Anchor Leg by Jack Croxall

Ok, so I know it’s been a while, but I never could resist a Q&A with one of my fave authors, the lovely Mr Croxall.  His new book, Anchor Leg, is brilliant and has all the makings of a classic sci-fi novel. Naturally, I wanted to know more about what had inspired him to write it and where he thinks the story might go next. anchor%20leg%20cover

Where did the character of Seren come from? Is she based on anyone you know?

Oh, good question! I wonder if you agree that every character we write has a little bit of ourselves in them? However, beyond that tiny bit of me, I think Seren is very much her own beast. I had a few scenes in mind when I started writing the book and Seren just sort of grew from what I pictured her doing. My thought process was something like: if she acts like this she must have this kind of personality. Does that make sense?!

Why did you decide to make Seren a trainee?

As an apprentice I thought Seren could learn about the Relay (the fictional succession of habitable space stations that make up the book’s setting) as the reader did. I also started the book off with the idea that it might end up as a young-adult title, but eventually I realised I was writing something that was really pure sci-fi. By then Seren’s character was fully formed and I didn’t want to change/age her. Despite being seventeen (maybe that was always more new-adult than young-adult anyway) I think she works as she is. I just hope readers agree!

What is your favourite sci-fi film/book franchise? Did it have an influence on Anchor Leg?

Star Trek. Specifically, Star Trek: The Next Generation. I absolutely loved that show when I was growing up and, during my time at university, I re-watched every episode from all seven series in order – that was my proper education! I love the idea of space exploration and all the moral dilemmas it seems to throw up. In terms of influence, I definitely placed Seren into some morally dubious situations and had her (and other characters) question her actions. On  top of that, there are endless little references and winks to all of my favourite sci-fi shows and films buried within the book. I hope readers have fun spotting them!

The prose of Anchor Leg feels so cinematic that I can imagine it easily as a movie. I know you sometimes write screenplays – would you perhaps adapt this one day as a screenplay?

I take that as a huge compliment, thank you! I also agree that Anchor Leg would make a decent screenplay; a lot of cutting/streamlining as a given of course. Alas, the zero-G stuff and special effects would cost a lot of money to film and, as an unknown writer, I would be very unlikely to get it made. You never know though, maybe one day!

How much did your degree studies/ interest in science influence this book?

I studied environmental science at university and some of that came into play in surprising ways towards the end of the book. My knowledge of space was actually not that strong (although the solar system obviously fascinates me) but I was lucky in that Steve Caddy – sci-fi author of the fabby In Exchange – was on hand to help me with all the technical detail. He set me straight where I got things horrifically wrong in early drafts.

If Anchor Leg was made into a film, who would you love to see in the main roles? Perhaps you’d even like to see it drawn as an anime! 

Definitely unknowns for Seren and Abril, maybe established actors for some of the more senior crew. As for your anime idea, perfect! You’ve singlehandedly solved my budgetary constraint problems! If any animators are reading this, drop me a line!

circle%20author%20photoOriginally trained as an environmental scientist, Jack Croxall soon realised a life in the lab wasn’t for him. After discovering a passion for writing he’s now an award-winning author, scriptwriter and blogger. He tweets via @JackCroxall and blogs at http://www.jackcroxall.co.uk

Anchor Leg is available from Amazon now!

Wye by Jack Croxall – blog tour

Hello peeps! It’s my turn on the blog tour organised by book blog queen Liz Wilkins for Jack Croxall’s much anticipated new YA dystopian novel, Wye. In the coming weeks, Jack will be visiting again to answer some of my dastardly questions (he clearly didn’t learn his lesson last time) but for today I’m going to share my thoughts on the novel and give you some info on where to get your hands on a copy.

In Wye, Jack takes the traditional zombie tale and turns it on its head. The wonderful thing about Wye is that the twist is hiding in plain sight, and you don’t see it coming until it’s already snuck up on you; you’re simply left scratching your head, wondering at its brilliance.

