Friday, 28 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

My friend and former Clarion West classmate Ibi Zoboi tagged me for The Next Big Thing thingy that's been going around. Hey, why not? I figured. Then, of course, I'm faced with the questions, and my brain goes numb.

 I have to tell you that I may have the worst memory in the world. Ask me what I did last week, and I'll just stare blankly at you. On the other hand, Steph complains jealously when we re-watch TV shows or movies together that she always knows what's coming up and it's always a surprise to me.

Anyway, let's give this a go and see if I can dredge up anything...

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Okay, so I can do this one. The working title is Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. Yeah, I realise that titles often change before publication, and the title is the publisher's choice, and publishers are often way better at coming up with good titles than authors are, but I really do like this, so here's hoping it actually stays.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Oh. Good. A memory question...

I don't actually know where the original idea came from. I suspect I have notebooks somewhere in the piles of junk -- er, valuable, important documents -- that lie around our house with my original ideas in, but what I do recall is that Steph and I were watching Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth) and somehow that combined with the kind of adventures I really wanted to write (part Indiana Jones, part Doctor Who) and this idea for a computer that worked using water and pipes and valves instead of electricity and wires and capacitors and diodes and the like that I came up with when I was a Physics PhD student. (Although my friend, John, who was doing an electronics PhD at the same time will no doubt tell you that I was never much good at electronics and so probably have no idea how computers actually work).

Out of all that came Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.

That doesn't really answer the question.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Let's say middle grade. (That's the fantastic thing about middle grade -- you don't have to pin books down into little boxes (huzzah for mixed metaphors...). Middle grade is much more free.)

If I had to get out my pins, I'd say adventure-science-fiction-fantasy-steampunk-humor. Er. Is that a genre? It is now. Come join me in my corner...

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I love casting my stories. I really do. I can procrastinate for hours this way. But here's the problem with books that have mainly children as lead characters: you cast them in your mind when you're writing them (everyone does that, right?), but by the time you've finished, they're all too old. Bah.

So, I don't know who I'd cast in the roles of the children, but I can cast a few people. I'm going to choose Richard Armitage as my main villain, Sir Titus Dane (although I want him more as Guy of Gisborne in the BBC Robin Hood series rather than the grumpy dwarf in The Hobbit). Oh, and while we're at it, I'll have Martin Freeman as Dr. Octavius Blood, and Lucy Griffiths as my hero's older sister, Olivia.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Seriously? One sentence?

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, thrilling adventure, and strange clockwork machines; when the villainous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward Sullivan's parents as part of as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb, Edward and his sisters must pursue across the Martian wilderness, evading Sir Titus's minions, fighting desperate battles with mechanical nasties, and escaping deadly Martian hunting machines on the way.

All right, that was a total cheat, but what else can you do?

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is the wonderful Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary. Secrets of the Dragon Tomb will be published by Christy Ottaviano Books (an imprint of Henry Holt / Macmillan).

So, no and yes.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I have absolutely no idea! Too long. A couple of hundred years?

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Authors are generally completely rubbish at this. What we think our books are like is entirely different from what readers think. But let's have a go.

Take a cup of Mortal Engines, lightly fry in a tablespoon of Percy Jackson, season with a teaspoon of Kat, Incorrigible, then just before it's done mix in some Indiana Jones, Doctor Who, and Jeeves and Wooster. Then serve on a bed of Tintin, Skulduggery Pleasant, and Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, and then you'll, well, probably be confused.

Oh, just read it when it comes out. :)

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I read a lot of middle grade fiction (as well as adult fiction, of course) and I love it. I love the freedom and honesty it allows you as a writer, and it's a type of fiction that allows you to completely shed the cynicism and self-critique that seems to accompany adult fiction. I wanted to write about adventure and madcap schemes and crazy inventions and dastardly villains. I wanted to make it funny and exciting and filled with a sense of wonder, because those are the books I love to read.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

What? That's not enough?

Okay, here is my complete pitch for the book, as opposed to the one-liner above:

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Fourteen-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

Here's the book's (rather empty so far) goodreads page.

I don't explicitly tag anyone on these things, but if you fancy doing it, consider yourself officially tagged right ... NOW!


Kevin Riley said...

I love reading about yet-to-be-released books and this one sounds excellent. Thanks for the post!

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks, Kevin!