03 Oct 2018 Behind the scenes of The Curious Crime: Interview with multi-award winning author Julia Golding

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Julia Golding is a multi-award winning writer for adults and young adults. Former British diplomat and Oxfam policy adviser, she has now published over fifty books in genres ranging from historical adventure to fantasy.

Lion Children's Books is thrilled to publish her wonderful new novel The Curious Crimeout today!

Here Julia chats with us about her new novel, phrenology, and why a world with only ‘how’ questions doesn’t work.

But first check out her fantastic trailer for The Curious Crime below.

Was the world really like this in the nineteenth century? If not, what was it like, and what inspired you to write about a society where ‘why’ questions were not allowed?

No, it wasn’t like this, though there are plenty of similarities. I thought of the book as an alternative history. Imagine two doors in front of you in about 1850: our world went through one; the society in my book took another.

Why did I write it? When I watch television or read certain books, I sometimes get the impression the programme makers and writers think everyone shares their view that science and faith are completely separate things, even at odds. However, I know lots of scientists who also have a deep religious faith, so I know this can’t be true.

In Ree and Henri’s world, they aren’t allowed to ask ‘why’ questions because the scientific leaders are afraid of the answers; people were only allowed to investigate the mechanisms, or the how of things. The story invites everyone of all faiths and no faith to explore the depths of the science museum of Ree and Henry’s world, and the wonder of science in our own world, because our understanding is greatly enriched by sharing diverse experiences.

At one point in the story it looks as though phrenology might become the forefront of scientific thinking. Was phrenology real and, if so, why do we not learn about it in school today?

Ah, phrenology! Maybe you’ve seen pictures of a human head sectioned into little blocks with things like cautiousness and self-esteem? This was a pseudo-science (that means it’s not based on any truly scientific research), and was amazingly popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some people even used it to justify racial and gender prejudices. I thought it was an interesting case of what happens when people don’t treat the process of scientific research with the care and precision it deserves and head off (pun intended!) in a wrong direction without any moral or ethical boundaries. We don’t learn about phrenology in science lessons at school because it doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. You might hear about it in history lessons though!

Why do you think a world with only ‘how’ questions doesn’t work? What do you think is so important about ‘why’ questions?

A world that only allows us to ask ‘how’ doesn’t allow us to be fully human. We start as young children with ‘why?’ questions: Why is the sky blue? Why does two and two equal four and not five? Why are we here? Asking 'Why?' is a really important part of learning. If we just accepted things without asking these deeper ‘why’ questions, all spiritual, ethical and moral ground would disappear, and then how could we test whether we were being told the truth or not? Society would be in free fall.

Why do some areas of science get ‘debunked’? Does that mean the people who came up with the ideas were stupid or bad at science?

The science we have today can be described as the best picture the experts have come up with to explain how the universe works. Ask any professor working in science, and she or he will accept, and even welcome, the idea that tomorrow some of what they think might be proved wrong, or may at least not offer a full picture of what’s going on. But you can only come up with something better if you have the initial picture in the first place. The scientists of the past weren’t stupid. They were often very clever people building the best picture they could with the time, technology and information available to them. As Isaac Newton wrote: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Like Newton, we understand more today because of the incredible work done by the scientists that have gone before us.

Enjoy reading The Curious Crime. Buy your copy here.

Interested in learning more about The Curious Crime and Julia Golding? Check out her wonderful website here.