Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a question and answer session with author Alex Scarrow about his long-running traditionally published series, TimeRiders, and his newer, self-published series featuring a young female protagonist, Ellie Quinn. The newest of this series, Ellie Quin in Wonderland, was released in early February.

In the process of planning the interview we discussed having Alex Scarrow write a guest post on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, of particular interest because he is currently active in both arenas.

With thanks for taking the time to share his thoughts, I give you Alex Scarrow!

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Marking Time with Author Alex Scarrow

When last we spoke with author Alex Scarrow he was just about to self-publish the first in a new series featuring a young female protagonist by the name of Ellie Quin. A year and change later and the fourth episode in the series, Ellie Quinn in Wonderland, has just been released with the ninth book in Scarrow’s TimeRiders series on the way.

By way of reminder, Alex Scarrow is a British author whose road to publication took him through music, graphic art and computer game design. He then began writing screenplays, one of which became the novel A Thousand Suns , which ties a contemporary storyline with WWII Germany. Alex Scarrow is perhaps best known for his work in Young Adult science fiction and it is there where we concentrate today’s discussion.

Without further ado, let us welcome back author Alex Scarrow.

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Alex Scarrow used to be a rock guitarist, then he became a graphic artist, then he decided to be a computer-games designer. Finally, he grew up and became an author. He has written a number of successful thrillers and several screenplays, but it’s Young Adult fiction that has allowed him to really have fun with many of the really cool ideas and concepts he was playing around with when designing games.

He lives in Norwich with his family.

You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexScarrow


Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Alex Scarrow: Well, I’ve been a bit all over the place really. I spent the first ten years out of school chasing a record deal with loads of different rock bands, all of them unsuccessful! In my later 20’s I finally decided it wasn’t going to happen and had to get myself a job. And I got really lucky. I found myself working for a computer games company doing pixel art. I spent ten years in the computer games industry finally ending up as a senior games designer. But then, I found myself getting quite bored with that, eventually migrating to writing short stories, then novels….and eventually getting my first novel published in 2006. Been writing ever since!

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: In spite of having a huge library (including lots of YA) at her fingertips, my 13 year old daughter is a very reluctant reader. What SF/F books would you recommend for reluctant readers (or voracious readers!) ages 13-16 (or so), boys and girls alike?

Here’s what they said…

Kristen Simmons
Kristen Simmons writes young adult fiction – the kind that’s dark and scary but generally involves some kissing. The second book in the ARTICLE 5 series, BREAKING POINT, will be published by Tor Teen in February, 2013. Words cannot describe how happy this makes her.

I highly recommend The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. These books are awesome, from the titles to the cliffhangers. I read them mostly standing, as it was sometimes too difficult to relax in a comfy chair.

The main character, Todd Hewitt, had me from the first page. Todd has learned to be tough despite the fact that he has zero privacy (due to a disease on his planet which makes one’s every thought visible). I love him because he possesses a vulnerability that is so raw and genuine, you can’t help but be affected. When his insecurities are revealed, you’re embarrassed. Not for Todd, but with Todd. Like you just realized you forgot to wear pants today.

Todd’s the bridge between our world, and one with aliens, genocide, and hands down the best talking dog EVER. Todd makes you realize that his world of chaos and violence isn’t so different from our own, and that all the technology that makes our lives so convenient – cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – often makes it impossible to hide. These are concepts that teens now more than ever are facing every day.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: An appealing, character-driven adventure in a future history that is both fun and inventive.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  Nineteen year-old Ellie Quin spends her days planting tubweeds on an oxygen farm anxious for the day that she can escape rural life and move to the domed city of New Haven.  The normal longings of an adolescent girl prove to be anything but normal in this gene-enhanced future.  The day arrives and Ellie puts her plans into motion, unaware that she and her small agricultural planet are on a collision course with forces that could unravel the entire course of humanity, with Ellie being the key to their undoing.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Engaging protagonist; imaginative world-building; strong pacing with a steadily building tension.
CONS: It is not a self-contained story; ends abruptly to continue in second volume.
BOTTOM LINE: The Legend of Ellie Quin delivers a sense-of-wonder exploration of the future reminiscent of Heinlein’s juvenile novels coupled with the accessibility of contemporary storytelling techniques.  It reveals an imaginative future in which humanity thrives in a sprawling universe seen through the eyes of a down-to-earth, likeable character.

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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.

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