AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

  • Tom Huddleston

    Tom Huddleston

    FLOODWORLD

    NOSY CROW BOOKS

    OCTOBER 2019


    FLOODWORLD is set in a future London, semi-submerged as a result of climate change. The wealthy City centre remains safe, hidden behind strong walls, but outside this privileged world lies the Shanties, a lawless area where people fight to survive from day to day.

    This is where Joe and Kara live, until the day that they are accidentally caught up in a complex plot that threatens the world they know with further danger.

    We asked author TOM HUDDLESTON to tell us more about his latest novel, FLOODWORLD, aimed at readers aged 11+:


    Q: Can you tell us a bit about your writing career and what have been your highlights to date?

    A: I published my first novel The Waking World in 2013, it was a future-medieval fantasy story with shades of King Arthur. Since then I've written three installments in the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series for LucasFilm, which as a lifelong fan was extremely exciting, and I've recently been working on a really cool fantasy series for 8+ readers under Games Workshop's Warhammer Adventures banner.

    Both of these series have been loads of fun to write, giving me the chance to create my very own corner of an established universe. But it's great to publish a new book that's entirely my own.


    Q: How would you describe your writing style?

    A: I try to make my writing as vivid as possible, to create clear visual pictures in my readers' heads. I worked as a film critic for many years (and still do, on a freelance basis), and my books are heavily inspired by the movies I love.

    That said, the most important thing is to make sure that the characters are believable, and that we care what happens to them.


    Q: What inspired you to write FloodWorld, a story of a future, submerged London?

    A: The image of a flooded city is such a compelling one, it's been lodged in my head for years, inspired by seeing the (admittedly fairly dreadful) movie Waterworld as a teenager, by reading JG Ballard's The Drowned World, and by trips to Venice, where I have relatives. The idea of making it a floating slum perched in the tops of tower blocks is all mine, though, I hope!


    Q: Is the title a reference to the Waterworld film?

    A: As I said, I'm always inspired by movies, and the scene in Waterworld where Costner swims down and finds a ruined city on the ocean floor was definitely one of the early sparks for this book. But the title isn't a deliberate reference - in fact, the book was actually called The Mariners until pretty late in the process. I'll admit, though, when we settled on the title FloodWorld, I thought this question might come up!


    Q: Did you do any research to plan the book, for example reading about what might happen to the world's cities in the future? If so, what's the prognosis for London?

    A: I looked at projected maps of the world as the sea levels rise and learned about the potential impacts of climate change (spoiler: it's not good).

    I'm sure that a real climate scientist could pick enormous holes in FloodWorld - I think the sea levels would have to rise an awful lot for London to be affected - but that's why this is a work of fiction!


    Q: How long did it take to create your setting of a future, flooded London where the poorer Shanties are pitted against the privileged (ie dry) City of London?

    A: The image of the Shanties arrived pretty much fully formed - it just seemed like the natural way things would go if a wall was built around London, but only the very privileged were allowed to remain inside. Someone's obviously going to clean the loo and carry the shopping!

    I was also inspired by images of floating slums like Makoko in Nigeria, where the residents make rafts and walkways from driftwood and scrap, living as best they can in this really challenging environment.


    Q: Your main characters, Kara and Joe, get caught up in a plot that will have a dramatic effect on the City. Was their sibling-like relationship always going to be at the heart of the story?

    A: Yes, Kara and Joe were there from the very first draft. They're partly inspired by my own family - Kara is a bit like my sister, and Joe is a bit like me - but I thought it'd be more interesting if they weren't actually related, if they stayed together by choice.

    Kara has taken Joe under her wing, trying to cling to one last scrap of innocence in this unforgiving world. And Joe treats Kara like a Mum, a Dad, a big sister and a best friend rolled into one. I believe that chosen family can be every bit as important as your 'real' family.


    Q: You have some great villains - John Cortez, leader of the Mariners, his sidekick Redeye, and some 'good' bad guys like Colpeper. Who did you have the most fun creating?

    A: Redeye was definitely the most fun! He's outwardly scary, with his artificial eye and his cruel demeanour. But the more you get to know him, the more complicated his character becomes. We'll learn much more about him in later books, too.

