I am your toothless Carny… Michael Grant on Horror


So, Matt suggested a blog post explaining how I tap into the sort of horror that will affect both kids and adults and my first thought was that I hadn’t written enough horror to have a good answer. I’ve only written one thing that’s just straight-up horror: Messenger of Fear, with sales well into the dozens.

But then I scrolled back through my oeuvre (I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to deploy that obnoxious word) and on closer reflection, huh, I do write a lot of horror, I just tend not to think of it that way. BZRK is certainly scary but it’s sci-fi horror in the Alien or Event Horizon vein, so I sweep it into the sci-fi category. And there are certainly major horror elements in the Gone series, but that gets swept into the YA dystopia drawer.

Going way back, the Everworld series I wrote with my wife, Katherine Applegate, has a lot of horror, but also a lot of mythology so I sweep that into the category of, “shouldn’t we have hired Rick Riordan to write that?” That was back in the 90’s and he hadn’t done The Lightning Thief yet, and we probably could have hired him for minimum wage. The series would have sold better, and we would have contractually enslaved a future competitor. Everybody wins! Except Riordan.

I’m sorry, that was a bit of a digression. The point is yes, yes I would like to pretend to be an expert on how to write scary stuff. Let’s see if I know what I’m talking about.

There are two kinds of people: those who think death is the ultimate threat, and those who have a sick, twisted, deviant imagination and understand that death is actually the end of fear and suffering. The instant you are dead, you can stop worrying how you look, what you can eat, and how to weasel out of attending your high school reunion. All done! Candle snuffed out. You’re not just outta here, you’re just not. You occupy no position, neither here nor there. It’s not just Buh-bye! it’s Buh-.

Death doesn’t scare me, you know what does? Mutilation. The forcible removal of useful body parts. That’s why when I meet my daughter’s boyfriends, I’m never thinking “shotgun,” I’m thinking “hack saw”. To be specific, I’m thinking one could use a metal clamp to attach some portion of the young gentleman’s anatomy to the floor, set the room on fire and leave the victim a steak knife. The element of choice is important because it makes the victim an agent of his own mutilation, it transfers enough responsibility that the moment of decision, the moment when he decides to start sawing away rather than burn alive, that moment would be with him every day of his life.

What’s the point of inflicting suffering only to end it in death?

Now, what just happened in your head, blog reader, is also important. It’s useful that you started to wonder if there was something actually wrong with me. I mean, what kind of person thinks up something like that? And that concern is useful because it means I’ve laid down a marker in your brain signalling that we could be going to some very dark places. Look at it this way: two identical roller coasters, one operated by a team of costumed Disney droids, and one operated by a toothless carny with a skull tattoo.

I am your toothless carny.

(By the way, I just Googled the phrase, “I am your toothless carny,” and it has evidently never before been written or said. I could not be more proud.)

Wherever we are taking the story, whatever the specific horror, it’s helpful if you don’t trust me to behave. I don’t want you reassured, I want you nervous. So when I set out to scare people I lay down some early scene to knock the reader off-stride. In BZRK (spoiler alert) I set up what appears to be our protagonist and then kill him in as spectacularly gruesome a way as I can while working with a plunging jet, a football stadium, a flying brain and a cup of beer. In Gone there’s the baby who starves to death in his crib, and a girl beaten to death with a baseball bat. In Messenger of Fear we start with the corpse of a teenager who has shot herself in the head.

I want the reader to understand that I don’t even know what the rules are so I’m certainly not going to abide by them. You know that place you’re afraid to go? I’m taking you there. Get in the car, we’re going right now. You are in the hands of a disturbed individual.

So, I like to create uncertainty, then I want to keep pushing your boundaries, but only so far. You can’t get into the game of trying to top yourself each time because that pretty quickly starts to reek of desperation. And it’s unnecessary. The Stand is not scarier than Pet Sematary, it’s just a different scary. We don’t need to believe Stephen King will turn the scare up to eleven, we just need to know that he’s going to take us someplace darker than we are comfortable with. No one makes you more nervous and sustains it longer than King.

