Ross Welford

In THE KID WHO CAME FROM SPACE, 12-year-old Ethan is convinced that his twin sister, Tammy, is still alive, after she disappears when out delivering Christmas gifts.

However, when Ethan discovers the extraordinary truth about where Tammi is - and what he must do to save her - he isn't sure that he is brave enough to do what is needed. Which is where a large, hairy alien called Hellyann, a pet chicken and a troubled boy step in to help.

We asked author ROSS WELFORD to tell us more about THE KID WHO CAME FROM SPACE:

Q: In your earlier novels you have explored time travel, becoming invisible and living forever. What took you into space for this novel, The Kid Who Came From Space?

A: The idea that I was a 'science fiction' writer had always kind of taken me by surprise. It's not how I see it at all, though I guess time travel is definitely a SF trope! So I thought this time I'd go full-on science fiction, with aliens and spaceships and even the military. It was fun!

Q: How did you decide what your aliens would be like and look like?

A: From the start, I wanted Hellyann (the alien) to be vaguely human-looking mainly because I wanted her to go to school with the other kids, fearing that her identity would be uncovered. In the end those scenes never got written, apart from one chapter on the school bus. Even that ended up spiked because of the timeframe of the story: it all happens in the Christmas holidays. I'm glad she is human-ish, though: I think it makes her more relatable.

Q: Did you do any research into alien reports and alien abductions before starting to write this book?

A: I've sort of been interested in that stuff for years, so I was able to make most of it up! There are references to real UFO incidents which students of the genre will recognise.

Q: Why do you have two narrators in The Kid Who Came from Space, a boy called Ethan and the alien, Hellyann?

A: First person narration is great, but it does restrict the author to a single point of view - so in this one (as with The 1,000 Year old Boy) I have two narrators.

It was fun doing Hellyann, the alien. Her 'voice' is a bit stilted and formal, and she doesn't really do jokes, so I had to think very hard about every single thing she said: would she know this word? I've probably made lots of errors...

Q: Through the novel, Ethan discovers that his 'best' can be better than he believes. Is this an important message for children?

A: I hate 'messages'! But yes, the thing about trying harder than you thought you could is a good little takeaway. I think we all want our heroes to be pushed to their limits and to discover they can achieve more than they - and we - thought.

Q: Ethan's friend Iggy, on the other hand, is capable of more than others believe. Was it fun introducing rule-breakers to the novel in Iggy and Hellyann?

A: Iggy was great fun to write. He has a troubled background (which we have to imagine mostly) and so has a have-a-go attitude which of course helps to drive the plot! Hellyann's home society is extremely ordered - practically totalitarian - in its conformity, so her risk-taking is even more dramatic.

Q: The novel also features a pet chicken. Why a chicken?

A: Well, I like pets in stories, and I'd done two dogs, a cat and a hamster...! I was watching a trained chicken on YouTube and I thought - aha! A chicken seemed to fit Iggy's quirky personality. I'd already written a couple of chapters in which he had a Shetland pony and they were quite funny, but a chicken was better and much easier to fit into a spaceship!

Q: When you come to the end of your novels, are you relieved or sad to let the characters go?

A: Always sad. They've lived in my head for months and are practically real to me. The frustrating thing is that after my copy has gone to the printers, I nearly always think of extra bits of business or funny lines: they take a while to disperse from my brain.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write?

A: When I want to get a lot done, I go to my house in the country where it's just me, my dog (Jess the collie) and - if I hit my word count for the day - the village pub.

Q: What will your school events for The Kid Who Came From Space feature?

A: I haven't decided yet. I am a member of the Magic Circle, so my school shows always feature magic tricks with a bookish theme. This time it'll have to include aliens or space travel as well.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what your next novel is about?

A: Blimey, give me a chance! In fact yes I can: I've already started it and it's focused on dreams becoming real, and the stone-age. That said, anything could happen.

(At this time last year, The Kid Who Came From Space featured a kid with a pet pony, and a mutant crocodile, neither of which made the final cut!)

Q: Are there any authors / titles that have stood out for you in 2019 that you could recommend to our members?

A: I read quite a lot of children's books, old and new. My favourite new one was Malamander by Thomas Taylor, which was bold and spooky and funny; my favourite classic was The Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson which, rather embarrassingly, reduced me to tears in a hotel bar.
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