Set in a landscape we now know well, everyone in the world has succumbed to a deadly virus that strips them of not only their lives, but any shred of humanity they might have possessed beforehand, and leaves them as a lumbering, slobbering, blood-thirsty freak. So far, so traditional zombie tale, but if you think you know where it’s going, think again. Few have survived, and for teenage girl – codenamed Wye – there is only her and a ragged band of friends picked up on the road, and her chances of survival, as we are told straight away by means of her journal, are very slim indeed. It feels as though we are reading the dying words of the young girl already and this sense of inevitability is what provides much of the tension. There is a monster… or is there? There is violence… or is there? There is genuine fear for the main character delivered through some brilliant unreliable narration. It’s hard to know what’s real, but this is what makes the story so gripping.Wye Cover Small

Wye is a satisfying, tension-filled read with a flawed but ultimately sympathetic main character. You might find yourself appalled by the actions she takes, but in the end, would you do any differently? It was a book that I couldn’t get out of my head for some time afterwards, and I can’t help but love the very new approach it takes to the traditional apocalypse/zombie/dystopian fare that has been in vogue for some time now; it’s like a breath of fresh air. There’s a literary bent to it too, so if you prefer your reads with a little more existential substance, then you won’t be disappointed by that aspect either.

So…. what are you waiting for? You can find Wye on Amazon and you can find out more about Jack on his website. While you’re at it, why not look him up on Twitter?

Who is X? Jack Croxall spills the Beans… Maybe…

When I read Jack’s short story, I was immediately struck not only by how much tension and jeopardy he had managed to weave into small space, but by just how much potential there was to extend X’s world.  So I was very excited when he agreed to answer a few of my questions about the possibilities of that, and also about X herself.

x bordered-page-0X’s story is just one experience of a much larger, clearly cataclysmic event. Are we going to get any more stories from this event? Will we get to find out who picks up X’s journal?

I hope so! If the response and reviews continue to be positive, I’d really like to explore more of X’s world with another, longer book. After all, X essentially takes place in a single room whilst, outside, the entire planet succumbs to chaos. I have a strong idea of what and who the next book would be about, and I already know it would be called Wye. As for who finds X’s journal, I know that too! There is actually a clue hidden somewhere in the ebook …

What first made you think to call her X?

There’s a line very early on, ‘Well, my name is – actually, I think I’ll refer to myself as X.’ When I got to writing that bit, the name X just popped into my head out of nowhere. The reason I kept it is because it feels kind of universal – anyone could call themselves X. That means that readers might just ask themselves, If I was in this situation, what would I do? That’s my ultimate hope for the story, anyway.

I know that you’re working on the second book of the Tethers trilogy. How did you find swapping between projects to complete X?

It wasn’t that bad, if I’m honest! Despite being a fifteen-year-old girl, X has a similar voice and tone to me. That little co-inky-dink meant that there were a lot less grumbles whilst writing X’s thoughts than say, Mr Cauldwell’s dialogue (from Tethers). I really struggle with Mr Cauldwell; he’s far more intelligent and eloquent than I am and so he takes lots of drafts to get right! Perhaps I should just kill him off?!

How conscious was the decision to make the setting for X a rural one? Why not do a 28 Days Later and have it in a city?

X was shacked up in a farmhouse cellar from day one – I had no idea why at first! And farmhouses are typically found in or around rural villages, so that’s just how the story developed. I’m glad that’s what happened though; a lot of books, films and TV shows have done city apocalypse much better than I could.

The response to X’s release was phenomenal, considering that it was quite spontaneous. How did it feel to be outselling Neil Gaiman?

Haha! Outselling one particular book of Mr Gaiman’s for one particular day in one particular chart feels pretty cool. Obviously though, it’s a relatively contrived and circumstantial factoid to draw from X’s opening day performance. I’m much more thankful and happier with the fact that readers seem to like X and have responded to her plight and the story!

A cheeky final one…. What happens to animals if the things outside get them? (You don’t have to answer this if you think it contains spoilers, but you can tell me in secret!)

Just between you, me and you readers, Sharon, all the animals are fine! Whatever happened to create the uglies seems only to have affected humans. Needless to say, my puppy-dog Archie survived the apocalypse completely unharmed!

