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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author C.J.L. Thomason shares the story her new fantasy book, Crown & Scalpel, and why she was inspired to write a blind character who navigates using echolocation.

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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed C.J.L. Thomason about her life and career, the inspiration behind her new book, Crown & Scalpel, and her creative writing process.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

My name is Caroline, otherwise known as the author C. J. L. Thomason. I was born in the German-speaking region of Belgium to two Flemish parents.

C.J.L. Thomason on The Table Read Magazine

My parents divorced when I was 3 and me and my older sister mainly stayed with our dad. When I was 6, we moved in with my aunt in Flanders because most of our family lived there. I grew up on my aunt’s organic chicken farm between the chickens, horses and dogs. Tragedy struck our family again when I was 12, my mum died in a car crash and left me incredibly bereaved.

I struggled a lot to fit in with my peers at school. This slightly improved once I graduated from secondary school and moved on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, followed by a Master’s degree in Engineering technology and finally a PhD in the same field. Before taking the science route, I studied languages and literature for 1 year, but then decided I wanted to be scientist and write in my pastime.

After my Master’s I did quite a few different jobs before and after my PhD, but currently I think I’ve found my calling in teaching at a college.

I still live on the farm next to my dad and aunt, with our horse, ponies and my two incredibly cute and notoriously naughty corgis, Lenny and Ginny. Currently I teach at a college and in my free time – apart from writing – I drive a carriage with my Shetland pony Harold, walk with my dogs, play some recreational volleyball occasionally and watch stand-up comedy.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I liked writing short essays when I was in primary school, even though I had difficulties with spelling I did receive good marks on the story-writing part. But the real catalyst was probably my mother’s death when I was 12. Writing became sort of an escape from reality. I could fantasise about my characters in different settings, let them experience adventures.

I’m not sure how I old I exactly was when I told my dad I wanted to become a writer, but I believe I was 14 or 15 years old at the time.

When did you take a step to start writing?

I already was writing short stories in primary school (excluding the essays I was obliged to write for school). This only increased over the years and especially after my mum died as I found it easier to convey emotions on paper.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Crown and Scalpel nearly took 20 years from idea to release. I started toying with the idea of different characters with my friend Rose when I was 16. Before this time, I had already written several other stories that I never finished.

During the next several years I would write scenes with these different characters, of which some ended up in the final book. But I really started writing the story when I was in college. By then I started working on an outline for the novel.

My years as PhD student also were a blessing for writing, I was constantly submerged in English academic literature that writing fiction at the end of the day was a nice way to relax. The first draft was finished around the same time as my PhD thesis in 2019. Then the novel underwent several editing sessions.

In 2022 I contacted Daniel Kish of the World Access for the Blind and asked if he was willing to review and collaborate so I could donate to his organisation. I queried Arkbound in December of the same year (mind you I had queried quite a bit by then), and they responded positively in January 2023. They told me as they are a charity publisher, they were willing to publish if I was successful raising £2000 pounds through a crowdfund. The crowdfund campaign was successful and that’s when everything was put into motion.

Reviewing and editing, typesetting, cover design, … and now since 17th of February 2024 it’s out there for everyone to read and hopefully enjoy.

What made you want to write Crown & Scalpel?

It was during a summer holiday, which I spend with my friend Rose in the Netherlands. We were about 16 at the time and had this little notebook which we used to write messages to each other during the night so we wouldn’t make noise. This kind of became a habit even when silence wasn’t required and it was with Rose that I created Jade, Raven, Ambarenyll and Faraiël.

Once I had these characters and their world in my head, I started writing simple scenes and soon those scenes would follow each other creating a red thread. That’s when I told Rose that someday I would write a book about them, she was there from the beginning and most supportive.

This is also why I dedicated this book to her and Daniel Kish, who was the main inspiration for Ambarenyll and his blind mentor.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Crown & Scalpel?

