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Fall 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Kevin Sands

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Photo: Thomas Zitnansky

In Kevin Sands’s Mark of the Plague, apothecary’s apprentice Christopher (star of The Blackthorn Key) now faces the plague epidemic sweeping 1665 London.

1. The books in this series are part historical fiction, part mystery, with heaping doses of both seventeenth-century science and superstition. How do you balance the various elements?

KS: It comes down to: What would Christopher think? He matter-of-factly presents accepted scientific explanations from his era. But there are other things that, because of superstitions of the day, he views as supernatural. This gives a balance that I think is both entertaining and captures the spirit of the time.

2. Those bird-mask plague-doctor get-ups were something else. If you were a plague patient, would you be frightened or reassured?

KS: I find it hard to imagine anyone would find them reassuring! Then again, this was a time when tying pigeons to the soles of your feet was considered effective medical practice. Though not, I suppose, for the pigeons.

sands_mark-of-the-plague3. What would you carry in your apothecary’s sash?

KS: Everything Christopher does, plus a Swiss Army Knife, a Snickers bar, and several vials of Archangel’s Fire (for settling disputes).

4. Even after his death, Master Benedict’s teaching has a profound influence on Christopher. Was he based on someone in your life?

KS: No. I never base characters on people I know, because a) you end up with a story that serves a character, rather than the other way around, and b) I don’t want to get sued.

5. Have you had any helpful messages from beyond the grave?

KS: The ghost of an old sea captain once visited me in my dreams and gave me the winning numbers to the lottery. I just wish he’d said which lottery.

 Sponsored by
Simon & Schuster

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