***

Born in High Wycombe, Jack Croxall now lives in rural Nottinghamshire with his chocolate Labrador, Archie. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nottingham and currently toils away as a science writer in between working on his books. He tweets via @JackCroxall and blogs at http://www.jackcroxall.co.uk

You can find out more about Jack or where to buy X or Tethers by checking out his site. He also reviews books and films, so why not take a look and find out what he’s discussing today?

I don’t know – Jack Croxall talks parallel universe theories for Science in Fiction week

It Friday, YAY! But it’s the final day of Science in Fiction week, boooo!  We’ll just have to do it again some time. Last, but never least it’s the turn of the awesome Mr Croxall ,with his contribution on a subject that absolutely fascinates me.  Take it away, Jack….

‘I don’t know.’ This is the default position of science. If you ask any half-decent physicist how the universe came in to being, they will say ‘I don’t know but here are some theories.’ Likewise, if you ask any biologist what colour a baby archaeopteryx was, they will probably say ‘I don’t know, but I can speculate.’ The lack of absolutes is what makes science great and what makes the scientific process so encompassing and so (mostly) open-minded. By a happy coincidence, it also leaves a lot of mystery and a lot of room for guess work, and this is where our good friend fiction comes in …

Because so much of our scientific understanding is far from complete, authors can take a scientific concept, and flesh it out however they want. In 1963 a physicist named Hugh Everett published a new theorem, The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. His radical new idea proposed that, thanks to some incredibly clever calculations and observations, our universe must surely not stand alone. In fact, Everett’s groundbreaking theory proposed that there are actually an infinite array of other universes existing parallel to the one we call home. Whilst the theory was criticised at the time, it has since gone on to gain a huge following with notable scientists likening the significance of Everett’s work to that of Einstein’s.

Fast forward to 1995, when Philip Pullman, inspired by Everett’s work, published the first edition of His Dark Materials. The series takes place across an array of parallel worlds with the central duo being able to cut openings and travel between them. Now, Everett’s theorem says nothing about what any of these parallel worlds are actually like and so Pullman was able to imagine them however he wanted. Daemons, armoured bears, witches; all of Pullman’s sublime characters would not have been able to light up the world of fiction if Everett had not published his ideas thirty years beforehand.

So, at a glance, it’s perhaps easy to think of science and fiction as poles apart but, in my experience, this is far from the reality. In fact, it was Pullman’s work which inspired me to start writing fiction and simultaneously helped fuel my love of science. Are Pullman’s ideas anywhere near the truth? Well, I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that our world is all the better for them.

jackA YA Victorian fantasy, Jack Croxall’s debut novel, Tethers follows Karl and Esther as they become embroiled in a conspiracy engineered by treacherous Victorian scientists. The book is available through Amazon and you can find out more by visiting: www.jackcroxall.co.uk or the book’s GoodReads page.tethpurp-211x300

Jack Croxall, author of Tethers, talks about sword-fighting and all things chocolatey…

I make no secret of the fact that I love Tethers (and Jack a little bit too) so I’m chuffed to bits that Jack is back on the blog to talk a bit more about what makes him tick.

tethpurp-211x300

If you don’t already know, what star sign do you think your main character is?

I do know actually! Karl is a Libra (just like me), although I don’t really know anything about star signs so I have no idea if Libra suits him.

If you could be friends in real life with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Hmm, tough one. Maybe Harland because I would love to learn to fight with a sword and he could teach me. Also, he’s got an awesome boat.

Have you ever written a character that you’ve disliked so much you’ve scrapped them from a work?

I don’t think so, no.

Which of your characters would frighten you if you met them in real life?

Laurent Dufor is a pretty scary guy but there’s a character in the second Tethers book that terrifies me so much more …

Describe your book in one word.

Treacherous.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Curious, persistent and always hungry.

Do you ever consult friends when you’re stuck with a plot?

No, never. I usually wait for a solution to present itself and this usually happens just as I’m trying to get to sleep – I often text it to myself so I don’t forget by the morning!

What’s your personal kryptonite?

Probably the internet. I’ve made a strict no internet rule for when I write (unless I need to Google something) and that’s helped a lot!

