Sunday 10 January 2010

** Interview with M.G. Harris (author of the Joshua Files series)

I think all of my UK readers need a bit of cheering up after the horrendous weather we have been experiencing over the past week. I can't think of a better way than this, so as promised in my recent review of Zero Moment, the third instalment in the Joshua Files series, here is the interview that I did with M.G. Harris. If this interview whets your appetite for more then you really should visit the official Joshua Files website, MG's own blog or the Official MG Harris Fan Site.
Zero Moment is the third book in the Joshua Files series, and you have said that there will be five books in total. Have you plotted out the storylines for these already?
I've written Joshua #4 already. I haven't plotted the final installment yet. The plot and indeed book itself will be better if I leave as much time as possible and maybe write something different in between.

Time travel is an integral part of Josh’s story, and you develop this even more in Zero Moment. How on earth do you manage to keep track of this element of the story? 

Timelines! I have timelines for the city, for all characters who've time travelled and for the Bracelet of Itzamna itself. I've worked out that it changes hands 10 times throughout the course of The Joshua Files. I might just add one more handover...

Capoeira is used increasingly as Josh’s story is progressing. How did you carry out the research into this martial art? 

I've watched capoeira performed quite a bit in real life, here and in Brazil. Then there's YouTube, the movie 'Only the Strong' and all those capoeira websites.

There are some new locations in Zero Moment, namely Brazil and Switzerland. Did you visit these places as part of your research?

Yes, some great friends of ours are Brazilian so we went for a joint holiday/research trip! The exciting day of dune buggies, river barbeque and zipwire fun that Montoyo promises Josh is one we actually enjoyed. Poor Josh, he never gets to have any proper fun! My brother and his family live in Switzerland so I'm there quite often. The Sustenpass alpine location in Zero Moment was a surprise discovery one summer. We ended up on the high mountain pass by mistake...mid August but up there, it was snowing!

Zero Moment also delves deeper into aspects of genetics and science. How has your background in biochemistry helped you develop your story?
Totally. If you have that kind of knowledge ready to hand, certain plot solutions easily come to mind.

Zero Moment deals a lot with Josh’s emotions and his confusion about his relationship with Ixchel. As a female author, have you found it difficult to write your books from a boy’s point of view? 

It's the most difficult part. I have to think about things for hours and remember the boys I knew when I was younger, listen to songs written by young guys, to help me judge if I'm on the right track. My natural sympathies often lie with his mother or Ixchel, so it's a matter of shifting the perspective, seeing things from Josh's point of view. I tend to ask my husband a lot of questions about how teenage boys feel about things. He's the touchstone there. Usually he confirms all my suspicions! I asked him if teenage boys spend much time dreaming about girls and he just laughed and said "That's ALL I thought about!"

Do you have a favourite author? What really appeals to you about their work?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote two of my favourite novels, including 'One Hundred Years Of Solitude' and 'Love In The Time Of Cholera'. The wisdom in those works, the language, vision, the understanding of the essential tragedy of life, stories just pouring out of him. Dazzling to achieve that in one novel really, but twice...

Do you have time to read any of the many books for children that are published these days? If so, are there any other books or authors that you would recommend fans of your books to read?

I'd say you're the expert there not me! I don't read many books 'like mine' because I'm afraid that it will inhibit my own writing. The best YA books I've read recently were 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak and 'Keeper' by Mal Peet. I'd highly recommend them, but they're not action adventure...

Like me, you were a big fan of the Tintin stories when you were younger? What was it about them that appealed to you? Are you looking forward to Spielberg’s film adaptation?

The exotic locations, the very traditional adventure plots. Tintin himself is a really appealing character for girls too. He isn't macho or aggressive, he's honourable and cares deeply for his friends. There are some terrific other characters too. Like Bianca Castifiore! Those books always made me laugh. In fact, finding one in the library was always like finding treasure.

Spielberg is the king of old-fashioned, romantic action-adventure, in my eyes. But I worry a bit about whether those stories have what it takes to transfer to the big screen. The stakes - personal above all - must be very high for a movie. Tintin often goes off exploring on little more than a lark, curiosity or a whim. That won't work. Spielberg understands this better than most, so hopefully he'll make the changes we need.

In addition to Tintin, what were your favourite books when you were younger?

Other comics like Asterix and Roy of the Rovers, also E. Nesbit, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein's juveniles, most of all the William stories of Richmal Crompton.

Can you recommend one book that you think every boy should read at some point?

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. It's about a boy who's picked to go to a special Battle School where kids are trained to fight an alien force that is on its way to eliminate humanity. It's not written as a book for children but all the main characters are children or teenagers. It was published when I was 18, and I really enjoyed it but I would have loved it madly and deeply if I'd read it aged 13.

On your blog you have mentioned the recent disaster movie “2012” a number of times. What did you think of it?

It was daft but fun. Who knew watching the world fall apart could be enjoyable? I think the 2012 factor was pretty incidental to the plot though. "Avatar" is much, much better!

Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from your next book in the Joshua Files series?

"Dark Parallel" is the big time-travel episode. I had to have at least one! So I tackle the bigger questions of causality...if someone changed history, what could happen on a personal scale? To the world around you? Then there's the question of Josh and his unrequited feelings. Is he ever going to 'man up' and confront Ixchel?

If you could time travel when/where would you go to and why?
Purely for nostalgia purposes, I think it would be Mexico City in the 1970s. I once found an old travel guide from the seventies in a hotel room in Mexico and it said, "Muggings are very unusual in Mexico". Can you imagine? Even in the eighties that was laughable. I was (very politely) mugged in Mexico City, in 1986. Now they sometimes kidnap you and worse. It's terribly sad. I still love Mexico City, it's the most exciting place I know. But you need your wits about you. And of course I'd be able to meet my parents when they were in their 20s! They both died aged 46 so I haven't seen them for a while.

You can still find that old Mexico if you get away from the big cities and from the tourist zones. Maybe that's why I take Josh to those parts of Mexico. In a way I am time-travelling - in my mind.

Back to your blog again..... you have hinted at a Quite Secret New Thing you are developing. Care to share any more hints with us yet?
Let's see, I need to be careful. My agent thinks I've already said too much. It's a kind of historical conspiracy thriller, with a young action hero. Set in a very dark period of England's past...

Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?

Late childhood (10-14) is an amazing time for your brain, before it's finished developing and before the serious hormonal stuff starts. That's the time to hit your imagination...what sticks then will stay for life. So, read at least one amazing book or series and get your parents to take you to Disneyland before it's too late for you to enjoy it as a child.

Thank you for your wonderful answers MG. I can't believe it is a whole year until Dark Parallel is published.... I am already looking forward to it! And your QSNT sounds very exciting too.


  1. Wow... I can hardly wait till then !!

  2. I really love the Joshua files, they are a great series of books. It will be great to read the next one! :)