TBB: The title, By Royal Command...is this an echo of OHMSS?
CH: There is a definite echo. Unfortunately we couldn’t think of a nice twist to it (like adding ‘Secret’ to OHMS.) There is a lot of stuff in the book about the secret service, and it sows the seeds for a lot of what happens in James’s later life. There was always a plan to have this book involve the royal family and as it’s a slightly more grown up book, it has a slightly more grown up title. When you read the book you will realize that the title is slightly ironic. There are many similarities with OHMSS, not least because of the alpine setting, but also because it’s a love story.
TBB: Having just completed the book, what's your gut feeling about it? The best one yet? Did it turn out as you expected?
CH: No book ever turns out how you expect, but I do like this one. I have tried to give it some emotional depth. Bond’s choices are not so clear cut. The book asks what is right and what is wrong, and Bond doesn’t always necessarily make the right decisions. It’s a great way to finish off the series, and at the end of it we really feel that James is poised for the next phase of his life. You can’t have a favorite book just as you can’t have a favorite child. It’s interesting that different readers have different favorites, and I have to be careful when looking at the websites, because the posters are not my target audience. When I do events with children I am always startled by how young they are, and I mustn’t forget that.
TBB: How long is By Royal Command?
CH: It’s pretty well the same length as all the others. I always set out with the intention of making the books shorter, but it never happens.
TBB: Are there any new plot details you'd like to tease us with?
CH: By God, you’re greedy. I don’t want to spoil it. What can I say? Bond meets princess Elizabeth… (based on an anecdote told me by my father in law, who met her in very similar circumstances). He also meets the Prince of Wales - later the Duke of Windsor (heir to the throne), various people from his past reappear, and there’s a visit to the opera. As for gadgets - Boys at Eton used to sew pockets into the tails of their coats, so that they could hide/smuggle items in them. I have used this idea to give James a kind of utility jacket.
TBB: Finally, are you relieved or sad that you've completed your set of five Young Bond novels?
CH: A bit of both. I've lived with Bond for a few years now and it’s been great fun, but writing 5 books back to back is a strange and draining experience. It will be good to take a break and do something else. I am not saying I won’t return to Young Bond in the future, but for now these 5 books will stand as a set. The graphic novel is out in September (it’s going to be fabulous), and if that does well there will be more to follow, so I hope to be involved with Young Bond in one way or another for many more years to come.
By Royal Command will be released by Puffin in hardcover on September 4, 2008.