Alex Scarrow is a British author, whose books include The Candleman, A Thousand Suns, Last Light, Afterlight, October Skies, and the young adult science fiction series TimeRiders. His new series begins with The Legend of Ellie Quin, in a universe with genetically engineered pocket pets, plant life with a crabby attitude, soda pops that fight back…and revoltingly slimy junk food.
SF Signal: Hello Alex. TimeRiders is a popular time travel series in the UK about a group of teenagers who have cheated death and are now working for an organisation to combat others from changing history. Where did you get the idea for the series?
Alex Scarrow: I’ve always liked time travel as a story telling device because it gives you an infinitely large canvas to work with. I was a big fan of the Terminator movies and the Back to the Future movies in the 80s, mainly because of the idea of alternate versions of the present day that could be the result of an altered past. Great stuff; at once familiar and at the same time so very different.
Alex Scarrow: It was a risk to use the 9/11 event. It’s still very recent history and still very much an open wound in the American psyche. However, in terms of the story, it DID make the perfect place for the team to base their field office, simply because, the world was changed by 9/11. In the space of 24 hours global politics changed. Thus a loop that would occur on the day before and the day after places them at a nexus point in history. The trick, in terms of sensibility, was treating 9/11 with respect, and never really exploit the horror of it directly. I had a golden rule when writing the series to never go inside, or even near the twin towers…it’s always an event scene on the horizon, and no closer.
SF Signal: What can you tell us about your new series of books, Ellie Quin?
Alex Scarrow: Ellie Quin is the big thing I’m working on right now (as well as the last two books for TimeRiders). Actually, if I may, I’d like to encourage TimeRiders fans to give my new series, Ellie Quin, a go. It’s very similar to TimeRiders in terms of pace, big ideas, strong likeable characters. It’s about a very ordinary girl who yearns to escape a boring rural existence on a remote agricultural planet. But soon becomes embroiled in a universe-spanning conspiracy. She finds herself on the run through this madcap, colourful, vibrant universe full of really fun ideas. For instance….pets you can grow from seeds, nail varnish that when it dries you can watch TV on your finger, genetically engineered labourers with four arms, weird fortune telling aliens, soda pops that change flavour all the time, plants with a cabby attitude!….lotsa fun stuff in a big, big, universe. The series has just been launched on Amazon. You can download it as an ebook or order (soon) a printed version from Amazon. If you’re interested in learning more about it go to www.elliequin.com
SF Signal: The seventh TimeRiders’s book is out in February 2013. It is called TimeRiders: The Pirate Kings. Is there anything you can tell us about the plot?
Alex Scarrow: The Pirate Kings (TimeRiders7) is out in Feb 2013, and there are two more after that. I’m afraid there’ll be no hints at all! All I can say is that book 7 is a really fun romp through the Golden Age of Piracy with a few satricial nods to Jack Sparrow.
SF Signal: The TimeRiders and Ellie Quin series are very science fiction based. Have you always enjoyed science fiction or has this come later in life?
Alex Scarrow: I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. GOOD scifi examines the world we know from a distance, from outside…it’s the perfect device for that. That’s why I think it’s a genre that should be treated with far more respect than it is. Sadly, mainstream literature turns it’s nose up at this genre, I suppose because they assume scifi is nothing but spaceships and green alien chicks. Something for over-excitable little boys. Which is sad, because scifi at its best rivals, often times, betters ‘literary’ fiction because of the freedom to abstract and look at notions from afar.
SF Signal: What would you say to young writers out there who want to make a career out of being a novelist?
Alex Scarrow: it’s tough. Very tough to get published these days. I’d say the most important thing…the trump suit…is originality. Come up with a concept that’s so different it will take an editor’s breath away. If you want to write a book about vampires in high school, dystopian future teen based gladiator games or invasions of zombies…then you’re gonna be one of the crowd.
SF Signal: What do you think the reaction was to TimeRiders when it was first published? Positive or Negative?
Alex Scarrow: It’s been positive from the get-go. I can’t believe how successful it’s been.
SF Signal: What is the future for TimeRiders? Will there be any more books after the nine books that have been already planned?
Alex Scarrow: No the series was always meant to be a nine book series. The story arc is quite rigid. That said, who knows? Maybe I’ll keep the door cracked open for some kind of spin-off series.
Alex Scarrow: They are quite visual and a dead-cert for film or TV. To that end I am having conversations with film/tv suits…so we’ll see.
SF Signal: What future projects have you got planned that you can talk about?
Alex Scarrow: I’m in the early stages of planning another series of books. Again, big concept stuff, but alas I’m under a strict information embargo about it. Watch this space!
SF Signal: Thanks for dropping buy and doing the interview Alex, here’s hoping Ellie Quin turns out to be a success.
Alex Scarrow: Thanks. I’m really looking forward to writing the next three books, should be a real blast! And thanks for having me. Great blog site, btw. Keep up the good work!