Dread is the thing much more than the thing is the thing. Wait, what? Okay, what I mean is that it’s less about the specific horror – mutilation, burning alive, dad getting crazy and chasing you around the maze with an axe, vampires sucking your blood so you can sparkle too — than it is about the build-up. In the build-up you want the reader unsettled, you want an element of choice, you want feelings of helplessness, and you want the reader to see him/her/their self in at least one character and then you get dread.

It’s not death we dread, it’s all the things leading up to death. In other words: life. Only the living can experience cancer, the slow suffocation of emphysema, Alzheimers, dismemberment, the guilt of committing homicide, loneliness, depression, locked-in syndrome, uncontrollable rage, frantic impotent desperation, or a cold sore on the side of your tongue where it keeps rubbing against your molars.

So, it’s simple, really. Think of something awful. Create a character to inflict that awful thing upon. Give that character some control. Signal that, oh yes, we are absolutely going to go too far. And then try to work in the word, “eldritch” at least once.

The Territory by Sarah Govett: a Review

The Territory is a gripping fantasy thriller set in a future Britain where unflooded land is scarce.

Everyone must pass an exam at 15 to stay in The Territory or be exiled to the disease-ridden Wetlands. But how can Noa compete when the system is skewed to favour rich kids who can upload information through a Node in the back of their neck? And how can she focus when her heart is being pulled in two directions?

More 10 Things I Hate About You than The Hunger Games; The Territory is a brilliant introduction to a dystopian society not too far removed from our own. It goes beyond the expected tropes of a grim and bloody fight for survival and instead focuses on the daily life being a second class citizen in that most relatable and terrifying of settings – high school.

At Noa’s school there are only two groups – the Childes (Freakoids), teenagers that have had upload nodes grafted into their spines to allow them instantaneous access to information and near perfect recall; and Norms (Fish Faces) teenagers whose parents were either unwilling to risk the lives of their children or been unable to afford the procedure.

With Noa and er friends facing exams that could make or destroy their lives in a slowly drowning world they still have to deal with jealousy, loss and facing rivals that see them as leeches and fit for nothing except expulsion and exile outside the safety of the Territory.

In the days leading up to the most important exams of their lives, Noa Blake and her friends are about to learn that there is no upload equivalent to the human spirit.

The Territory is a believable, exciting read that had me hanging on every word and left me wanting to find out more about a world that could be our future.

Side-stepping Big Brother


In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?

My answer to that question is no, we must not.

~David Cameron

 
Since the Conservative Part achieved a majority in the elections, the previously shelved Draft Communications Data Bill (also known as the Snooper’s Charter) is back on the list of things the government wants to push through at the earliest possible opportunity. The original draft bill required internet and other service providers to retain records of all communications for 12 months, including emails, web phone calls and use of social media and it is unlikely that it will have changed much since it was first tabled.

The bill currently has the support of the National Crime Agency, Met Police and City of London Police.

It is not too late to start lobbying our MPs in the hope that they will vote against this bill.

The British people are in danger of ‘sleep-walking into a surveillance society!’

~Richard Thomas former Information Commissioner

 
Compared to other industrialised Western states, the UK was “the most surveilled country”

~Dr David Murakami-Wood

 
If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear is a saying that I seen being quoted by politicians more and more lately; it is the thought that if you are honest, law-abiding and open then you will have no problems with the government looking into what you are saying and doing. I am a firm believer in privacy and believe that it is a right that no government should be able remove.

I know that it is very easy being tracked if you use an RFID travel card or carry your mobile phone with you, even walking in public through a built-up area the chances of you ending up on CCTV are very good.

It is even easier to track a person online, with cookies being placed on our computers, ISPs tracking where we go, search companies retaining all our searches and now governments wanting access to everything we say and do.