I knew where I wanted to start and where I wanted to end the story, but I found writing the body especially challenging as every piece of the puzzle needed to fit. What also was really annoying: I always had splendid ideas during the night when I couldn’t sleep and told myself to write them down in the morning, and in the morning … I had forgotten everything. This led me leaving a notebook on my bedside table, but that wasn’t ideal because it would disrupt my sleep quite a bit …

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

The main inspiration for Ambarenyll was Daniel Kish of the World Access for the Blind. About 10 years ago I saw a YouTube video of Daniel, who is 100% blind, demonstrating active echolocation by clicking his tongue so he could ride a bicycle, hike, and so on, without supervision. It was truly fascinating and inspirational. The scientist in me started researching the concept of human echolocation and this led me to create a blind protagonist who “clicks”.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

Unlike with the protagonist I can’t really say that my mysterious antagonist was inspired by someone. I wanted to write an antagonist who does truly horrible things because he’s lost himself without being evil. I think some aspects of the antagonist come from my inner darkness, although I never had any intention of hurting someone to attain certain goals, and I also don’t see myself taking revenge, I always think: in the end, you reap what you sow.

What is the inciting incident of Crown & Scalpel?

The story of Crown and Scalpel takes place in Landaïla an Elven Kingdom where two different factions of elves live: the ruling Mané elves and the Darmé elves, a minority. The Darmé have been suppressed for a long time and they are rebelling against the Mané regime by attacking traders on the Trade Route to the South.

Ambarenyll is a Mané doctor who was a victim of a rebel attack thirteen years before the story starts. Although he still feels conflicted about what happened back then, he doesn’t want the conflict to escalate any further. But with the attacks on the Trade Route he feels that war may be looming.

What is the main conflict of Crown & Scalpel?

The conflict between the Mané and suppressed Darmé is one of the main themes. It is due to this conflict that Ambarenyll meet Princess Jade, whom he has to treat for a broken leg. In the beginning both of them are clouded by prejudice and thoroughly dislike one another. This changes when they both open up and they even become attracted to each other. However, Ambarenyll feels conflicted about these feelings as he doesn’t know if he can put his past behind him.

Did you plot Crown & Scalpel in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

In the beginning I only had a set of characters and the world they lived in. I would write scenes with the different characters in it, but nothing concrete. But when I decided I wanted to write a story, I did make an outline – several actually – and they changed quite frequently too. It became sort like a puzzle, with me trying to fit in different centrepieces to make the puzzle fit.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Crown & Scalpel need?

Because I’m not native English and I my vocabulary expanded over time, I rewrote certain parts several times. I have a digital Oxford Dictionary on my laptop with a Thesaurus, which I find quite useful when writing. This also helped me expand my vocabulary. Before I set out querying, I did ask a professional proof-reader to check for mistakes. Once Arkbound accepted the manuscript for publication there was a second round of editing. Unfortunately, some mistakes still made the final cut …

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

My advice to aspiring writers: The most important thing is that you enjoy doing it. If it becomes a task, creativity won’t come as easily. I often see lots of writers post their writing streaks of over 40 days, which I find quite amazing as I don’t think I’ve ever written every day of one single week.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Crown and Scalpel has an open ending as I would love to write sequels and I’m in the process of doing so, because once you read the book you will realise that the story of Ambarenyll and Jade is not finished yet. Additionally, I think I might like to write a mystery or a crime novel.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

When I had my book launch, I felt the same pride I had when I presented my PhD, so yes, I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Maybe even more, because this is my teenage dream come true, whereas I decided to do a PhD half a year before I started. As a teenager I dreamt of publishing this story, and my peers would tell me it would never happen, because I was writing in English as non-native. So, I’m also proud I could prove them wrong.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:




Twitter/X: @cjl_thomason

Instagram: cjl_thomason

Facebook: Crown and Scalpel by CJL Thomason

Book on Publisher’s website:


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