If you could converse, a la Dr Dolittle, with one type of animal which would it be and why?

That’s easy, definitely my chocolate Labrador, Archie. He’s always looking at me like he wants to say something, I’d love to know what it is!

Tea or coffee?

Hot chocolate. jack

Thanks Jack! If you’d like to find out more about Jack and his books, follow these clickety-click links here:

Website

twitter: @jackcroxall

Amazon

Goodreads

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

Questions and Answers signpost

I’ve been tagged in the next big thing blog hop by the surreally hilarious Laurence Donaghy.  I have the same list of questions that I have to provide entertaining answers to and then I tag two writerly friends.  Oh well, here goes internet oblivion….

1. What is the working title of your next book?

It’s called ‘the one where Sharon’s writing fairy locks away her Merlin DVDs and uninstalls the youtube app from her phone and ties her to a chair until some words come out’.  Maybe that’s a bit longwinded, though.  We’ll go for The Young Moon instead.  It’s the second of the Sky Song trilogy.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

As it’s a sequel, I suppose I have to say that the idea came from the first book! At the end of Sky Song, we left Jacob **Sound of a truck roaring past** so, The Young Moon picks up two years on from there. There was always going to be three books and each one continues the overall story arc. Sky Song was as much about Jacob’s dilemma over his life choices as it was about his battle with the bad guy.  In The Young Moon there’s a whole bunch of different dilemmas around loyalties and who gets to choose who lives and who dies. Jacob gets faced with some really tough decisions and quite often has to deal with the consequences of making the wrong ones.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

If you wanted to be pedantic you could call it Young Adult fantasy.  But there is a feel of realism about it, and I’m very influenced by magical realist works, so I suppose, in that sense, it’s not fantasy in the way most would think of that genre.  There are actually a couple of my favourite TV shows that you could probably point to and say ‘like that.’ If you look at something like Life on Mars or Misfits, outwardly, the setting is very ordinary and mundane, but something extraordinary is happening just beneath the surface.  I think that Jacob’s story is like that.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is where I come undone.  Colin Morgan’s face just pops up every time – not because he looks remotely like any of the characters, but just because I’d make sure I was on set every day!  This is a tricky question, though, because the main characters are all teenagers so the actors young enough to play them would probably be fairly unknown.  I think for Jacob’s best friend, Luca, Jonathan Bailey (from CBBC’s Leonardo) would be pretty cool.  For Jacob, I could really see Jeremy Sumpter looking right, although he may be a little old now as I’m still remembering him like he was in Peter Pan. Maybe someone similar.  But if Colin Morgan would dye his hair blonde then he’d be a definite Jacob!  Actually, for Ellen, someone who looks sort of like Katie McGrath would be good, only she’d have to look seventeen (sorry Katie!). Luckily I’m not a casting executive – my requirements would be pretty vague!

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s bad enough writing an ordinary synopsis!  One sentence?  Ok. I’m totally rebelling with one and a half…

All Jacob has to do is cheat death, yet again, find another like him amongst the seven billion people that swarm over the face of the planet before Makash does, and thwart the prophecy that spells his doom. No pressure then… 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?

Sky Song is self-published so The Young Moon will follow suit.  Unless some miracle occurs between now and March and an agent takes me on.  What’s that you say?  More chance of hitching a lift in the Tardis?  To be honest, though, I’m quite enjoying self-publishing at the moment – it can offer a lot of freedom to a jobbing writer like me in terms of deadlines and creative decisions.

