Tuesday, 3 August 2010

*** Interview with Alex Scarrow (author of the TimeRiders series)

For me, TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow is one of the best new series of boy-friendly books out there at the moment. I really enjoyed the first book in the series and the second one blew me away. I was therefore really chuffed when Alex Scarrow said he would take part in an interview for The Book Zone, and even more flattered by the kind comments he made about this blog at the end of our little Q&A session.

How would you describe the TimeRiders series to a potential reader?

Terminator meets Torchwood! It's one big hi-octane time travel thriller that spans nine books.

What inspired you to write the series?

Blimey....that's not an easy one to answer! It's a combination of all the really cool books I've read, films I've seen, games I've's the culmination of too many classroom hours I spent as a kid imagining how excellent it would be if I could really mash-up history.

How much time do you spend carrying out research for your books?

Several months before hand just reading factual and fictional stuff set in the era to get the feel of it. It's too tempting to over research though. You do that and you're in danger of writing a textbook instead of a thriller.

Do you have a favourite period in history? Will the TimeRiders heroes be visiting this period at some point?

I have several favourite eras in history; WWII, the Roman Empire, Victorian times, the American Civil War....and yes, those and many more are going to get a visit from me.

Did you have fun creating the new species of dinosaur in Day of the Predator?
Sheeesh! Did I? Does a bear.....uh, anyway...yes! I loved writing from the point of view of these hominid creatures. I loved creating this frightening thing, then trying to put it's case across to the reader.

There are some fairly violent scenes in Day of the Predator. How do you gauge the right level of violence in your writing?

I don't think I consciously determine what is acceptable to the audience and what is unacceptable. I think it's a gut instinct thing. Certainly, when it comes to the really grisly stuff, I'm a firm believer in keeping it 'just out of shot'....a reader's imagination can produce a far more gory picture than I would ever be allowed to write!

Of your three main characters Sal has played the smallest part so far. Will we see her character develop more in the future?

Yes. Sal has a VERY important part to play in the story. I can't say much more about her for fear of dropping a spoiler in here.

Where did the inspiration for the Bob/Becks character come from?

Well, the obvious first point of reference is the T1000 model Terminator from the movies. But also there's something of Frankenstein's big, dumb, childlike monster in there too. I love the fact that they're both lethal killing machines, yet, also naive children, in a way.

Writing about time travel can be a pretty complicated task. Do you put a lot of thought into how you deal with issues such as the time travel paradox?

Plotting for time travel tales can be a potential nightmare! In actual fact, there really aren't any time travel stories out there that you can't identify a plot hole in. It's just the nature of the paradox thing. And if you try and get too close to the actual 'science' of time travel you'll end up twisting yourself up in knots trying to make it all work. Which is why TimeRiders is perhaps more about the characters than it is the tech.

How will you keep track of all of the little plot threads you are creating in each book to ensure that they are all eventually tied off?

I have a series bible. And it's getting thicker and thicker every day!

Are you a fan of science fiction yourself? Do you have any favourites?

Yes. I loved a series of books called Riverworld, which featured this world on which one day, every human who has ever lived suddenly wakes up after they've died on earth. It's not heaven, that's for sure. And it's a compelling thriller, mystery that features a cast of famous historical characters.

What made you start writing for young adults? How different is it from writing for adults?

Way...way....more fun to write.

Do you read many books for this age group yourself?

I read some. I prefer the 'cross over' YA books out there that tend to appeal to adults as well as teens. And this is what I intended Timeriders to be, a series of thrillers that, say, a forty-five year old bloke wouldn't be embarrassed about pulling out to read on the train.

Which books/authors did you enjoy reading as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare to the childrens/YA novels available today?

I used to read adventure books by Willard Price when I was eight. And lots of Asterix and Tintin! I think today's YA fiction is more self conscious of the fact that many, many adults enjoy the genre too, so it has a decidedly more mature and less naive tone to it than the books that were around when I was a kid.

Do you have any ideas as to how we can get boys reading for enjoyment?

I suppose books that feed into, or feed from interest areas for boys, such as computer games and football are a good way to try and coax them into the book habit. For example, TimeRiders has deliberately drawn some imagery from big blockbuster movies in order to tap reluctant readers this way.

I know that Day of the Predator has only just been released but can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from the next book in the series? Robin Hood is mentioned as a teaser at the end of the book....

Yes...I can add a little more to that. Crusades. Holy Grail. Conspiracy theories. There you go! Make some sense of that!

A while ago it was announced that there would be nine books in the TimeRiders series. Have you plotted out the storylines for these already?

Pretty loosely, yes. I know which nine periods of history we will be visiting, and I know the major story arc....and I can tell you this, so long as you keep it to's going to involve.....aaaaghh, nearly let slip!

If you could time travel when/where would you go to and why?

65 million years ago. I want to see the KT event that wiped out the dinosaurs. Super volcano or mega asteroid, either way, it must have been horrifyingly spectacular.

If there is one question you would love an interviewer to ask you about your work, what is it? And what would the answer be?

Do you like writing? And my answer would be....sometimes I LOVE it, sometimes I HATE it. I get days when I know I've written a brilliant chapter and I feel on top of the world, and days when I write such awful sludge, I wonder how the he'll I ever managed to get published.

Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of this blog?

Readers....I think this is quite possibly the best blog for young male readers out there! Seriously. It's laid out nicely and the reviews are original (as opposed to copy and paste jobs). And here's something else...if you've got a mate who's a reluctant reader, suggest TimeRiders to him! Those are the fellas I really want to reach out to! I want them to put down the playstation controller, stop messing around with Facebook, turn the TV off...and just give TimeRiders a chapter of their time. I guarantee they'll be hooked...and maybe one day thank you for getting them into the book habit!


Huge thanks to Alex for answering my questions, and for his kind words at the end there. If you are looking for some summer reading which is non-stop action in two very different eras then you really should give the two TimeRiders books a try.