research for writing this book, did you uncover any real life London ghost stories that gave you the willies?
London is great because pretty much every street has got some kind of grim or gruesome story attached to it: you can’t avoid that in a place that’s been inhabited by the swell of humanity for a couple of thousand years. The ghost of Berkley Square was a famous one – it involved a house with a haunted room that – allegedly – was fatal for anyone to enter. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I got inspiration simply by wandering about. When I worked at a publisher’s office in the centre of the city, I used to go for long walks on my lunch-breaks, and discover places where martyrs were burned at the stake, where highwaymen were executed, or where notorious prisons once stood – usually in innocuous locations next to modern coffee bars and trendy stores. This weird layering of old and new, of the bland and modern on top of the old and grotesque, had a strong influence on me, and contributed to the feel of Lockwood’s London.
3) London seems like the perfect setting for this story. What made you decide to have the story take place there?
I guess I’ve sort of answered that one in the last question, but as well as the endless inspiration I got from London’s history, there was also the important point that it was a city that I knew pretty well. If you’re writing a fantasy of any kind, it really helps to set it within a real location, so that it becomes more robust and believable. Most of the streets in Lockwood & Co. are real (though not Portland Row itself); Lucy and her friends walk them in just the way you and I would – and that concreteness is tangible even to readers living on the far side of the world.
4) This is book 5 in the Lockwood & Co. series. How many books do you have planned for this series?
In fact, I always planned for Book 5 to be the final one! Certainly it does wrap up some of the mysteries underlying the previous books, and provides a bit of closure to many of the narrative arcs. But I wouldn’t say that this was definitely the final time we’ll encounter Lockwood and his friends. They have namedropped so many sinister cases with horrid and tantalizing names that it would be EXTREMETLY tempting to shine light on some of those untold stories in another book one day…
5) If you had to sort the Lockwood team into Hogwarts houses, which houses would you choose for them?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one! Particularly since I’m not quite sure what qualities are drawn to Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. All my characters would, at a pinch, fit with two or more of the Hogwarts houses – they tend to be quite a mix of personality traits. But if you put a gun to my head I’d say: Lockwood – Gryffindor; Lucy – Gryffindor/Hufflepuff; George – Ravenclaw; Holly – Ravenclaw; Kipps – you’d think Slytherin at first, but actually he’s got a grain of Gryffindor as well. As for Flo Bones, I’ll go out on a limb and controversially say Hufflepuff.
6) What is the single best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
At the age of 12, I sent a little homemade book that I’d written to the Canadian writer Douglas Hill, who’d visited my school and greatly inspired me. He wrote me a lovely letter back in which he said that if I persevered, kept on working – and improved my spelling – I’d one day get something published. My spelling did improve – but the key advice there was perseverance. The more you write, the better you get. It may take a long time, and there are lots of false starts on the way, but if you keep plugging away, reading, writing, experimenting and above all, having fun, you’ll get there in the end. And many years later, I met Douglas Hill again and was able to tell him how much his advice had meant to me – and that I’d published my first book. I think he was quite pleased.
The Empty Grave Excerpt
“The chains!” I was scooping for the loose ends, trying to push them together. The others did the same. But the cold draft that blew from the coffin caught the iron links, sent them skittering apart. And the mist was already spilling over the edges of the coffin, pouring silently down in thick white ropes that uncoiled toward us on the floor. It pushed us back as we fumbled for the chains. We couldn’t repair the circle without the mist brushing against our skin. It wasn’t your usual ghost-fog, which is harmless. This was thicker and too viscous; you couldn’t risk it touching you.
“Forget the iron,” Lockwood shouted. “Move back! Hit it with your flares!”
The shape in the coffin moved abruptly, awkwardly, as if it didn’t know how to use its limbs. It gave a lurch, toppled forward out of the coffin, and landed headfirst on the floor of the vault in a spreading plume of ghost-fog. A moment later it vanished in a double explosion of magnesium fire. Two flares had struck it. A third (I guessed George’s) had missed completely, exploding against the far wall of the room. The noise buffeted us; we were scoured by a sunburst of violent silver light.
“What was that thing?” Kipps stumbled around to join us, one ear bleeding, his jersey a ragged colander of magnesium burns.
“A Revenant,” Lockwood gasped. “Got to be.”
“But the wax—”
“Its bones are hidden in the wax shell. The ghost is able to make the bones move, and that animates the wax.” He took a canister from his belt. “Quick! Help me salt the floor.”
Nothing moved in the silver flames, but Lockwood and the others threw salt-bombs onto the ground, lacing the stones in front. I didn’t help them. I stood motionless, my flare still unused in my hand. Up until this point my psychic senses had been numbed with shock. Now, as the echo of the explosions died away, they’d suddenly kicked in. And I could hear a voice, harsh and hollow as a crow’s caw. It was calling out a name.
“Marissa Fittes . . .” it said. “Marissa . . .”
“Fall back to the stairs,” Lockwood said.
We retreated toward the arch, watching the flames. They were dropping swiftly, revealing a prone and broken figure on the floor.
“Maybe we got it,” Holly breathed.
“No,” I said. The hollow voice was still echoing in my ears.
About the Author
Jonathan Anthony Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.
Stroud grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.
In May 1999, Stroud published his first children’s novel, Buried Fire, which was the first of a line of fantasy/mythology children’s books.
Among his most prominent works are the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy. A special feature of these novels compared to others of their genre is that Stroud examines the stereotypes and ethics of the magician class and the enslaved demons. This is done by examining the perspective of the sarcastic and slightly egomaniacal djinni Bartimaeus. The books in this series are The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate, his first books to be published in the United States.
Stroud lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire, with his two children, Isabelle and Arthur, and his wife Gina, an illustrator of children’s books.
Enter the Giveaway!
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE EMPTY GRAVE, US Only.
Follow the Blog Tour
Thanks so much to Rockstar Book Tours for hosting this tour! Be sure to check out their website here as well as the other amazing posts on this tour!
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9/18/2017- Morbid Romantic Reviews– Review
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9/20/2017- books are love– Review
9/21/2017- Mythical Books– Guest Post
9/22/2017- My Nook, Books & More– Review
What are some of your favorite reads during the Halloween season?