Although my books have been praised for their twisty plots that keep the reader turning the pages, it's my characters that motivate me as a writer. I want to know who they are and why they do what they do. Zebediah Petch was a particular challenge. What sort of person turns his own family into a criminal gang?
City of Thieves is set in an alternative Victorian England and I wanted Petch to embody the entrepreneurial spirit of that age. Zebediah constructs a network of receivers, safe houses and retailers for the stolen goods. Like most entrepreneurs, he's a bit of a control freak. It's a family business, employing his sons, nephews, cousins and in-laws. Petch looks after everyone as long as they do as they're told. He's the embodiment of a Victorian patriarch, with a strong sense of family responsibility. He's also a ruthless entrepreneur, eliminating anyone who stands in his way.
Zebediah Petch is an orderly man. He believes in hierarchy, as long as he's at the top of it. He believes in family values, as long as he determines them. He's large, dominating in appearance and manner, and possesses an iron will, suitable for a man at his prime in the Age of Iron. His ambition and ruthlessness have made him the King of Thieves, but it's those very character traits that will ultimately prove his downfall.
Ellen Renner's first book Castle of Shadows was described in The Times as 'Gorgeously exciting and well written, with a hero as strong-minded and quick witted as its heroine, Renner's acute sense of psychology, politics and pace makes this one to revel in.' City of Thieves is the sequel. Castle of Shadows won the North East Book Award this week.