5 Places in London That Inspired 'The Path Keeper'
Last year, I wrote a review for The Path Keeper, a gripping YA fantasy novel that explores concepts such as time, love, fate and everything in-between. Fast forward to the present day, and I've been fortunate enough to be featured in the author's blog tour (my first one, nonetheless!).
NJ Simmonds will be taking the reigns for The London Geek today, exploring five places in the big smoke that inspired her first novel in The Indigo Chronicles. So take a look below, find a new neighbourhood to visit, and learn a little more about this smash hit of a book coming your way soon!
Take it away NJ!
If you’ve read The Path Keeper, you won’t be able to miss the fact that London is the third biggest character in the book after Zac and Ella. This isn’t a coincidence, I didn’t just arbitrarily pick the city as my backdrop, the grimy waters of the Thames runs through my veins and has done since the day I was born.
My link with the north of London starts at the Whittington Hospital where I took my first breath of the capital. That famous hill, where the four-times mayor of London (the panto fave Dick Whittington and his cat) were said to have heard the bells of bow calling him to the city, is also where The Path Keeper begins.
Even though I went on to enjoy my early years in Barcelona, my family moved back to Highgate when I was nearly seven years old – and there I stayed until I was twenty-one. Highgate woods, the tube station, Pond Square, the cemetery, Waterlow Park and the village itself all heavily feature in the series. This is where I grew up, it’s where I too was nineteen years old (not living in a grand mansion like Ella, but in a council estate next to a pub) so it felt right to throw Ella into this part of the world for my very first book.
Further down the road, the illustrious and most expensive part of north London, also played a big part of my life. As a kid lots of time was spent walking through Hampstead Heath with my family, tobogganing down the hill on bin bags when it snowed (we weren’t rich enough to have wooden sledges like the posh kids), visiting Kenwood house, drinking at the Spaniards Inn (I’m half Spanish, I belonged there) and walking through its pretty streets.
The scene where Ella and Zac are kissing in the snow on the heath was fun to write because I’ve had my own fair share of snogs on the Heath - although not as racy as that one.
Camden Town was my teen haunt in the mid-90s. In The Path Keeper it’s where Ella and her friends discover the mysterious bar Indigo, running along Camden lock. It’s not based on a real bar, but I love how cool yet grungy and eerie Camden is at night so it was the perfect backdrop. As a thirteen-year-old I’d spend my Saturdays clutching six quid (three week’s pocket money), and somehow have enough to buy new earrings, a falafel and the bus ride home.
My proudest moment, aged fourteen, was saving up a whole fifty pounds from five weeks as a Saturday girl at a hairdressers (do the maths, I earned just over a pound an hour) and having enough to buy myself a leather biker jacket. I wore it proudly with my tie-die skirt, DMs and floppy hat – a proper 90s Camden kid.
The West End
It’s only a tiny scene in the book, but I love the part in The Path Keeper when Ella is returning from a Christmas shopping trip to the West End. Unlike her I hate buses, so it was easy to evoke those heady feelings of nausea in the winter when the foggy crowded bus stops and starts, and the windows are steamy and drizzling, and you feel sick but are too bundled up in your winter clothes to do anything about it.
In my opinion, London is at its most brilliant at Christmastime, and the West End with its lights, window displays and Fortnums & Mason goodies can’t be beaten. In my twenties I worked in Carnaby Street, The Strand and Baker Street – and I loved every single second of the hustle and bustle and beauty of the West End, day and night, winter and summer.
Bank features in the 1941 flashback in The Path Keeper. I worked close to Bank for a couple of years and I’ve always been fascinated with the history of central London and the square mile (in fact the new book I’m writing is a historical fantasy set 350 years ago in the centre of London).
When I discovered how badly that area was damaged during the war, I wanted to tell the story of teen girls living through the Blitz. All the landmarks mentioned in that part of the book are still there today, from the columns to the statue Evie stands beneath. Sometimes I visit the foreign Exchange and think of her.
I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of North (and Central) London, and have a better understanding of why it features in all my books and how it’s so close to my heart. I haven’t lived in the UK for ten years, but I visit it regularly. It never takes me long to fall back into the city’s unique rhythm and soak up her gritty history and vibrant splendour with every step I take.
As they say, you can take the girl out of London - but you’ll never take the London out of the girl!
What a whistle-stop tour of London that was! A massive thank you to NJ Simmonds for that insight - being an honoury north London girl myself, it's amazing to actually picture the scenes where Zac and Ella adventure in. The Path Keeper will be launching at the end of this month, so be sure to pre-order your copy right here if you're a UK reader, or if you're across the pond in the US, find it right here.
But wait, that's not all! This extra special blog tour also has a brilliant competition to check out! See all the dish below:
Every blog tour in the blog has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that's very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019. Check out today's letter and competition graphic below.