C. C. Cliff is the author of the world-wide best-seller "Jackel Jones and the Tower of Flame". She lives in the UK, but has come to Hong Kong to meet her fans and talk about the book. Along with four other teens, Amy has won a competition to meet Ms Cliff and ask her a few questions.
Amy: You live in London, but most of the action in your novel takes place in Japan. Did you have to do a lot of research on the area where the book is set?
C.C.Cliff: I didn’t have to do too much research because I lived in Tokyo for seven years, so I know the city really well. I worked in the offices of a British magazine there, and I’d already done a lot of research into Japanese culture and legends for some magazine articles I wrote for UK readers. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really think of all the reading and online searching I did as research, because I found it all so fascinating and wanted to find out more for myself as well as for the pieces I was writing.
Amy: I’ve heard that the legend of the haunted ruby necklace that Jackel Jones searches for all over Japan is based on a true story. Can you tell me about it?
C.C.Cliff: You’re right, it’s based on the true story of the Kyoto Ruby that belonged to a line of Japanese princesses in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Legend has it that the ruby was cursed, and several historical facts tell us that the young ladies who owned it all met with violent deaths. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the ruby had been set into a fabulous necklace, but this was stolen and the ruby vanished altogether.
Amy: What was special about the Kyoto Ruby, apart from the fact it was cursed?
C.C.Cliff: It was supposed to be the biggest ruby in the world, and its colour was an amazing deep blood red.
Amy: Has it never been found – in real life, that is?
C.C.Cliff: It vanished in about 1620, if we can believe historians. For two and a half centuries nobody knew where it was. In 1870, a precious gems expert in New York was cataloguing the jewels owned by the late wife of an American newspaper owner, and he noticed an incredible ruby amongst her collection. He’d read about the Kyoto Ruby, and knew that it was unique because it had a bright yellow spot like a star right in the centre. He knew that he had found the legendary Kyoto Ruby.
Amy: What did he do with it?
C.C.Cliff: Well, the curse of the ruby struck. The man who discovered it told the newspaper owner, and an article about he jewel was published all over America. The morning after the story appeared, the jewel expert was found dead in his bath. He had drowned.
Amy: Wow! Where was the ruby?
C.C.Cliff: The owner had it in a bank vault. He decided to sell it in an auction house in London, and the ruby was sent to the UK under guard on a ship across the Atlantic. But when the ship docked, and the auctioneers came on board to take the ruby, the safe was opened and it was empty. The ruby had vanished again and it hasn’t been seen since. That is until Jackel Jones finds it...
Amy: Do you like writing about crime and mystery?
C.C.Cliff: Well, I didn’t set out to write a crime novel. I wanted just to tell a story about interesting people and exciting events. In my book, the characters are as important as the story.
Amy: Are any of the characters based on anyone you know?
C.C.Cliff: Ah, funny you should ask that! The American girl Jackel meets in the coffee shop in Tokyo is based on my sister when she was a teenager. She talks like her and behaves just as my sister would have done if she’d met Jackel Jones.
Amy: Do you have any tips for any teenager who wants to become a successful writer?
C.C.Cliff: Read as much as you can, take an interest in people, and make notes about anything or anyone you find interesting. You will soon get an idea if you do that.
Amy: Are you writing anything at the moment?
C.C.Cliff: Yes, I’m writing a science-fiction story set in the year 2999. My publishers want me to write another Jackel Jones book, but we’ll see about that. I don’t have another story for Jackel in my head yet, but perhaps one will just pop in there when I’m not thinking about it. Who knows? Jackel Jones might get involved in another adventure. We will all just have to wait and see.