Lost in space....
8th Jan 20

Lost in space....

Expect space travel, space pirates and children lost in space in this gripping sci-fi adventure! Author ALASTAIR CHISHOLM tells us more about ORION LOST.

ORION LOST follows 13-year-old Beth and her young crew as they try to navigate their way to safety, after the adults on board fail to wake as scheduled from a routinely-induced 'sleep'.

While arguing among themselves, the young crew are also trying to get to grips with space travel, space pirates and the eerie Videshi ships. Then they begin to suspect there is a saboteur in their midst...

We asked author ALASTAIR CHISHOLM to tell us more about his new book, ORION LOST:

Q: Describe Orion Lost in one sentence?

A: Beth McKay and her friends are lost in space, in a crippled space ship, a billion miles from home ... and someone is lying to them.

Q: What inspired the story and the setting?

A: I had an idea of someone waking up, alone in a place that is completely silent, everyone else still asleep - and then a voice saying, 'it's up to you to save us'. Everything else came out of that moment.

Q: Has your background in tech and writing puzzles come in useful for writing your books?

A: Being a tech geek certainly helps when writing sci-fi! You get a good idea of at least which problems are hard and which are easy, and you can add detail.

Q: Did you do any research into actual space travel before writing Orion Lost?

A: I did! Some of it didn't make it into the final version of the book. I know, for example, the best fish to take into space... And that if you want to colonise a new planet then pygmy goats are an excellent choice, and so are sweet potatoes. I also learned lots about the way fire behaves in zero gravity (look it up, it's amazing), and space suits - and space welding!

Q: What are your main rules for space travel in the book?

A: In Beth's world, there are certain points in space where you can Jump to other points - skipping millions of miles at a time. But the Jumps are so weird that human brains can't cope with it, so when you Jump, you have to be asleep, and when you wake up, the computer has to restore all your memories.

Q: The children in the story are in a space craft headed for another planet. If you were given a ticket to travel to another planet - would you go?

A: It's tempting! Imagine creating a whole new society, on a new world? But I think I like this planet. I'd like to see how we can fix the problems here. On the other hand, I'm writing this in December in Edinburgh, so maybe if that other planet was a bit warmer...

Q: What do you love and hate the most about the idea of space travel?

A: I love that we're right on the edge of stepping out into the universe. In the next few hundred years we might really start to head out to other stars, and the planets around them, and create whole new worlds. I hate that, in reality, Jumping doesn't exist, and it will take centuries to reach these places. Space is big! And amazing! But also really big!

Q: Other than Beth, who leads the team of child space pilots in Orion Lost, did any of the children stand out for you?

A: Lauryn the computer geek was huge fun. And Vihaan as well - he and Beth are enemies, but he's not really bad, he just sees the world very differently. But the best thing about writing, for me, is when the characters start to really exist in your head, and you like them all. Even Arnold (who can do fifty press-ups; which is, like, a lot of press-ups)

Q: Why did you decide to make teamwork and leadership such key issues in this story?

A: For me, this was the story. The Event, the pirates, the aliens, the mystery - these things happen, but what the story's about is Beth and the others, and how they step up. At that age (13), you're such a mix - in some ways you're very grown up, but in others you're still filling in the gaps. Here's a situation where these kids have to pretend to be adults; they have to be the crew that Orion needs.

And that's where you are at that age. The world needs you, but you're still figuring things out. It can be a chaotic, stressful time, and I wanted the story to reflect this, and to suggest that there might be an answer - that you might get through it. You can make these decisions, you can trust yourself. "You can't control the waves, but you are the master of your own ship."

Q: There's a strong environmental theme in the story too, why did you want to bring that in to the mix?

A: How we respond to our environment has to be a strong theme of our future, otherwise we won't have one. But not just that: how we see others? Do we treat them with respect? Or just as resources to be used up? We've done that, and every time we've come to regret it. Colonisation, slavery, strip-mining... We need new answers. But we're smart, and this is a solvable problem. We don't have to keep choosing wrongly. We can decide to change.

Q: Are you planning another adventure for Beth and her Orion team? What are you writing now?

A: I do have some ideas! I'd love to return to the Orion, so we'll see how things play out. Meanwhile, I've been working on a novel about robots, and at the moment, just for a change, I'm having fun with dragons...

Q: Where and when are your favourite places and times to write? Do you have any writing tips that help you get your stories finished?

A: My favourite spot is a desk at my wife's studio, but I often write at the kitchen table, or sitting in bed, or anywhere, really.

I recommend joining a writing group if you can - they really help to encourage you to keep going. See if your school has one, or would be interested in helping. Or set one up yourself! And write every day. You don't have to do a lot - a hundred words is fine - but write every day. Just keep going and don't stop. Don't worry about it being awful, you can fix it later. Just keep swimming.

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: Well, I play far too many games on my phone. But I love reading, and comics, and walking - either up in the hills, or through cities. Cities are exciting to walk through, and I get lots of small ideas; out in the hills the ideas are slower, but bigger.

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