It is fortunate that in this modern, hyper-connected world there are tools available to end-users to allow us a modicum of privacy online. I have included links and some information on three of them below.

The Onion Router (Tor)

Tor allows internet users to surf the web anonymously and is used for both legal and illegal purposes.

From the Electronic Freedom Foundation Surveillance Self Defence page:

Tor is a volunteer-run service that provides both privacy and anonymity online by masking who you are and where you are connecting. The service also protects you from the Tor network itself.

For people who might need occasional anonymity and privacy when accessing websites, Tor Browser provides a quick and easy way to use the Tor network.

Users are able to download a version of the Firefox browser modified to work through the Tor network:
https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

The Tor Browser works just like other web browsers, except that it sends your communications through Tor, making it harder for people who are monitoring you to know exactly what you’re doing online, and harder for people monitoring the sites you use to know where you’re connecting from. Keep in mind that only activities you do inside of Tor Browser itself will be anonymized. Having Tor Browser installed on your computer does not make things you do on the same computer using other software (such as your regular web browser) anonymous.

The Tor Project also provides secure browsing apps for Android & iPhone users.

TAILS

The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) is a Debian-based live CD/USB with the goal of providing complete Internet anonymity for the user. The product ships with several Internet applications, including web browser, IRC client, mail client and instant messenger, all pre-configured with security in mind and with all traffic anonymised. To achieve this, Tails uses the Tor network to make Internet traffic very hard to trace.

When your computer boots up after the USB or CD is inserted, instead of booting with the installed operating system it will start up the Tails temporary OS that will be run off the CD/USB. When shut down all traces of the temporary OS will be removed from the computer and when the CD/USB is removed the standard OS will begin when next the computer is turned on.

Off the Record Messaging

is a cryptographic protocol that provides encryption for instant messaging conversations.

Websites worth visiting

Library Freedom Project

The Library Freedom Project is a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. The EFF works to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.

The Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group upholds human rights like free expression and privacy. We condemn and work against repressive laws or systems that deny people these rights.

The ORG campaigns, lobbies, goes to court — whatever it takes to build and support a movement for freedom in the digital age.

Teen Librarian Monthly May 2015 – 9 Years Old Today

Today marks nine years of Teen Librarian and Teen Librarian Monthly

Download (PDF, 1.03MB)

Libraries in the Internet Age

Introduce your students to what Libraries are capable of in the Information Age.

Good for an introduction to the Library lesson at the start of the school year and more!

Interview with Sarah Govett Author of The Territory


Hi Sarah, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Teen Librarian!

My obligatory first question is could you please introduce yourself to the audience?

My name’s Sarah Govett (but I guess you know that already!). My debut novel, The Territory, is out this month with Firefly Press. I was initially a lawyer, then a tutor, a mum and now a writer. Please buy my book as I really like writing and want to keep doing it!

How far in the future is The Territory set?

It’s set in 2059, but the exact date isn’t important. It’s just supposed to be enough in the future that environmental meltdown has happened, but close enough that people and their attitudes are pretty recognisable.

The global catastrophe that occurred – one of polar ice caps melting and the lower levels of land being flooded is potentially a very real threat, do you believe it is a catastrophe that can happen in our lifetimes?

I do. And it really scares me. I genuinely believe we need to take pretty drastic steps now to reduce population and carbon consumption, but I’m worried we’re collectively too selfish to do this. Humans are notoriously rubbish at prioritising long-term gain over short-term hardship.


Do you think that Britain is moving towards a police state?

There have been some worrying developments, but I think we’re a long way from a proper police state scenario. I hope, maybe naively, that us Brits value have such a strong tradition of liberty that we will stop any drastic infringements on our freedom. I don’t think, for example, that Spain’s draconian Citizen Safety Law would ever get through Parliament here.

The use of school students is a fairly common one in dystopian fiction (the biggest example being Battle Royale) but it is more realistic with them actually attending school and seeing the division between norms and the kids that have nodes implanted allowing them faster access to learning and near perfect recall. What inspired this?