    Cortez was a real struggle, though - he went through various different permutations until I settled on the character as he is now. Writing a 'big villain' is really hard, because it can feel like everything's been done before. Hopefully he's conflicted and complex enough to be interesting.


    Q: Other than a great adventure, what would you like your readers to take away from Floodworld?

    A: I'd like them to think about the impact of climate change, because one way or another the world is going to look very different in a few decades, let alone a few centuries. I'd like them to think about the way our society is set up, about the growing inequality between those who have too much and those who have too little. But as you say, most of all I'd like them to have a really good time! To be transported to an exciting new world, and lose themselves in it for a little while.


    Q: Will you be revisiting Kara and Joe's world?

    A: Yes, the sequel to FloodWorld, entitled DustRoad, is coming out in 2020. As the title implies, this time the story takes place mainly on land, as Kara and Joe find themselves lost in the war-torn continent of North America and get involved with a mysterious tribe of identical brothers called The Five, who have a major grudge against The Mariners.

    If the first book was like a disaster movie, this one's a proper road movie, an epic chase in all kinds of rusted-up vehicles, buses and trucks and boats and flying machines... it's pretty cool.


    Q: You have lots of nautical episodes and gadgets - there's a whole town on the waves, a submarine, submersible and an impressive ship or two. If you could take a trip on any of them, which one would it be?

    A: I'd love to visit a Mariner Ark - that's the one that's like a floating town, a huge ocean-going vessel where thousands of Mariners can live and work and study.

    But the thought of racing around the ocean floor in a little four-person submersible seems pretty exciting too. The submersible chase was maybe my favourite part of the book to write, I could picture it so perfectly.


    Q: Do you write full time? How does your writing day go and where is your favourite place to write?

    A: I do write full time, dividing my day between writing fiction and film and TV-related freelance work. We have a spare bedroom in our flat so that's where I write, at a desk by the window so I can look out towards Stoke Newington Common.

    I tend to get up at 8.30, exercise a bit, then be at my desk by 9. I then work straight through until 3pm, minus a few short breaks for tea and toast, so that afterwards I can just relax, have a late lunch and watch a movie or reply to some emails in the afternoon. Six hours is all I can manage before my brain goes to mush, anyway.


    Q: What are your top tips for writing action scenes?

    A: Keep it simple. It seems illogical - an epic action scene should be, well, epic. But there's a limit to how much a reader can keep in their mind's eye at any one time, and if you load a scene with complicated movement and lots of characters and vehicles and locations, it gets confusing, and then you switch off.

    The example I always go back to is the escape from Moria in The Lord of the Rings. In the book it's surprisingly brief - they run from the orcs, the Balrog turns up, Gandalf falls, and it's done. In the film version there's all sorts going on - there's a cave troll, the bridge falls over, nobody tosses a dwarf, etc etc. But the book version is every bit as memorable, because you're inside the characters' heads.


    Q: Describe your ideal 'writer's shed' and where would it be?

    A: I don't need much - a desk, a comfy chair, a computer and a bit of view, preferably of something green. That said, I do prefer to be in a city - that way if I run out of milk I don't have to lose an hour of my day getting to the shops. I'm not sure I can think of a better setup than the one I have now, to be honest...






    REALM QUEST: LAIR OF THE SKAVEN

    WARHAMMER ADVENTURES

    JUNE 2019


    REALM QUEST and WARPED GALAXIES are two exciting new series drawn from the Warhammer worlds. The books are an enticing way to encourage children who gaming into books - as well as providing great reads for children who already love adventure, science fiction and fantasy.

    The REALM QUEST series started earlier this year with CITY OF LIFESTONE. In the latest adventure, LAIR OF THE SKAVEN, Elio and his friends are determined to try and rescue their master, Vertigan, when he is kidnapped.

    Using a powerful artefact, they forge a magical doorway into a forbidding underground world teeming with Skaven ratmen! Hopelessly outnumbered, Elio, Kiri, Alish, Thanis and Kaspar must use all of their cunning if they are to find Vertigan and escape alive...

    We asked the authors of the new WARHAMMER series, TOM HUDDLESTON and CAVAN SCOTT to tell us more!


