Thursday 28 April 2011

Author Interview - Alexander Gordon Smith

 I have a special treat for all you bloggers. :D

I have an interview with Alexander Gordon Smith author of the 'Furnace' Series!

It was great talking to him, so without further ado, here's what he has to say to us. :D

Hi Becky, thanks for interviewing me on your blog!

1) For those reading this that don't know who you are (shame on them!) can you give us a quick introduction?
Hi, my name is Alexander Gordon Smith, but call me Gordon – my parents wanted me to be a Gordon, but made it my middle name so that my initials wouldn’t spell GAS. I’m best known as being the author of the Furnace series (Escape From Furnace in the States). The books are about a fourteen-year-old criminal called Alex Sawyer who gets framed for murder and sentenced to life without parole in Furnace Penitentiary – the world’s most terrifying prison for young offenders. Furnace is a true nightmare, an underground hellhole full of monsters, and Alex has to find a way out or face an unimaginable fate at the bottom of the world. I also wrote The Inventors (and its sequel) with my nine-year-old brother Jamie, and have several more books in the pipeline. I write screenplays too, and my first film (a horror) is hopefully being made this year.
2) What was your childhood ambition?
To be a writer! I know most writers say that, but it’s true – I remember that moment of epiphany when I realised books didn’t magically appear on the shelves, that they were written by real people. And if other people could write books, then so could I. When I was really young I used to make little books of stories complete with barcodes on them, then I’d go into the shops and try to buy them, claiming that I was the author! I feel so lucky to be living my childhood dream now.

3) What was the first thing you wrote and how old were you?
I wrote my first book, The Little Book Of Monsters, when I was about six, and my first novel (well, it was about forty pages which was a novel to me), Super Carrot, when I was about ten. I thought that the monster book would scare my mum and dad (even back then I knew I wanted to write horror), but they just thought it was cute and I got upset that I hadn’t managed to terrify them!
 I saw an example of this book when I met Gordon, it really was cute! 

4) Who was your favourite author as a child? Who is it now?
I don’t really remember having a favourite author when I was a child, I just loved books – all books! Opening a book was like opening a door to a brand new adventure, it was an amazing feeling. I just devoured stories – everything from Ransome and Tolkien and Lewis to Stoker and Shelley to Hergé and Asimov to King and Barker and Poe and Bradbury and Lovecraft when I was a teenager. I’m the same now, really, I try to read as much as possible, and as widely as possible. If I had to pick an author that I always come back to, though, then it would be Stephen King. I’m a huge fan. He invests so much time in his characters, that’s what he’s really, really good at. You feel like you know these people so well, so when the horror starts you can’t help but experience it alongside them. He’s brilliant. But my all time favourite book is Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, flawless genius.
 Shamed to admit I've never read it, will have to pick up a copy now. 

5) Where did the idea for 'Furnace' come from?
The genesis of the story was in the main character, Alex. He’s basically me, but a version of me that made a few bad decisions in his life. When I was a teenager, I went through a phase of getting into trouble – nothing as bad as Alex, but staying out all night, getting into fights, drinking in biker bars, that kind of thing. Thanks to my family I got back on track before it got too serious, but Alex was a version of me that didn’t get rescued. Whereas I grew up and lived my life, he never got the chance to – he was stuck in this weird purgatory in my mind. Years later, when I was looking for a scary story to write, I realised that Alex’s life was the perfect starting place. He wanted to live, to have a story to tell, so I kind of just sat back and let him tell it. Luckily for me that story involved a terrifying prison and some incredible adventures! I wrote the story exactly as Alex lived it. It really felt as though I was just transcribing the events, rather than creating them – sometimes the story moved so fast I could barely keep up with him!

6) Are any of the characters based on people you know? (personality wise, not that they are genetic monsters, hehe)
I couldn’t possibly say… :-)  I think there are elements of everyone I know in every character, but nothing too recognisable I hope! There is one guy in life I’m not too fond of, and he always ends up being a character in my books but always with a slightly different name. I’d better not say who he is in Furnace, but he does meet a rather messy end. I guess that’s one of the advantages of being an author!
 hehe I wonder who it is. Definite plus of being an author, I'll bear that in mind. 

7) If you had to pick one as you're favourite character who would it be and why?
Well the character I can relate to most is Alex, because we were essentially once the same person. I grew so close to him during the course of the series. I think my favourite character, though, has to be Donovan. He is such an important part of the story, of Alex’s life. He really is the big brother I never had.
I love Donovan, but think Simon is my favourite! 

8) When writing a book do you plan it out before you start or do you just begin and see where the story and characters take you?
Working out every detail of your story in advance, especially when you don’t yet know your main characters, always seems a little too much like playing God. You’re working out your characters’ lives, their destiny, before they’ve had a chance to discover who they are and what kind of people they want to be. Each character’s history and personality will drive their actions, and if you don’t know what kind of life they have led, what their greatest achievements or tragedies are, what their personal relationships have been like – everything – then how can you know how they will react to the events of the story? I have attempted to plot before, but I find that my plan for the characters will always conflict with their plan for themselves! Forcing them to go against their instincts, to just do what they’re told, will make for a less believable story.

