Interview with Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library


Hi there! I had the pleasure to interview Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library, the review of which you can find here! Please read along, and don’t forget to take a look at the book also 🙂


Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

1.       Hi, Mrs. Cogman! Thank you for agreeing to this interview! I would like to start with an all-time classic : Could you enlighten us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a clinical classifications specialist (it has to do with recording medical data) and I work for the NHS. I live and work in the north of England, a couple of hours north of London. My hobbies include patchwork, knitting, beading, role-playing games, and reading far too much.
2.       How did your passion for books start?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been reading, and losing myself in a good story. I remember my parents reading me The Hobbit as a bedtime story when I was five or six. I started on The Lord of the Rings at seven, even if I didn’t properly appreciate large parts of it at the time. I was always reading anything I got my hands on from the family bookshelves, and the school library, and the local library…
3.       What made you want to mash up spies and libraries?
It started as just the concept of a librarian who was “collecting” books from alternate universes, rather than as a deliberate plan to mix the two genres, but when I started writing it, I found out that in practice Irene had to use quite a number of spy (or heist) techniques to succeed. All that early reading of Modesty Blaise novels and various “How To Be A Spy” handbooks for children must have had more influence on me than I realized.
4.       Did you have to do any research while writing The Invisible Library? If so, what did you research about?
The main area of research was the geography of various points in London. Though there were other points, such as “famous lost works of fiction”, “vocal patterns of Sherlock Holmes”, “types of alligator”, “curare and antidotes”, and “how to spell Liechtenstein”…
5.       How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Heroine has to obtain rare text while hunted by arch-enemy of Library and coping with an unwanted mentorship role, and finds out that famous detectives are more complex in real life than they are in fiction.
6.       What was your favorite element to write about? (a character, an event, a description,…)
Silver is my favourite character to write about. He’s just so gloriously melodramatic and tacky. My favourite event was the alligator attack. (I’d probably better not say where or how, in case people haven’t read that scene yet.)
7.       What do you notice most when reading a book? (Characters, characters’ development, plot holes, etc.)
I think it would be characters, but it really does depend on the book.
8.        What would you like people to notice most while reading your book?
I wouldn’t want them necessarily to “notice” things. I’d just like them to enjoy reading it, and to come out the far end with a headful of cool images and some entertaining new daydreams. And maybe to want to know what happens next.
9.       Could you give us 3 book recommendations?
Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
10.  Thank you for your time, and good luck for the future!
Thank you very much!

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