1. What inspired you to write a book about clocks?
There is a clock collection at Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds I’ve visited a number of times and they all belonged to one clock collector! on one visit I wondered why he had collected so many timepieces. This made me think about writing a story about an obsessive collector of clocks and the book idea developed from there.
2. What character are you most like from the book?
I am probably most like Helena, in that I spent some time worrying about not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. But if I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to not worry as much as, like most things, it all worked out in the end.
3. Why did you base the book in Cambridge?
I lived and worked in the city for a few years after finishing university and I spent days just wandering the small side streets and colleges and looking up at the historic buildings in wonder. Kings College is stunning and I used to cycle past it on my way to work - it was the best start to the day.
4. What is your favourite character from the book and why?
I think it’s Orbit the parrot as he’s quite cheeky and was a fun character to write.
5. Would you have liked to live in 1905?
I would love to be able to go back to that time, to taste the food, wear the clothes and visit the old fashioned shops. But I think I might prefer to live in this century with my centrally heated house, laptop and Netflix and of course vital things like our brilliant NHS.
6. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
Six years ago I decided to give writing a serious try, as I had always wanted to write a book. I wrote at my kitchen table on an old laptop in between working and looking after my children. I’m still amazed that my dream of being published has come true.
7. How long did it take you to write the book?
It takes me about two months to write a first draft, but I spend lots and lots of time editing and re-writing, probably another five months at least.
8. Why did you choose a pet parrot for Helena?
My children were fascinated by a large Macaw we used to see in a local pet shop, which gave me the idea for a parrot as a companion, particularly as they were so popular as pets in Edwardian times. After doing some online research I settled on an Amazon-Blue parrot for the story, a stunning species. I decided I could have a lot of fun developing Orbit’s character as he’s quite mischievous.
9. Did you like writing when you were younger?
I loved writing short stories and also keeping diaries, although they are pretty funny and embarrassing to look back on now!
10. Would you like one of your books to be made into a film?
That is my ultimate dream. Sometimes when I am writing I can picture the actor or actress who might play a character. I thought Orlando Bloom might make a good Mr Westcott!
Reader Q&A with A.M. Howell, author of The House of One Hundred Clocks