I think the biggest influence has been working as a tutor these past 12 years. I’ve taught some incredibly bright and talented pupils at low performing schools, who, without additional input, have no chance of competing against their often less able peers at more spoon-feeding, exam-factory style schools. I wanted to take this unfairness and heighten it to a life or death situation.

I felt through the novel that you are not a fan of the levels of testing that students undergo today, nor the push to side-line the arts over the sciences – would you say that is accurate?

Absolutely. I have seen first hand the horrific pressure our results-obsessed education system places on students and I wanted my novel to reflect this. Teenagers work so hard to sit exams in 9 or more subjects, often to be rewarded by newspaper headlines denigrating their results and declaring this year’s exams to be ‘the easiest ever!’ The more creative students are forced to sweat their way through maths and science knowing that more weight will be placed on those results. And I think, growing up, I was as guilty as anyone of seeing maths and science as more important subjects or maybe better indicators of intelligence. I mean the stereotypically ‘brainy’ student is more associated with a lab or mathletes than poetry. I think my change in opinion has come through working closely with students who are clearly hugely intelligent but whose brains, for whatever reason, simply cannot process more abstract concepts in maths or science. And they feel terrible about it and somehow lesser. But the arts and humanities help foster an understanding of motivations and empathy, which I believe we need now more than ever to make the world a better place. When you imagine a world without stories, music and art you realise that whilst the Arts might not be necessary for human survival, they are necessary to preserve our humanity – even people with highly logical jobs like to relax at night with dramas and comedies, or perhaps even a YA book with crossover appeal.

Noa is a very unusual heroine, she comes across as flawed and human compared to many of her near perfect contemporaries on the dystopian YA bookshelf, what inspired you to create her?

I wanted a heroine who was a bit more relatable. I think that even in the most dystopian of societies people would be caught up in their own little trivial worlds, scared to act and, above all, determined to survive. The will to live is really, really strong, even if it means sacrificing others.

Will we be introduced to more of the drowned world in later stories or will we be confined to what remains of Britain?

Book two has the working title ‘Into the Wetlands,’ so there’s a clue!

Moving the spotlight onto your publishers for a moment, Firefly Press is a very new addition to the publishing market; apart from The Territory can you recommend any of the other titles they will be publishing?

They’ve got some great titles coming out. Also out this month is the mad sci-fi epic Lost on Mars by Doctor Who writer Paul Magrs (10+). In June they’re bringing out White Petals by Maria Grace – a warm and funny real-life drama set in a care home in the south Wales valleys (13+). And two great books in September – Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, a modern day fable about a small boy determined to fight his dad’s depression (8 to 12); and The Boy Who Drew the Future by the brilliant Rhian Ivory – a YA fantasy fiction set in the past and present about two boys compelled to draw events that later come true.

Apart from what you may already have mentioned in previous questions, what inspired The Territory and what inspires you to write?

I’ve thought about writing for a long time and finally decided to have a go in snatched half hours while my baby slept. I’ve always been drawn to accessible novels about big ideas and my biggest influences are probably John Wyndham (The Crysalids is probably my all time favourite book), John Christopher (the amazing Death of Grass), Margaret Atwood (too many to name), Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon – if you haven’t read it you need to get a copy, believe me), and more recently Gemma Malley (her thought provoking The Declaration). On a more personal note, my eldest girl is called Noa. My husband and I often panic about having given her such an unusual name so I wanted her to be able to read about a cool heroine called Noa to make her feel better about it all.

Apart from the sequel, is there anything else that you are working on at the moment?

I’ve written a few thousand words of a more humorous coming of age novel but I think I’ll return to this later. I want to crack on with the sequel!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thank you!

