Interview with YA fantasy author John Connors
It’s an action-fantasy-adventure story about a thirteen year old boy whose parents move unexpectedly to a tiny village that is actually the place around which all the natural or elemental energy in the world congregates. This is the energy that powers the planet. He is able to use some of this energy through the earthstone, a piece of volcanic rock centuries old. So he goes from being this ordinary boy to having an extraordinary responsibility. This book is the first of a series and tells the story of his first adventure battling a strange duo that want to take control of this elemental energy.
What inspired you to write it?
It was partly inspired by a time about 10 years back when global warming and the environment had become one of the top news stories and I wanted to create something that addressed it. The story evolved from there. Originally it was a terrible idea to suggest that somebody with special powers could solve the issue but it got me thinking on the idea of everything on Earth being connected. Here we are all sitting on this one tiny planet yet we mostly imagine our own lives in isolation yet they are not. The other thing I wanted to do was create a story that didn’t rely on already established myths and fables so there are no dragons or elves or wizards just the natural power of the planet. I like the idea that some younger readers will imagine they could run into any of these elemental things in their own neighbourhood. Even the earthstone is a real piece of rock called Obsdian.
How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
The cover is done by Laura Gordon, it wasn’t my idea, I found it by chance and as soon as I saw it knew it was perfect for the book as it suggests a great but mysterious power connecting everything.
If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
I don’t really know actors of the age to play the kids. Tom Allenby is not a Harry Potter type hiding in a cupboard- he’s lively and outgoing which makes a change for heroes of kids’ books. He’d have to be played by a cheeky young London actor. Mrs Brackley is definitely based on an actor called Brenda Fricker and Lord Pennington is Freddie Jones! He’s only a small role in this book but the Chamberlain character would be played by Lee Ingleby.
What is it about the YA fantasy genre that appeals to you so much?
The audience gives you the best of both worlds. On the one hand they will pick up on anything that doesn’t make sense within the fiction so it is a rigorous readership that challenges authors. People imagine it’s easier to write for a younger audience but young readers notice everything. On the other hand they are much more willing to accept the fantastical. If you present them with something like a flying horse an adult reader will say `that could never happen` whereas a YA or child reader will think `wouldn’t it be great if that did happen`. As long as you start from a familiar point you can take them on an incredible journey. The other thing I like is that you can smuggle important pointers for life into the narrative. All children’s and young adult stories are really about growing up.
Can you explain why you chose this setting in England?
It’s mainly because I know it! The village is based on somewhere I knew quite well a while back so I can picture the places and buildings and so on. We have very interesting geography too and lots of old atmopsheric buildings. Ravensthorpe Hall in the book was built in the 1600s. England has such a long history and unusual varied landscape that it’s inspiring to set stories there.
What made you want to become an author?
It happened by accident! It was around the time when both Harry Potter and the Dark Materials books were becoming popular and like a lot of adults I’d sort of forgotten about children’s fiction. Anyway I read them and started to think perhaps I could write something along those lines but different. I’ve always liked fantasy TV and films especially if they have a basis in reality.
How do you come up with character names?
They changed a lot during the course of many re-writes. Early on the hero might have been a boy or a girl, but because I’d been a boy I felt more secure writing as one and Tom was a name that sounded heroic somehow. Allenby I chose from a list of names; it’s hard to find names that have not been used in other stories! I chose Jake because it sounded spiky like his hair and Tyrell from the Blade Runner film. Kyle has an American father so I thought he’d have an American name even though essentially he’s English. Amber and Jade were named because in England there had been a trend for unusual names and I thought it would be typical for someone to name twin girls something like that. The name Brackley comes from a spy novel I read as a child and Chamberlain after our most infamous prime minister!
Name one of your all-time favourite books?
I used to read a lot of science fiction when I was younger and Dune was a big favourite. It had a real sense of another world.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I suppose I’m inspired by the idea of having this story I’ve nurtured for a decade read and enjoyed by others. Writing is communication and although it’s daunting to release the book into the world it’s also inspiring when just one person says they enjoyed it.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I did some of the writing for this book outside in the summertime. It’s the same weather as the story and it definitely helped but as the next one is set in winter time I will be doing that indoors!
What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Lord of the Rings; it really brings the book alive.
Name two of your favourite authors.
From the past Charles Dickens, from the present Philip Pullman
If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?
It would have to be the obvious ones of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. They could give me a few tips!
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I can’t eat curry!
Who would play you in the movie about your life?
I don’t think my life’s interesting enough for a movie!
Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
It’s less than ten minutes’ walk from Penny Lane as in The Beatles song.
What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I’m working on the second book in the series, the follow up to Elemental, at the moment.
Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
I haven’t got a list- I’m too busy!
Favourite myth / fairytale?
I used to love the old Greek myths about the Gods falling out and banishing each other!
Who did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be Doctor Who!
In real life, he works for an IT related company in management information statistics. He also gardens at the weekend. He has written a lot of reviews and articles for amateur fanzines as well as editing his own, the latest of which can be found at www.thiswayupzine.blogspot.com
Elemental is available now from Amazon: Paperback / Kindle US / Kindle UK