9) How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I tend to write books very quickly. I wrote the bulk of my first novel – with my nine-year-old brother Jamie – in a week to meet the deadline for the Wow Factor Competition (we were shortlisted on the strength of the first three chapters). It was grueling writing 80,000 words in seven days, but writing that quickly gave the book a huge amount of momentum, of drive. The story was propelled onwards and just didn’t stop until the end. I’ve written books that way ever since – never in a week, but usually in three or four or five weeks. I’ll think about the story, let it percolate in my head for ages, then when it feels ready I’ll just blast it out onto the page. It’s what gives the books their relentless pace.
 Wow that's quite an achievement! Good way of doing it though I think. 

10) Zee has a great sense of humour in the books, are you that funny in real life? Can you tell us a joke right now?
Zee is great. His sense of humour is what kept Alex (and me!) sane throughout the five books. Unfortunately I’m nowhere near as funny as he is. I can’t even think of any jokes! Um (five minutes later), how about this one…

A man is driving through the countryside and he sees a farmer standing in the middle of his crops by himself. Thinking there might be something wrong, the man stops his car and walks over to the famer.
‘Is everything okay?’ he asks.
‘Oh yes,’ says the farmer. ‘I’m just waiting for my Nobel Prize.’
‘Wow,’ says the man. ‘Have you invented a new kind of genetic crop or something?’
‘No…’ says the farmer with a frown. ‘I just heard they gave it to people out standing in their field.’

Well it made me smile, what about the rest of you, any giggles there?

11) When I met you at Book Day, you told us some great stories about the things you and your younger brother got up to, can you tell us one here, and are you still making mischief together?
Writing a book with my little brother was one of the best experiences of my life! He was nine when we first came up with the idea, and eleven when it was published. We came up with the story together – two young inventors who have to save the world from an evil genius – but it was Jamie who suggested that as we were writing about two inventors we should actually try to build all of the inventions in the book for real before we wrote about them. It was genius, as getting to know your characters is the most important part of writing, and what better way to get to know them then trying to live their life?

So we did try to build as many inventions as we could. Well, Jamie tried to build them, and my role in the whole thing was basically his guinea pig! He constructed elaborate traps all over the house and garden, some of which nearly killed me, and he built a remote control robot that he used to stick a pencil up my nose when I was sunbathing. The funniest (and scariest) thing he ever suggested was rocket boots, which he wanted to build from ski boots and jet fuel. He said to me, ‘We’ll put them on you and see how far you go!’ Fortunately we built them and tried them out on an action figure first, because they blew its legs clean off! Jamie is fifteen now, and we’re not writing books together at the moment. But I hope we will again at some point!
 I remember laughing like a maniac when you told us that story. still makes me laugh. Stay away from rocket boots! You have been warned people lol.

12) Do you ever give yourself nightmares with some of the plot ideas you come up with?
Yes, all the time!! I see that as a sign that the story is going well! If a horror author doesn’t scare him or herself when they’re writing, then how do they expect to scare others?

13) If you were given the choice of becoming a Beserker, a Rat, A Blacksuit or a Wheezer, which would you choose and why?
Wow, great question, I’ve never been asked this before! Well, Berserkers are awesome in their sheer destructive power, but their minds have just been devastated. The same with the rats. In a way, Wheezers have the worst fate of them all because they are trapped in this nightmare existence, driven by their dark desire to experiment. They really are in hell. So I’d have to say a Blacksuit – slaves to Furnace and the Warden, but still kind of self-aware, and strong and fast and able to kick some serious ass!

14) I felt the ending of 'Execution' was very satisfying, but will there ever be any more Furnace books, or is that really the end?
Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed the ending! This series is definitely finished, but there will be more adventures set in the Furnace universe. At the moment I’m writing a short novella about when Furnace first meets the Warden during the war. I’d also love to write a series set in the future, where the nectar has made a reappearance and there is a massive war raging between different factions. That would be awesome!!
Ooh, I'm excited already! Can't wait. 

15) What are your plans for the future? Any other awesome ideas for books that you can share with us?
I’ve just finished the first book in a new series, called The Fury. It’s horror again, but it’s very, very different to Furnace. In a nutshell, it’s a zombie book without zombies. It follows a small group of unrelated children and teenagers who, for an unknown reason, trigger a brutal, violent reaction in every single other person they meet. Everyone – even their loved ones – turns against them, but as soon as these kids are dead, or gain enough distance, their attackers forget all about it and go on with their lives as usual. I won’t say why it’s happening, but it’s tied in with a terrible secret that could destroy the world! All going smoothly, it should be coming out in the UK in March 2012.
Sounds very intriguing and gripping. I look forward to it. 

16) Is there anything else you want to tell us, either about yourself or your books?
I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has read my books, the stories would be nothing without you guys! And if you want to get in touch then email me at

Thanks again for interviewing me on your blog!
A massive thank you to Gordon for taking the time to answer all my questions! I think you'll agree he sounds awesome. If you haven't read his books I strongly encourage you to do so.

check out his personal website here
check out the books website here 

If you want to read my reviews you can find them here:

Hope you enjoyed that, let me know if you've read or are going to read his books. :D Happy Reading.

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