    Q: Why has Warhammer decided to move into children's books with these new series - WARPED GALAXIES and REALM QUEST?

    CAVAN: Most Warhammer fiction is aimed at adults, and can be quite gory, so the idea was the open both the Warhammer 40,000 and the Age of Sigma universes to younger readers, cutting down the violence but keeping as much of the grimdark feel as we could. The settings are the same, but they're seen through the the eyes of children, rather than the battle-hardened super-soldiers of the main lines.

    TOM: I think the folks at Games Workshop were keen to get a younger audience into these immense worlds they've created. It's a natural fit - Warhammer role-play is all about epic battles and monsters and magic and spaceships, stuff kids love. I think the idea is that these books will act as a natural gateway into the wider Warhammer world.


    Q: How did you get involved in writing them, and what attracted you to the project? Were you already a Warhammer gamer or did you need to research them?

    A: CAVAN: I'd already written a number of stories in the Warhammer 40,000 setting and, as I'd also had experience of writing children's fiction for such franchises as Star Wars and Doctor Who, was approached to write the Warped Galaxies series. I've never played the game personally, having come to the universe through the books and audio dramas. I am slowly amassing a collection of the various figures and vehicles though.

    TOM: It was actually Cavan who recommended me for the Realm Quest series, for which I'll be eternally grateful! It just sounded like a fun project from the get-go - a chance to work in these vast created worlds, and tell huge, imaginative stories. I wasn't a gamer, no - I remember the figures from when I was younger, and always thought they looked cool, but it wasn't something I'd ever got stuck into.


    Q: How long have you been a sci-fi reader and author?

    CAVAN: I've been a SF reader all my life, and probably a writer of it since I could first hold a pencil and scrawl stories on random scraps of paper. Professionally, I've been writing for nearly 20-years, my first commission coming in 2000 for a Doctor Who radio play.

    TOM: I suppose since I was about 7, when I wrote a story about my teddies going to space and meeting aliens in the cloud-cities of Jupiter. Though it should be pointed out, my Realm Quest series is more fantasy than sci-fi - it's Cavan who writes the space books.


    Q: There isn't a huge amount of sci-fi and space fantasy for younger readers - do you feel we underestimate demand for these, and how these stories can get young people - and especially young gamers - reading?

    CAVAN: I think there's a massive opportunity to get young gamers reading with books like these, especially any fans who think books 'aren't for them'. Sometimes all it takes is their favourite character on the cover of a book to get them to pick it up. I started reading because of the Target Doctor Who books in the 1970s. If it wasn't for them - and author Terrance Dicks - I doubt I would have spent so much time in libraries, trying to find the latest TARDIS adventures and inadvertently discovering other fantastic books on the shelves.

    TOM: Some of my happiest early reading experiences were with SF, whether it was the Star Wars tie-in novels, The Tripods by John Christopher or the Starstormers series by Nicholas Fisk. And although my Warhammer series is fantasy rather than sci-fi, I've drawn on all three influences for these books.


    Q: Does the gaming side of Warhammer influence how you plan the novels - for example, the characters' special skills or powers, the settings or names etc?

    A: CAVAN: Warhammer 40,000 has such a rich history that there's so much to dive into. Writing one of these books is like working on a historical novel. You have to research everything, from the language the characters would use to the types of planets they visit. Thankfully, we also have series editor Nick Kyme, who is well-versed in all things Warhammer! He has been our guiding light throughout this entire process.

    TOM: It's not so much about the gaming specifically, but the vast amount of existing Warhammer lore certainly influences every page of these books. These worlds are impossibly huge - I wouldn't be surprised if Warhammer 40,000 is the biggest and most detailed fictional universe ever created, and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar isn't far behind. We had to immerse ourselves in those worlds before we could start writing - though as Cavan says, Nick and the other good folks at Black Library were always there to steer us in the right direction.


    Q: The first books sets up the story - can you give us a brief description of how your series begins and where you plan to take it?

    A: CAVAN: WARPED GALAXIES - Attack of the Necron begins with a planet exploding! Zelia, Talen and Mekki are three very different children thrown together when their world is destroyed by alien invaders. They set off on an adventure to find other survivors - including Zelia's mum - unaware that they're being followed by the evil Necrons. Along the way they cross swords with monsters and interplanetary criminals, leaping from one crisis to another as they try to find the refugee's mysterious new home.