Shakescraft

shakescraft
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/), the non-profit organisation that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, has launched its Shakescraft competition where budding digital architects from all over the world can, for the first time, use their imaginations to digitally design New Place, the grand family home in Stratford-upon-Avon where William Shakespeare and his family lived for 19 years.

Shakescraft is free to enter, and available in three different age categories; under 11’s, 12 – 16 year olds, and over 16’s. Judges are looking for Minecraft fans to design their very own version of Shakespeare’s home based on the footprint of New Place, with the most imaginative creations in with a chance to win some fantastic Minecraft and Shakespeare goodies worth £100.

The competition coincides with work starting on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s project to transform the site of Shakespeare’s New Place into a contemporary heritage landmark in celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy.

Julie Crawshaw, Shakespeare’s New Place project manager at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “We recently welcomed dozens of local primary school classes to the site of New Place and it was really encouraging to see their interest and enthusiasm for Shakespeare. I know from personal experience how kids of all ages love Minecraft, so this competition is a fantastic opportunity to ignite young people’s interest in Shakespeare, and have fun at the same time.

Although his house no longer stands, we’re sure of the footprint of the site thanks to recent archaeological discoveries, so it’ll be really interesting to see people’s ideas of how Shakespeare would have lived and entertained in this grand family home.”

For details on how to enter, visit www.shakescraft.com. The competition closes on 31 August 2015, with winners announced in September.

About Shakespeare’s New Place

William Shakespeare bought New Place in 1597 at the height of his career as a successful playwright, and was considered the largest house in Stratford-upon -Avon at the time. Sadly, New Place no longer exists after it was demolished in 1759 by its then owner, Reverend Francis Gastrell, who was reputedly annoyed by visiting fans of Shakespeare, as well as a tax dispute with the local parish.

With much of its heritage hidden below ground or in the extensive archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, it has been difficult for many visitors to get a real sense of the site’s significance and history. But now, the £5.25million project to re-imagine the site of New Place will tell the story of the world famous playwright at the height of his success as a family man, writer and prominent citizen of Stratford-upon-Avon. This is the single most significant Shakespearian project anywhere in the world to commemorate 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy, and due to reopen on 23 April 2016, the 400th anniversary of his death.

Chopstix by A.T. Raydan, Exclusive Extract


A lot was on my mind, happy thoughts, happy positive thoughts. I was enjoying college life.

As I walked closer to home, I felt another shiver shoot down my spine and tingling sensations throughout my body. This time they felt stronger and lasted longer. I was struck by a sense of panic. Then I heard the sirens and saw flashing lights in the distance.

I noticed the pale blue sky turning dark very quickly. Something had happened. Something very bad had happened.

I carried on walking. With each step, I felt the tingling sensations getting stronger and stronger. As I got closer to home, it hit me. The sirens and flashing lights were coming from right outside the House of Wu. It was on Fire!

The happy thoughts were gone in a flash…

The whole building was ablaze. Plumes of thick black smoke just billowed out across the sky and flames could be seen shooting from the windows and roof of the building.
For a moment, all I could hear was the loud thumping of my heart. I just froze to the spot whilst I took everything in.

I looked around and noticed firefighters carrying hoses everywhere. They were fighting what was quickly turning into a raging inferno. It was at that moment that I first noticed the strong acrid smell and the heat from the fire. It was unbearable.
There was a cordon around the parade of shops, yet crowds were still gathering, all gasping whilst watching the blaze. I heard someone mention that Beryl’s and Franco’s were also under threat from the fire and that firefighters were doing their utmost to save them too.

And then all of a sudden, there was an explosion followed by the sound of glass shattering. Things didn’t look good for the House of Wu.
My breathing became very strained and that acted as a trigger for me to run towards my home oblivious of my surroundings. Suddenly two individuals in uniforms grabbed me. It was the police.

“Stop! Stop! You can’t go any further!” shouted one of the police officers.
“That’s my home! My parents are in there!” I screamed.

“Calm down, calm down,” replied a police officer in a rather relaxed manner, as he took me to one side.

