Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Interview + Giveaway with Alexander Gordon Smith, author of The Fury

I'm honored and extremely excited to welcome the absolutely amazing Alexander Gordon Smith to my blog today! Alexander Gordon Smith is the bestselling author of the Escape From Furnace series. His recent book, The Fury, blew my mind to pieces, immediately becoming my new favorite!

1. Welcome to Bookish Gordon! Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind The Fury?

Thanks Evie, it's so awesome to be here!! :-) 

The inspiration for The Fury came from a few different places. I really wanted to write a zombie book – zombies are my favourite horror creature – but I was struggling to think of an idea that hadn't been done before. Every zombie book or film has the 'thing' that turns people into zombies – a chemical spill, a virus, and so on – and one day I just wondered what would happen if the catalyst that turned people into zombies was you. What if every time you went near somebody they turned into a feral, bloodthirsty monster and tried to tear you to pieces? The weird thing about the story, though, is that as soon as you die, or as soon as you escape, the 'zombies' go back to normal and completely forget that they attacked you.

I think the inspiration goes back much further than that, though. When I was at school I was terrible at PE (gym?). I was in the bottom set every year, and we had the world's most evil teacher. His idea of fun was making us play a game called Murderball, which did often come close to living up to its name! He would give you a rugby ball and a five-second head start, then everyone in the class would come after you. Their goal was to get the ball back, but they didn't care about that – they would just pile on top of you, thirty of them, punching and kicking and biting and smothering. Every week I honestly thought I was going to die. It was terrifying!! And the weird thing was that all my friends were in this group, but during Murderball they changed, they became feral, and I did too when I was the one doing the chasing. This memory of being hunted and attacked by the people I knew was so traumatic that it must have sparked the inspiration for The Fury

2. At more than 500 pages long, your book is quite a tome! How long did it take you to write it? 

It's weird, as I never set out to write a long book. In fact when I originally had the idea I thought it was going to be a fairly short, fast-paced read, like the Furnace books. But I really had no idea where the story was going to go, it took me completely by surprise! I don't plot my books, I don't like to know what's going to happen before the characters do. It's way more exciting for me as a writer to discover things at the same time as the characters, because then your reaction to those events is more instinctive, you don't always have time to think things through logically, you have to act with your gut. Sometimes this means getting things wrong, but I think the story feels more real, more honest. And with The Fury the story just spun off in a completely unexpected direction, I never saw it coming. Because of this, and because it has a bigger cast than I usually work with, it became this monster of a book. Saying that, I think it's still pretty fast-paced!

To get back to the question, though (sorry, I ramble!), the whole thing took about eight months to write, which is a HUGE length of time for me considering that each of the Furnace books was written in three to four weeks. It was great having more time to immerse myself in the world, but weird too because the whole story takes place in less than a week. When I finished writing it really did feel like I was swimming up out of a dream, it took me a while to remember the real world existed.

3. Which part of The Fury was the hardest for you to write? Have you ever experienced "writer's block"? If so, how did you deal with it?

The hardest thing for me was definitely juggling so many characters – the story is told from four main viewpoints and a number of minor ones. After Furnace, which is told purely from Alex's point of view, it was tricky trying to deal with so many voices in my head clamouring for attention. It's a bit like herding cats! :-) In a way, though, the sheer number of characters kept writer's block at bay because somebody always wanted to say something. I think 'block' is simply your brain trying to find its way into the story, and it often happens (for me, anyway) when you don't know your characters as well as you should. Getting to know the characters is the most important thing a writer has to do, because if you know everything about them, if they are as real in your head as your friends, your family, yourself, then they will write the story for you. They always know what to do, so trust them. 

4. What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Fury?

That nowhere is safe, that at any minute the people you love could turn against you and rip you into bloody pieces… Haha, only kidding. :-) You know, horror gets a bad rap, but I think it's an incredibly powerful genre. For a start, you never see heroism, hope and humanity like you do in a horror novel, because people fight tooth and nail for their friends, their loved ones, their beliefs. Friendship and love are so important in a horror story – not the soppy 'love' of some YA books, but the kind of love that keeps you standing shoulder to shoulder with somebody even when all looks lost. In horror stories you learn what is most important to you, what you would give your life to protect. I love the heroism that horror brings out in people. Horror is powerful too because literally anything can happen in a horror story, anything is possible. And I think that if you believe anything is possible with the world, then you start to believe that anything is possible in your own life, that you are capable of anything. It gives you the freedom to believe in the impossible. My books are gruesome, there's no doubt about that, but there is always a streak of brilliant, bright hope stretching through them. I think hope is the most important thing in the world, the knowledge that things can get better, that you have what it takes to get through, to survive. That's what I want people to take away from my books.

5. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favourite?

