The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian Deborah Hopkinson Author Interview and book review: The Great Trouble

THE GREAT TROUBLE_cover imageThe Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson – reading The Ghost Map by Steve Johnson a number of years ago, I was astounded by the devastation of the cholera epidemic and the research that went into writing that fascinating nonfiction book. Reading The Great Trouble a number of years later brought me right back to that time, location, and intriguing situation as a doctor worked hard to prove to others that he was correct about a water pump passing around the cholera epidemic. What I appreciated about this book was the same thing I appreciated about Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, the trial and situation the characters were in was brought to life through personality and care. I loved reading about Eel, the main character. He came to life for me with his story of trial and heartache as he shared why he worked so hard every day and how he had a huge secret he was hiding from almost everyone, beyond hiding from a dangerous man who was hunting him down. I loved how his story naturally integrated into the cholera epidemic, how he was able to interest Dr. Snow with his communication and determination and how he turned out to be a great detective in the research to help save his community and people. I highly recommend this book to students and adults who can handle death (over 600 people died, part of the history) and who love mystery, science, and animals. The time period was revealed through the eyes of an innocent, caring boy who just was trying to survive the tough situation life had presented him with… Just fantastic. I have had many readers who want historical fiction books that have adventure and mystery, this has it all!
Fantastic information is provided on Deborah Hopkinson’s webpage:

Hopkinson2011aAuthor Interview with Deborah Hopkinson:
I met Deborah Hopkinson a few times years ago. Deborah was one of the first authors to visit my former school and her books generated such enthusiasm for learning, excitement about non-fiction topics and research, and made so many students get excited about diving into Historical Fiction books. I was quite honored to have the opportunity to read The Great Trouble and extremely thrilled to be able to interview Deborah as well!

THE GREAT TROUBLE blog tour: By Deborah Hopkinson / Alfred A. Knopf / On sale September 10, 2013 / Ages 10 and up / $16.99 USD
Catalogue Page

Author Websitewww.deborahhopkinson
Author Twitter: @Deborahopkinson
Publisher Twitter: @RandomHouseKids

This post is part of a blog tour, here are the other sites honoring this wonderful book:

September 9 – Eat the Book

September 10 – Sharp Read

September 11 – Librarian in Cute Shoes

September 12 – Random Acts of Reading

September 13 – Styling Librarian

September 14 – Kidlit Frenzy

September 15 – Busy Librarian

September 16 – {Eat the Book}

September 17 – Nerdy Book Club

Could you share what influenced you to create The Great Trouble?
I was inspired by a wonderful nonfiction book for adults entitled The Ghost Map, which was published in 2006 by Steven Johnson.  I had never heard of Dr. John Snow then, though anyone who studies public health knows that he is considered a pioneer in the field.  I wanted to tell the story of the 1854 cholera epidemic and how important Dr.  Snow’s work was, while also giving young readers a taste of the London of Dickens.  That’s why the book is partly a medical mystery and also a Dickensian adventure.

Was there anything you found challenging when you researched or wrote The Great Trouble?
There were two especially challenging aspects of The Great Trouble.  One challenge was that I wanted as much as possible to keep to the actual timeframe of the epidemic (which is included in the back matter).  So I tried hard to craft the story in such a way to reflect this.  Secondly, while I wanted to convey the terrible effects of cholera on a person, I didn’t want to make the book too frightening for young readers. Thanks to my wonderful editor, Allison Wortche of Knopf, I think we were able to convey what a cholera epidemic might have been like without making it too scary.

What truly influences you as a writer?
As a writer, I am much more comfortable writing nonfiction, partly because in my professional life in philanthropy (I am vice president for fundraising at Pacific Northwest College of Art) I have written many grant proposals that require clear, precise language.
But fiction is different, so I am influenced by other writers, and probably, most of all, by curiosity.  If I find a story or learn about a person I’d never heard of before – like Dr. John Snow – then I find it immensely exciting to share my own excitement with young readers.

earDo you have a key writing tip for kids? Or adults?
One tip I think is helpful for writers of all ages is to read your writing aloud as part of the revision process.   I tried to do this with The Great Trouble.  It’s a wonderful way to actually hear sentences and develop an ear for language.
I listen to many books on audio myself, and I’m delighted that a young British actor named Matthew Frow is bringing Eel to life for the Listening Library version.   I just hope I have the courage to listen without wanting to make changes.

Sentences to finish if you don’t mind:
The best advice I’ve received for my writing profession was….to listen.  When I’m at schools during author visits, or speaking with teachers, librarians, parents or kids, I really try to listen to what their needs are to make my books and presentations better.  And of course, it’s a great way to get ideas for future stories.

The habit I never break for my writing practice is… oddly enough, to keep exercising.  Because I work full time, I am a weekend writer.  Sometimes I get worried about deadlines, but if I take time to go to the gym, I usually end up just as – if not more – productive than if I try to work for 8 or 12 hours at a stretch.  Exercise does help the brain!

Debbie, you forgot to ask me… 
what I’m working on next.  I’m currently working on a picture book set in Revolutionary times, and am beginning a new middle grade novel set in the late 1880s in New York City.  That will be three historical fiction books (Into the Firestorm in San Francisco, and The Great Trouble in London) in three of the world’s greatest cities.    Hmmm, makes me think I may have to come up with a story set in Paris!

Do you have any favorite topping you like on your pizza?
Well, I have to admit that my pizza days are somewhat limited by my gluten-free, low carb diet.  But when I do occasionally indulge in gluten-free pizza my favorite toppings are basil and fresh tomatoes!

Goodreads Summary for The Great Trouble: “Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he’s got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe.  But even for Eel, things aren’t so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the Great Trouble begins. Mr. Griggs, the tailor, is the first to get sick, and soon it’s clear that the deadly cholera—the “blue death”—has come to Broad Street.  Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it’s up to Eel and his best friend Florrie to gather evidence to prove Snow’s theory before the entire neighborhood is wiped out. Part medical mystery, part survival story, and part Dickensian adventure, Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble is a celebration of a fascinating pioneer in public health and a gripping novel about the 1854 London cholera epidemic. ”

Book Giveaway of The Great Trouble: Book giveaway for those in the United States, thank you!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog through email updates – (do so to the right of this blog post), my Facebook page, comment, or meet up with me on Twitter. If you wish to read other author interviews, please visit this page: I appreciate all of the support, makes my day! Honored by all the wonderful followers.

4 comments on “Styling Librarian Deborah Hopkinson Author Interview and book review: The Great Trouble

  1. lenorelook
    September 13, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this. I get my best reading ideas from reading your blog! xxoo

    September 23, 2013

    I love Deborah Hopkinson! Excited to get hold of this book!

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