Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He lives in Toronto, Canada. The Blackthorn Key is his first novel.

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Author Q&A

Your debut novel, The Blackthorn Key, is set in 17th century London—what can readers expect from the book?

Mystery, intrigue, friendship, danger, codes, puzzles, potions, and pigeons. With maybe an explosion or two along the way.

Why did you choose seventeenth century London as the setting?

Restoration London offered such a rich period for storytelling: the return of Charles II after the fall of the Commonwealth; the conflicts, plots, and conspiracies; the level of technology; the liveliness of the city; and so on. Basically, it was too good a time to pass up!

How did you go about researching the historical elements of the novel?

By spending many, many weeks in many, many libraries. We’re fortunate to have lots of detail of that time from primary sources like Samuel Pepys’s diary, so I could really draw on those to help bring the period to life.

Were there any challenges that arose from the location or setting?

Actually, I found just the opposite; that the setting aided the story considerably. 17th-century London could be a brutal place—especially for children—and that really allowed me to ratchet up the danger in which Christopher finds himself in a way a modern setting wouldn’t allow.

Have you experimented with any of the potion recipes yourself?

Er...yes. When I was Christopher’s age, my best friend and I made the smoke bomb in his parents’ kitchen. It didn’t go well.

The Blackthorn Key is the first in a series— what can we expect from the next novel?

The Blackthorn Key ends in the spring of 1665, right before the Great Plague of London decimates the city. We’ll rejoin Christopher during the worst part of this epidemic, where, amidst the fear and desperation, he finds himself embroiled in a new mystery. There’ll be more codes to decipher, more potions to make, and more traps to set—and avoid! Plus, we’ll see some old friends, and meet a new enemy. As for who those are, you’ll have to wait and see!