“My parents!” I shouted.

I became hysterical and started to scream. A policewoman approached me and put her arm around me. I knew something bad had happened.

“Come with me,” she said, as she took me towards a police van. She opened the side door and I was helped to sit on the floor with my feet on the pavement.

I was visibly shaking and tears were flowing from my eyes.

“My parents are in there! Have you rescued them? Did they manage to get out in time?” I screamed.

Chopstix by A.T Raydan is published by Unique Inspiration (paperback, £6.99). Available online from Waterstones here.

NEXT STOP: Addicted to Media concludes the official Chopstix blog tour with a spooky letter from Wendy Wu’s mother from beyond the grave…
YESTERDAY’S STOP: Death, Books and Tea hosted a guest post by Chopstix bad guys – ‘The Chi’

A Robot in the Garden: How I developed Ben and Tang’s characters and relationship

robot garden
Tang came into my head more or less fully formed, certainly to look at, as did Ben. With Tang, a number of his characteristics came about because of his physicality, such as the fact that he can’t cook because he’s too short and can’t reach the stove. He was also never exposed to much in the way of teaching from Bollinger, so he arrives in Ben’s garden underdeveloped save for the experiences he has had on his way over to England, which the reader never finds out about.

The journey that Tang went on to reach Ben also gave rise to the robot’s character from a visual point of view – he’s dirty and battered, which means other robots/androids look down on him even more than they would have before. This has given Tang a bit of a complex, and makes Ben’s kindness to him even more of a reason for the robot to latch onto him.

Tang’s appearance, being the only thing Ben really knows about Tang for a quite a while, is the foundation of their relationship. Ben is a broken man, though he doesn’t realise it, and feels an affinity for Tang who is in the same boat. They are both underdogs.

A large part of Ben’s character started out as a series of practical considerations. He is wealthy because it meant I didn’t have to get bogged down in the financial implications of a round-the-world trip, which might have detracted from the story I wanted to tell. But that in turn leads you to question why he is wealthy. For him to be an underdog he needed to have the odds stacked against him, which meant I had to put him through some tough times. He also needed a reason to be able to drop everything and head off on the journey with Tang, so he needed to have no ties at home.

So I took away his parents and had his wife leave him, in addition to being perpetually unemployed. These things solved the financial issue and the ties to home, but it gave him a serious backstory which needed to be addressed throughout the book.

In addition to the sense of ‘you and me against the world’, Ben and Tang’s relationship developed just by sending them off round the world and seeing how they would each respond to the situations they found themselves in, knowing the issues and limitations of both. Ben has a fear of being a father in case he is terrible at it, but by necessity taking care of Tang assures him that he could actually cut it as a dad, though it takes other people to tell him this.

So, to sum up, I think for me character + experience = story.

Robot-thumb

An Interview with Taran Matharu author of The Novice

Hi Taran, thank you so much for giving up your time for this interview.

To start off with, a question that I ask every new author, can you please introduce yourself to the readers of Teen Librarian?

Hi everyone, I am the author of the Summoner series, and book 1, The Novice, comes out on May 5th. I serialised it on Wattpad and it went viral, achieving 6 million reads thus far. The Novice was picked up by publishers all over the world and will be published in 12 territories.

I have read that you started The Novice during National Novel Writing Month, were you able to finish the first draft during NaNoWriMo?

Not quite, as the target for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words and The Novice is almost twice as long! I did hit that target and the rest of the book was written over the next few months, while I was backpacking in Australia.

How long after NaNoWriMo did you put the Novice up on Wattpad, and can you describe your experience of using that platform?

I was putting the book up on Wattpad as I wrote it, 1 chapter every day. It really helped my writing as I promised a daily update to my fans in that first month. Knowing that people were looking forward to the next chapter spurred me on, even when I was tired. I think the one day I didn’t upload was my birthday!

