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Original Essays | August 18, 2014 0 comments
Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
Sam EnthovenDescribe your latest project.
The central character of my new book, Tim, Defender of the Earth is a confused thirteen-year-old male. He's a bit clumsy, and he's perhaps not the sharpest tool in the box, but he's very brave and he's got a good heart. He's also green, he's a hundred meters tall, and he's a genetically modified Tyrannosaurus Rex.
His name's TIM, which stands for Tyrannosaur: Improved Model. He was created by the British government as part of a top-secret military experiment in a lab buried seventy stories below London's Trafalgar Square. But what neither he nor his creators know yet, is that Tim has a special destiny...
Tim, Defender Of The Earth is a giant monster story in the style of Godzilla and King Kong full of destruction and combat. While touring and promoting my first book, The Black Tattoo, I asked members of my young audiences which of London's famous landmarks they'd like to see trashed in fiction: I'm delighted to say that in TIM I've pulverized pretty much all of them. I called in an air-strike on Hyde Park; something horrible happens to the London Eye; the Big Ben tower gets snapped off and tossed like a caber and that's just for starters. Give Tim, Defender Of The Earth a wallop, I think you'll like it.
One of my relatives was a gentleman called Andrew Crosse, better known in Britain at the time (the 19th century) as "The Wizard of the Quantock Hills". He wasn't actually a wizard: what he was a pioneering amateur scientist, with a keen interest in electricity. He wired up the tall trees surrounding his house so that when lightning struck it would run straight into his laboratory: he'd then pass massive amounts of electric current through... whatever took his fancy.
One night in 1836 while he was conducting one of his experiments something weird happened: some strange insects appeared fully-formed and apparently spontaneously in what he thought had been a simple dish of chemicals. When news of his discovery reached the public there was a national sensation (nb: Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein was a big hit at the time). Although Mr. Crosse had never claimed to have "created life" he was accused of blasphemy and some of his, let's say, less enlightened neighbours even performed an exorcism!
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
What do you do for relaxation?
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Why do you write books for kids?
But (second) there's also a freedom to young people's literature a joyful acceptance of wildness and weirdness, a willingness to take risks. Example: my first book, The Black Tattoo, contains (as well as swordfights, monsters, flying kung fu and the end of the universe) some vomiting bats. Where adults might ask, "Why? Why bats? Why vomiting? What point are you making here?" younger readers (again, rightly I think) will simply say "What? They're bats. They vomit. Cool." All too often, and rather drearily, adult readers seem to need to have everything explained to them. Younger readers haven't forgotten how to have fun.
Third, and most important, the age for which I write is the age I was when I began to choose books for myself: in doing so, I discovered a love of reading that has become one of the central passions and pleasures of my life. The chance, however remote, of having one of my stories do something similar for someone else... wow. That's a hugely exciting goal to aim for, it seems to me and one that writing for adults can't ever hope to match.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
I'd met Joe, and he's a nice guy, but I believe a straight question deserves a straight answer so after due consideration I said: "He's a little smaller than me, so yes, I suppose I probably could. I don't think I could eat him all at once though, so I'd have to cut him up into portions, keep most of him in the freezer, maybe cook him a bit at a time..." Lost in the details, it was only then I realised that what I'd actually been asked me was, "Could you meet him?'"
The student was looking a bit perturbed, so I apologized profusely. The young lady raised her hand again and asked, "Have you always been so violent?"
If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
Actually (and especially for a near-beginner like me) I've been incredibly lucky about the people who have illustrated my stories so far. For The Black Tattoo my U.S. publishers, Razorbill, commissioned a stunning painting by the internationally renowned fantasy artist John Jude Palencar. And the first edition of Tim, Defender Of The Earth has a frankly gobsmacking central gatefold painting by the supremely talented Dan Dos Santos. So believe me, I'm not complaining. Hee hee hee!
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Sam Enthoven For ten years Sam Enthoven worked as a part-time bookseller on London's Charing Cross Road, recommending books to young readers and living largely on instant noodles while chasing his dream to become a published author. In September '06 that dream came true with the launch of his rollicking debut novel, The Black Tattoo. Tim, Defender Of The Earth is, as he modestly puts it, "Phase Two of my sinister masterplan to conquer the universe!" Find out more at timdefenderoftheearth.com