1. What was your reaction when Martin Coslett, from Ashgate Heritage Arts, approached you to request permission to write a musical based on your book?
Quite honestly, complete disbelief. I didn’t see how you could have a play based on the book for a start, but a musical? Get out of here!
2. What inspired you to write the novel and what interests you in particular about that period in history?
I was very familiar with Chesterfield; I’d lived nearby for a few years. I love its history and the church, and always enjoyed going up the tower. It feels very alive to me. One day, my partner and I were driving through Chesterfield on the A61. I glanced across at the church and the whole book, characters, plot, everything, came to me in a flash. The only time that’s happened.
3. Is it possible to sum up in a few words what The Crooked Spire is about – without giving away too much!?
John, a naturally gifted carpenter, arrives in Chesterfield, knowing they need artisans to work on the church and spire. When the master carpenter is murdered, as a stranger he automatically becomes a suspect, and he has to turn detective to clear his name.
4. You subsequently went on to write three sequels to The Crooked Spire. What was it about the characters that made you feel compelled to continue writing about them?
It’s more the continuing story of John and Katherine, as much as anything, along with Martha, the coroner, Brother Robert, and Walter, of course – a family, really. The murders are just the framework.
5. What do you want people to take away from your books?
I hope I give a picture of what life was like in the 1300s for ordinary people (John and Katherine are luckier than many). Normally we read of lords and ladies. I try to contrast that with regular working people. Ultimately, though, they have to entertain.
6. As a former resident of Dronfield, north of Chesterfield, can you sum up what the ‘crooked spire’ means to local people and what’s so special about Chesterfield?
The spire itself is a fascination, and if you go up, you really see how far it leans; it’s scary. The cause of the crookedness is the subject of theories sensible or from folktales, so it occupies a unique place. It’s also a truly beautiful church. There’s a great, old outdoor market, and a sense of history about the place. It’s an ideal market town, really.
Chris Nickson is the author of 32 books, all widely-praised. One, Cold Cruel Winter, was named as Library Journal’s 10 best mysteries of the year in 2011. He is probably best known for his different series of historical crime novels set in Leeds.
Chris published the best-selling The Crooked Spire and its three sequels, which take place in 14th century Chesterfield, detailing the adventures of a young carpenter who comes to town to work on the church, but has a rare ability to solve crimes.
Born and raised in Leeds, Chris moved back to the city in 2014.
Chris will be joining the producer of The Crooked Spire, Martin Coslett, on stage following the matinee performance of the show (starting at 2.30pm) on 21st May for a Q & A with the audience.
To book tickets visit: chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk or call 01246 345 222