Your novel makes use of a number of issues prevalent in the real world; racism, class-based divisions and other family-based stigmas. If you do not mind me asking are any of these based on your experiences?

I experienced a lot of racism when I was younger, starting at four years old. I was nicknamed poo-skin, told to go back to my own country and was often framed for thefts by having things hidden in my bag and desk. These experiences definitely influenced my writing. I think everyone sees class divisions in their lifetime, although this may have been more apparent at the private schools I attended. Family stigma is more inspired by medieval times and the emphasis they put on heritage and bloodlines.

The Novice is a brilliant book, it is one that teenage me would have loved just as much as myself now as an adult, in fact teen me would have read through the night to finish it in one sitting but I had to put it down to get some sleep. Did you have a specific audience in mind while writing, or is epic heroic fantasy a genre that you love?

It is a genre that I absolutely adore, but I never had a target audience in mind. I think in a way I was writing for my younger self, a book that combined everything I loved into one book as well as being accessible for someone who is not used to reading in that genre.

One of the things that jarred me a bit was the use of the name Pinkerton for the national crime investigation service as it is a real world organisation too. Is it named for the US Detective Agency or will we find out more where it came from in later volumes of the Summoner series?

There was some influence there. If you look at the inception of the Pinkertons in the 1850’s, their role was both as investigative law enforcement and personal security guards to officials. They were also used as hired goons to break down unions for the rich, almost acting as mercenaries. The Pinkertons of the Summoner world act much the same way, working directly for the King’s father and focussing on keeping the poor and the dwarves in their place.

Are the Orcs in your world actually evil or are they the foreign ‘other’ and misunderstood by the ‘civilised’ races?

I think that answering this might be a bit of a spoiler for The Novice’s sequel! That being said, the reasons for their behaviour are cultural and ideological rather than racial. A large part of why they are so violent and cruel is a combination of religion and indoctrination. I think I’ve said all I can!

What were your influences (both literary and other) when you came to write the Novice?

History had a large part to play, primarily in two time periods. First, Medieval times, with their great battles, political intrigue and the importance of family, heritage and succession. Then there is the 18th century, an age of great empires, clashes of cultures and racial discrimination. They had a mad mix of modern and early weaponry, with gunpowder muskets, pistols and cannons being used alongside swords and cavalry, all of which appear in The Novice.

From the world’s legends, I adapted Griffins, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Golems and Hydras, to name but a few, as well as lesser-known creatures, such as the cannibalistic Wendigo, the lightning powered Raiju and the griffin-like Chamrosh. Of course I designed my own unique demons as well, but my love for mythological creatures around the world had a huge influence on it all.

My love of travelling was also a factor. On my travels I have encountered fascinating cultures, from the aboriginals of Australia to the native tribes of the Amazon. I have been in deserts and rainforests, deep sea and mountaintops, snowy wastelands and the hilly English countryside. These inspired the geography of Hominum, as well as the cultures and histories of my fantasy races.

I also used my favourite fantasy tropes in the creation of the Summoner world. These included the magical schools of Earthsea, Harry Potter and Discworld, the multiple races of Lord of the Rings, Skyrim and Redwall, the portals to another world in the Chronicles of Narnia and Stargate, and even the creature companions in Pokémon.

Can you recommend any other authors (both YA & adult) that you enjoy and would like to promote?

I think a lot of readers sometimes struggle with fantasy because it can be a little intimidating and inaccessible if the world is over-complex. If I had to recommend some of my favourite fantasy series, they would be Discworld by Terry Pratchett, The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan, The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and the Edge Chronicles by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart.

Finally, when can we expect to see Summoner book two? A question I am sure you have been heard a lot.

I have indeed! I don’t think that has been confirmed yet and publishing schedules can change, but I think at the moment we are aiming for May 2016. The good thing is I have almost finished writing the first draft! It’s a little more difficult without the constant feedback I had when writing the first book on Wattpad, but the added flexibility has helped me add more nuance to the second novel.