Imagine finding yourself in a computer game...
10th May 19

Imagine finding yourself in a computer game...

Look out for video games, armies of soldiers and a prince who wants to be an actor in LEVEL UP!, an hilarious, adventure-packed novel by author TOM NICOLL.

Meet Flo, who is obsessed with gaming. What she hadn't planned on, though, was ending up inside her favourite game with her best friend, Max. Now she has to find a way for them to get back into the real world and - since they're being chased by armies of soldiers - soon!

Here author TOM NICOLL tells us more about LEVEL UP!:

Q: Was there anything specific that sparked the idea, to take two children - Flo and Max - inside a computer game?

A: Being a big gamer I had wanted to write a book about games for a while and after being encouraged from a number of school visits where I realised how excited kids were about them, I pitched a book to my editor. I described it as a bit like Honey I Shrunk the Kids meeting Tron for a beer with Wreck-It Ralph. And also Quantum Leap is there.

The main thing that sparked the idea though was wanting to write a series where each book could be wildly different. With there being so many different kinds of games I quickly realised that each book could be about being trapped inside a different one.

Q: You a gamer yourself - but did you still need to 'research' other kinds of games in order to write these books?

A: I'd definitely consider myself a gamer, and have been for almost 30 years now! I wouldn't say I'm an obsessive, though I probably was when I was Flo's age.

I don't have as much time to play as I used to so these days I prefer games I can dip in and out of or that won't take very long to complete. If I see a game advertising 100s of hours of play time I'll probably just give it a miss to be honest.

But of course when it came to writing the books, I take them very seriously so extra *cough* research was definitely required. I'm not sure why you put research in inverted commas there by the way. I want to make it perfectly clear that I was certainly not enjoying myself while doing all my *cough* research.

Q: ...And if so, what was your favourite bit of 'research'?

A: Probably all the time I got to waste playing Elite: Dangerous, No Man's Sky and Halo.

Q: It's great to see a girl and a woman taking lead, techy roles in your story - why did you decide to make the characters, Flo and Captain Morretta, female?

A: I had written two series with a boy as the main character and really wanted to write one with a girl as the lead. When I got the idea for this series I knew pretty much from the beginning that the main gamer was going to be a girl.

Unfortunately, Games and Tech have been considered by some in the past, and sadly continue to be thought of in some circles, as being for boys. I've never really understood where this idea came from as it was never my experience growing up. Most girls I knew played games. My daughter and her friends play games. My wife plays games on her phone. My Mum, from what I can deduce from all those facebook requests I'm continually blocking, plays games.

I wanted Flo to be as good at games as her Mum was at tech. Captain Moretta wasn't as deliberate a decision though. It just made sense to me that she was a woman.

Q: Which supporting characters in Level Up did you most enjoy writing?

A: It has to be Gary. It was fun writing an arrogant, useless space soldier. Though he becomes more sympathetic as the story goes on...

Q: Do you have a favourite bit of kit from Level Up book 1?

A: I'd like to have a go at pulling a rocket jump in a tank...

Q: Are you planning to write more Level Up books, and what have you got planned next for Flo and her friend Max?

A: We've definitely not seen the last of Flo and Max. Book 2 is out later this year and books 3 and 4 are due next year.

The next book is Block and Roll. This time Flo and Max wind up in Blocktopia - a world building game that requires a bit more creativity than Flo is used to, but Max is in his element this time round as they try to help the people of Sublimity build the perfect city. But all may not be as it seems, both inside and outside the city.

Q: If you could escape into a computer game, like your characters, where would you go?

A: I have over 530 hours invested in a game called Rocket League - imagine Soccer played with rocket powered cars - so I'd probably go for that and then I could just play that all day long. Instead of what I do right now which is wish I could play that all day long...

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