    TOM: REALM QUEST - City of Lifestone begins with an epic battle - of course it does! - followed by a daring escape through a realm-gate, a mystical portal between worlds that starts our heroine Kiri on a quest to find the fabled City of Lifestone. There she meets a group of children who each bear a mysterious birthmark, and sets off on a wild journey across the Mortal Realms.


    Q: Can you give us a glimpse into your next book(s)?

    A: CAVAN: Two books in the Warped Galaxy series are now available - Attack of the Necron and Claws of the Genestealer. The next - Secrets of the Tau - sees the kids travelling to a dangerous space station on the next part of their quest. Once there, they become embroiled in a plot that sees them turning on each other. It has rampaging robots, giant tentacled monsters and plenty of twists.

    TOM: The second book in the Realm Quest series, Lair of the Skaven, is out now. This follows our intrepid heroes as they embark on a search for their master, Vertigan, who was stolen away by devious rat-creatures known as the Skaven. To find him they must journey into the Skaven warren, a labyrinth of caves and tunnels and deadly traps. The third book, Forest of the Ancients, follows later in the year - I can't say too much about it, except that it raises the stakes even higher, and puts Kiri and her friends in even more deadly peril.


    Q: Do you have a favourite character in the series so far? And a top villain?

    CAVAN: I love the Necrons. What's not to love about alien metallic skeletons that are virtually impossible to destroy? When it comes to the characters, I love writing Fleapit. He's a grumpy alien who looks like a bionic orangutan and can create super-cool gadgets from any pile of junk.

    A: TOM: It's a cliche, but I really do love all the main characters. They're a mismatched bunch - Kiri the outsider, Thanis the warrior, Kaspar the thief, Elio the healer and Alish the inventor - but they each have their own strengths and when they're together they're unstoppable. But they all have their own fears, too, their own doubts and shortcomings, which makes them really interesting to write. And as for villains, they don't come better than the Skaven. Fanged, clawed, six-foot rats who walk on two legs? What's not to love?


    Q: If you could bring back a piece of tech / magic from these worlds, what would it be and what would you use it for?

    CAVAN: Oh, definitely a Servo-Skull. These are floating computers housed in humans skulls. They're fantastically creepy, complete with writhing mechanical tentacles, and can help with anything - a bit like Alexa, but spookier.

    TOM: I don't think it's giving too much away to say that, a couple of books down the line, the kids get their hands on a flying machine. I'll have one of those, please.


    Q: What do you think the illustrations bring to the stories?

    CAVAN: They help visualise some of the more bizarre aspects of the Warhammer universe, hopefully sparking the reader's imagination and encouraging them to create their own Warhammer Adventures art.

    TOM: They make the worlds we're writing about feel so much more vivid, they really bring our stories to life. I think they've really captured the look of the characters, too.


    Q: What other kinds writing do you do, and what has been your favourite career moment to date?

    CAVAN: Away from Games Workshop, I mostly write Star Wars, writing comics, novels and audio-dramas set in a galaxy, far, far away. At the moment, I'm part of 'Project Luminous', a top secret Star Wars publishing initiative which will be making its debut in 2020. It's all been a bit of a dream come true, flying back and forth to Skywalker Ranch in California to create something very special with four other authors - the brilliant Daniel Jose Older, Justina Ireland, Charles Soule and Claudia Gray. We announced the initiative a few months ago at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago which was both extremely exciting and utterly surreal.

    TOM: I write original fantasy and sci-fi stories for young readers, starting with my first novel The Waking World back in 2013. An obvious career highlight was writing the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series with Cavan, but to be honest I think the best is yet to come - my new futuristic action-adventure novel FloodWorld arrives in October this year, and I can't wait for readers to get their hands on it.


    Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

    CAVAN: Most of them involve hanging out with my kids and building LEGO. Lots and lots of LEGO.

    TOM: I worked for nine years as a film journalist, and I still try to see every movie going (except the rubbish ones). But to tell the truth, writing is my escape - it's the perfect way to block out an increasingly noisy, fractious and unpredictable world and live somewhere else for a while.