7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If I have a good run at it, a first draft can take maybe 5 or 6 weeks.  I don’t exactly remember how long The Young Moon took but I’d say it was around that. It’s the editing and fine tuning that takes a lot more time than that.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

I genuinely can’t think of anything like it. That’s not me showing off my originality, it’s me showing off how woefully unread I am lately!  There are lots of books that tackle ‘chosen ones’ with great destinies, but I don’t know any of them that do it in such a domestic setting with so much emphasis on the emotional impact of that.  The only one I can think of that deals with it any similar way is Harry Potter, but Jacob’s story is nothing like Harry’s other than he does have a destiny that he can’t escape.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Oh dear.  I have to say, again, that the first book inspired this book!  Sky Song came to me as a vague idea about a little girl whose father watched the skies every night.  She wondered why and it took her a few years to figure out that he was watching for someone, rather than something.  The little girl turned into a teenage boy and the thing that came from the stars was his destiny. Then I started to think that if someone just pitched up at my door when I thought I had my life worked out and landed me with a destiny I hadn’t asked for, how would I react?  That’s pretty much the heart of Jacob’s dilemma.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It features hot teenage boys.  Am I allowed to say that? Oh… erm, then it has a very important message about friendship and… oh hell, who am I kidding, hot teenage boys is my USP!

Next it’s the turn of Emma and Jack…

Emma Adams is 21-year-old author of THE PUPPET SPELL, a quirky YA fantasy published by Rowanvale Books. She is currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing at LancasterUniversity whilst writing the sequel and also working on the creepy paranormal Darkworld series. Check out her  blog about her writing journey, where she posts weekly updates and writing tips, and also regular book reviews and features.

Jack Croxall is a YA fiction author and science writer living in Nottinghamshire. He tweets via @JackCroxall, and you can find out more about his novel, Tethers, by visiting www.jackcroxall.co.uk

Look out for their Next Big Thing Q&As next week.

Author Jack Croxall talks about writing YA

Regular visitors may notice I’ve decorated.  This is in honour of my blog guests for February.  To start the series off, Tethers author Jack Croxall talks about how Will and Lyra ignited his passion for YA fiction.  I’ve been looking forward to Jack’s Victoriana feast for a while now, so I’m thrilled that he’s now ready to release and that he’s popped into my blog home today.  Take it away, Jack…

Why I love (and write in) the YA genre Jack Croxall 

I remember the moment I first wanted to become a writer. I was sitting in my early-teenage bedroom reading The Amber Spyglass between stints of homework, GameCube and playing electric guitar badly, when *spoiler alert* star-crossed adolescents Lyra and Will were forced into parallel universes never to see each other again.

tethpurp-211x300Before starting the His Dark Materials trilogy I had bypassed the YA genre completely, instead choosing to graduate straight from children’s books to novels aimed at adults. With the benefit of hindsight, I suppose I’d done this in some misguided attempt to appear cool to the opposite sex but, thankfully, Philip Pullman’s books were knocking about the house for some reason and one day they just happened to catch my eye.

I was not ready for the heartbreaking ending of The Amber Spyglass. It got to me in a way that nothing I had ever read/watched had done before. I’d identified with the characters early on and, although I didn’t fully appreciate all of the complex themes the books explored at the time, the plot had drawn me in hook, line and sinker.

Before that ending I hadn’t ever given much thought to the fact that books were written by actual people. I expect that, if you’d asked me who the author of The Amber Spyglass was when I’d just started it, I’d probably have given you the same vacant expression I gave most of my teachers when they asked me something in lessons. But, once I’d read the book’s final sentence, I immediately turned over to the cover and thought, Mr Pullman, I want to be able to make people feel how you’ve made me feel. And in truth, that was depressed into to a mild stupor for days – but in a good way.

From that moment on I started feasting on nothing but YA, only picking up the occasional ‘adult novel’ once I was into my twenties. I do enjoy reading books aimed at mature audiences but I rarely connect with them like I do with novels following adolescents. After much reflection, I think this must be because some of the trials and tribulations teenagers go through are universal and that means I can still relate to them despite being slightly less Y and a little more A these days.

So, when I finally sat down to write my first novel, Tethers, (sadly my education got in the way of me becoming a writer the instant I finished His Dark Materials) there really wasn’t any question over what kind of book it would be. I wanted to write in the genre I loved and, indeed, my protagonist was a teenager named Karl almost from the moment my fingers touched the keyboard.

About the author:

Jack Croxall is a YA fiction author and science writer living in Nottinghamshire. He tweets via @JackCroxall, and you can find out more about Tethers, by visiting his website or popping over to his facebook page.  Or, if you’d like to buy it, check out the Amazon page.