I LOVE the first part of the process, that supernova explosion of an idea that stops you in your tracks, that leaves you breathless. I'm impulsive and impatient when it comes to writing (and with everything else, actually, come to think of it!) and as soon as I have the idea I like to start writing. I just like to throw myself into the story and run with it. Those first few chapters are always a joy, it's one of my favourite things in the world. It really does feel like getting into the car and setting out on a new journey, the sun in the sky and the wind in your hair and a heart full of adventure. There's nothing else like it. Of course the danger with this is that after a few miles, or chapters, you remember you haven't put gas in the car, or packed your toothbrush, or worked out where on earth you're even going, so it can come to an untimely end. I start new books all the time, and maybe half of them hit a brick wall. I guess that's how you know you're really into an idea, though, when you want to see the journey through no matter what happens. I often struggle when I reach the middle of a story, I'm not a natural marathon runner, but if you've got the characters right, if you feel close enough to them, then by that point you have to keep writing because you need to see what happens to them, you need to do all you can to keep them safe. It's a weird experience! Oh, and least favourite is editing. I HATE it!!!!

6. How do you approach writing a new story? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a pantser!! I often don't even feel like I'm writing, just recording what happens. Like I said, if you know your characters well enough then they drive the story forwards, you see it happening in your head and you have no idea what's about to happen. You react to things on the spur of the moment. I call it writing at the speed of life because you're going hell for leather and you don't always have time to think things through, just like in real life. If one of my characters makes a bad decision I don't let them reverse it because you can't do that in the real world. They just have to live with it and work with it. It is exhilarating, because you constantly find yourself surprised. Sometimes when I'm writing I just feel like I'm chasing after the characters, trying to keep up! It's their story, I'm just the guy with the 'camera'.

7. Would you say that your life changed a lot after you got your first publishing deal? How did that feel?

My life has changed beyond recognition since I got my first deal. Being a writer is the only thing I have ever wanted to be, and I'll never forget the moment that dream came true. Seeing your first book on the shelf in the shop is… There aren't even any words. I'm still grinning about it now, nearly six years later. I think I always will be. And now I get to do what I love, all day every day. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. Of course it hasn't always been easy, especially financially, but I do it because I can't really see myself doing anything else (except maybe a truck driver, my other dream job when I was a kid). I think I'm proof that if you love something enough, if you really, really want it, if you work hard enough at it, then it will happen. I believe people are capable of achieving anything they put their minds to, humans are amazing like that. The most important thing is to believe in yourself, to keep trying, to never give up. If you want it, go get it, you can do it.

8. What are some of your literary inspirations? Favorite books/authors?

Wow, this question would need a million words to answer properly! I love to read, it goes without saying really. There's nothing better than opening the first page of a new book and feeling that rush of vertigo as you wait to see where it takes you. I love horror. Growing up I lived on Stephen King, Clive Barker, and the late, great James Herbert. Those books ignited that passion for horror, the sheer joy of knowing that anything is possible. From there I expanded into anything and everything. You have to read as widely as possible, I think, it's just the best education you could ever hope to have as a writer. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell's masterpiece, is my favourite book of all time. Having said that, I still read more horror than anything else, and love it just as much as always. 

9. What's next in line for you? Are you working on a new book now?

Oh yes! I'm always working on something new, even if they don't ever end up going anywhere! I have just finished the first book in a new series, tentatively called Mercenary. Or maybe just MERC – which, in the story, stands for Monster Extermination, Righteous Carnage. It's about a guy whose family gets kidnapped and he goes after them in a bout of merciless, red-in-tooth-and-claw vengeance. On the way he stumbles across a conspiracy that involves governments, armies, secret organisations, pirates, the CIA, and monsters! It was so much fun to write, there's nothing better than a good revenge story. And I guess that's my golden rule – if it was fun to write, then hopefully it will make for a fun read. Oh, and I think this is an exclusive, as I haven't spoken about this before! 

Thanks so much again for interviewing me on Bookish, it has been a blast!! :-)

Thank you so much for joining us here today, Gordon! I can't wait to see where the story will takes in the sequel!

Alexander Gordon Smith is a furiously awesome YA Galaxy Defender! Check out Gordon's MIYA-style photo:

(this is an exclusive MEN in YA2 photo that will be printed on the 2014 MEN in YA Calendar. You can enter to win one of two (1 of 2) copies of the exclusive calendar here, at Bookish, on April 30th).

But wait! There are more awesomesauce MIYA-style pictures of Alexander Gordon Smith!!! I just have to share them with you, guys!!!

Author bio:
Alexander Gordon Smith is the author of the Escape from Furnace series of young adult novels, including Lockdown and Solitary. Born in 1979 in Norwich, England, he always wanted to be a writer. After experimenting in the service and retail trades for a few years, Smith decided to go to University. He studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, and it was here that he first explored his love of publishing. Along with poet Luke Wright, he founded Egg Box Publishing, a groundbreaking magazine and press that promotes talented new authors. He also started writing literally hundreds of articles, short stories and books ranging from Scooby Doo comic strips to world atlases, Midsomer Murders to X-Files. The endless research for these projects led to countless book ideas germinating in his head. His first book, The Inventors, written with his nine-year-old brother Jamie, was published in the U.K. in 2007. He lives in England.
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WHAT YOU CAN WIN: 9 x The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith
OPEN TO: Canada [1] & US [5] & International [1] & UK [2]
Ends: May 25th

(huge thank you to Alexander Gordon Smith, Macmillan USA and Raincoast Books for sponsoring the prizes!)

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This interview and giveaway are posted as part of: 

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