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

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T is for Tethering Titles

Regular visitors to the blog may know that I have a soft spot as big as New Mexico for Jack Croxall’s Victorian adventure, Tethers. I ‘met’ Jack on Twitter last year when he was still writing it and right from the first mention I was intrigued. The book promised to be everything I grew up loving: heart stopping, swashbuckling adventure with kids at its heart, set in an era steeped in romance. I looked forward to its release with a mixture of excitement and trepidation; it would have been the disappointment of the year if it hadn’t been good!tethpurp-211x300

My fears were unfounded and I loved it. But that’s not the point of this post, so I apologise for digressing. The point is that Jack’s title, Tethers, was intriguing just by itself. In fact, without gushing, it was a work of genius. As I began to lose myself in the tale, I just knew that somewhere along the line, it was going to be significant. So when the moment came to reveal that significance, it was such a gratifying one that I almost punched the air. It was so important to everything that the book was about and that made it perfect.

Titles are funny things. Some people struggle with the title more than anything else, often using a working title for as long as possible. For me, a work in progress doesn’t feel like a real book until I have a title for it. I often find, in actual fact, that the title is one of the first things that occur to me. For one book I recently began, a title that popped into my head actually dictated the whole premise and kick-started the draft! However the title comes, for me, it’s usually one of the first things put in place. There have been occasions where books I’ve written have had a title that was changed at the last minute, though. Sky Song was initially called The Cosmic Canvas (taken from a line in the book) until a friend wrinkled her nose and mentioned that it made her think of hippie Neil from The Young Ones. After that, I couldn’t get the association out of my head and the old title had to go.  Another novel, Runners, went through about four titles before it was settled.

Titles are not only significant in terms of telling you what to expect from a book or linking into the plot, but they can dictate whether the book sells or not. This sounds extreme, but I believe it to be true. Unless highly recommended, if I see a book whilst browsing and I think that the title is boring, I pass it by. I realise that everyone’s concept of boring is quite different, so, obviously, this will be subjective according to each reader. But the point I’m making is that it needs to be clever/intriguing/witty/romantic – whatever will pull at the heart strings of your target audience. This may sound obvious, but it doesn’t seem to be to everyone. I would point here to Snakes on a Plane. Either someone had their tongue firmly in their cheek, or their imagination had gone for a city break. Whatever you think about it, I have never seen, and do not intend to ever see this film, simply because the title puts me off.

I realise that I might be setting myself up for a massive fail here as lots of people point to my book titles and scoff.  In which case, all I can do is point you to Tethers to prove my point.

If you want to find out more about Jack or his book, you can click the following links…

website

Goodreads

Amazon

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

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.

With a little help from my friends…

Over the next few weeks I’ll be asking my fellow YA authors to take a turn here (mostly to give me a rest, but don’t tell them that) to talk about what they love about the genre.

There are lots of reasons why I write and read YA. I don’t write or read it exclusively, but it seems to dominate my choices at a subconscious level. Whenever a story pops into my head, invariably, a teenage character pops in with it. Maybe it’s because I’m drawn to young people in life (or people who have a young outlook). Maybe it’s because I have a misguided attachment to my battered old Converse which means you’ll have to prise them from my cold, dead feet, regardless of how embarrassing my kids find it. Maybe it’s because I’m clinging stubbornly to my own lost youth. I’m not sure I can really say why I lean towards YA – you might as well ask why I like the colour green.

Whatever Freud would have to say, I love to write characters of this age. They escape the constraints that dictate the actions of the rest of us. There’s a whole new world opening up for them, endless possibilities still to be written. I write younger protagonists from time to time under a pen name and, while they have just as much fun, mostly I have the watchful eye of a parent or guardian to take into consideration. Young adult protagonists have more freedom to go out into the world on their own but without the burdens that adults have. It’s a time of massive transition – of finding yourself, who you really are, what sort of person you’re becoming – and for me, that’s so exciting. With a young adult protagonist you can pursue emotional arcs that you can’t with any other age group and your characters don’t have to worry about the next gas bill.

First up on the guest posts it’s the turn of the lovely Jack Croxall, author of Tethers, to talk about Philip Pullman, dodgy electric guitars, and what started him on the YA road.  You can catch Jack’s blog post here tomorrow.