1. My original working title was Spellbinder. But that was already overused, so I changed to Contiguity. The grown-ups didn’t know what that meant, so we settled on Gifted.
2. The reason my name doesn’t appear on the front cover is that Sean Freeman’s artwork was so good, I didn’t want to spoil it.
3. Frank’s sidekick Marvo’s full name is Magdalena Marvell. In the first draft, her surname was McTeer, and she was about twenty years older.
4. Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, to which Frank refers in a moment of crisis, is a real book, celebrated for its bizarre illustrations of demons.
5. Early drafts were set in London. But far too many books are set in London. I considered relocating it to Dublin, where I lived for a few years; but in the end I settled on Oxford, near where I grew up. At the time I was unaware that Philip Pullman had located parts of His Dark Materials there; and The Bone Season was barely a glint in Samantha Shannon’s eye…
6. There really was once, very briefly, a cathedral at Osney in Oxford. It looked nothing like my description.
7. The name Doughnut City, which Frank uses for Oxford, was partly inspired by Stroke City, the very clever local re-badging of Derry/Londonderry.
8. I state that the Society of Sorcerers was founded by Johannes Trithemius in 1513; and approved by the papal bull Regimini artis magicae ecclesiae, 1563. Trithemius (1462-1516) was a historical scholar and occultist. The bull is, of course, entirely fictitious, but its title is a crib from Regimini militantis ecclesiae (To the government of the church militant), the 1540 bull approving the foundation of the Jesuits.
9. I spent a lot of time researching ‘real’ (think CSI) forensic procedures, but they held up the action so I stripped almost everything out during rewrites.
10. The laws of sympathetic magic that I outline are largely based on a chapter in JG Frazer’s The Golden Bough. I did however, make up an additional law: the law of simultaneity, whereby events that oc-cur at the same moment in time are magically connected.
11. As a child I got a box of magic tricks for Christmas. It was utter rubbish.
Summary from Goodreads
The Bishop of Oxford is very, very dead. At least the police think it’s the Bishop – it’s impossible to be sure, since someone has made off with his head.
Fifteen-year-old Frank Sampson is the forensic sorcerer on the case. But he is easily distracted. By Kazia, the supposed victim’s beautiful, and possibly dangerous, niece. By Marvo, his police colleague, who seems dead set on making his life difficult. By the terror that he’s losing his Gift – the ability to work magic. And by all those stupid rules which get in the way of proving that everybody is wrong about the case . . . except Frank.
Donald Hounam has wrought a sharp, exciting, original new voice in teen fiction.