Alex Scarrow, author of the TimeRiders series, thrillers including Last Light and The Candle Man, and now The Legend of Ellie Quinn. So, let's get started.
LW: You made your name as a writer of adult thrillers such as A Thousand Suns and Last Light, but the seventh book in your YA series TimeRiders series is soon to be published and your latest book, The Legend of Ellie Quinn, is also YA. Was there a precise situation or moment where you decided to write YA or was it an area you always fancied writing in?
AS: I always wanted to write for teens, mainly because the teen market is more responsive to original ideas than the grown up market, which can be quite set in its ways.
LW: What's Ellie Quinn all about?
AS: ELLIE QUIN is the big thing I'm working on right now (as well as the last two books for TimeRiders). Actually, if I may, I'd like to encourage TimeRiders fans to give my new series, ELLIE QUIN, a go. It's very similar to TimeRiders in terms of pace, big ideas, strong likeable characters. It's about a very ordinary girl who yearns to escape a boring rural existence on a remote agricultural planet. But soon becomes embroiled in a universe-spanning conspiracy. She finds herself on the run through this madcap, colourful, vibrant universe full of really fun ideas. For instance....pets you can grow from seeds, nail varnish that when it dries you can watch TV on your finger, genetically engineered labourers with four arms, weird fortune telling aliens, soda pops that change flavour all the time, plants with a cabby attitude!....lotsa fun stuff in a big, big, universe. The series has just been launched on Amazon. You can download it as an ebook or order (soon) a printed version from Amazon. If you're interested in learning more about it go to Ellie Quinn
LW: Conspiracies often come up in your work meaning your protagonists have more than what appear to be the more obvious problems to deal with. Is this something you consciously write about or does it come with your plots?
AS: I think you have to have ONE BIG IDEA behind a story, that's what gets people to crack open the cover and give it a go. Once the reader has been hooked into the book, it really then is all about the characters. So the big idea is what lures them in, but it's the believability, likeability of the characters that keeps them there...that, and wanting to know how the BIG IDEA pays off in the end.
LW: With not starting off as a writer, was there a catalyst for you getting into fiction?
AS: I've always been a storyteller in one way or another. Game design for example was one way of telling a story, even song writing is a form of story telling. My migration to books though came when I got fed up being in the computer games business. I had too much team management BS to put up with and fancied doing something creative which was basically me and no one else...and of course writing is the ultimate solo creative pursuit.
LW: Your brother Simon is also a writer. Do you discuss your work with him when it's in progess?
AS: Simon and I hook up regularly and talk about our various projects, but we haven't yet co-written a novel. It's something we'd both like to do in the long run but we're both so busy with our respective series that there's just no time. Maybe one day :-)
LW: The seventh TimeRiders book is on its way - how many will there be and can you give us any hints as to what's coming for Liam, Maddie and Sal?
AS: The Pirate Kings (TimeRiders 7) is out in Feb 2013, and there are two more after that. I'm afraid there'll be no hints at all! All I can say is that book 7 is a really fun romp through the Golden Age of Piracy with a few satricial nods to Jack Sparrow.
LW: Overall, Last Light and After Light were quite pessimistic about human nature. Can you see the world heading the way it does in your books?
AS: Truth is I AM a pessimist. I don't see a great future for mankind. One way or another the maths of the situation ahead of us is not good; an exploding global population and dwindling resources...that's a receipe for disaster on a monumental scale. And yes...that gloom percolates into all my writing, even the escapist stuff like TimeRiders. Seriously...I'm the guy you want to avoid talking to at parties.
LW: What's your writing process like - are you an outliner or more into making it up as you go? Do you come up with a polished first draft or edit it once the first draft is written?
AS: I'm a meticulous planner. With complex plotlines you REALLY do have to know how it all ends before you even start, otherwise you'll end up in knots. Maybe one day I'll try writing something that's light on plot and will allow me to make it up as I go along. Hmmm...actually maybe not. Those kind of books bug me.
LW: Any advice for beginner writers? Should they aim to get an agent or try publishers directly?
AS: Always look for an agent first. Publishers really do not look at unsolicited manuscripts any more. They only look at ones that have come from agents. And if you can't land yourself an agent...you can always try self-publishing on something like the Kindle.
LW: What's next in your writing world? Can we expect more YA or will you be heading back into adult fiction?
AS: Oh yes. I'm planning another series for Puffin Books. Nothing I can tell you about just yet...except of course, that it will have a BIG IDEA behind it like TimeRiders.