Today is blog-swap day! The YA writer MG Harris and I are going to try out what life is like over at the other’s blog. She’s coming here, and I’m heading off to her place, both to be interviewed by the same two young people. Libby and Patrick are big fans of MG’s thrilling adventure series ‘The Joshua Files’, and also of my Troll trilogy ‘West of the Moon’, so they were the perfect pair to pitch us some difficult questions.
Just to introduce you in case you don't already know her, MG Harris was born in Mexico City, but with her mother and sister subsequently moved to live in Frankfurt, Germany, and then Manchester, England. She and her sister made regular visits to her father in Mexico, and at the age of 15, MG fell in love with the mysterious Mayan ruins of Yucatan.
Although she loved writing stories as a child, MG also had a passion for science, which blossomed into a career in biotechnology. She began writing again after a severe skiing accident in 2005 forced her to spend weeks recuperating… it was, she says, “a techno-thriller which combined my two intellectual loves – molecular biology and archaeology. Like most first novels it was rejected by every agent who saw it. Curses!”
However, after reading a book about the decipherment of Mayan writing, ‘Breaking the Mayan Code’ by Michael Cole, MG was inspired to write the first book in her YA series, “The Joshua Files: Invisible City” (Scholastic 2008). This is a rip-roaring edge-of-the-seat thriller, a wonderful mixture of ancient Mayan cities, mysterious curses, dreams, and futuristic sci-fi, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. MG’s hero Joshua has barely time to take in the news of his father’s tragic death in a plane crash in Mexico, before all sorts of sinister things start to happen. His house is raided and robbed, his laptop stolen, his father’s books disappear. Soon his mother is in hospital, and Joshua is setting out for Mexico with a couple of newfound friends, to try and find out what really happened to his father. Was it accident or murder? Who can he trust? Are UFO’s to blame? What is the Ix Codex? And will the end of the world really come in 2012?
These books are brilliant fun! And I really like the Mexican background, which of course MG knows and writes about so well. There's a moment in 'Invisible City' about tarantula spiders casually sunning themselves on the hot tarmac at the side of the road which made me open my eyes and wonder how much I really want to see Mayan cities... and yet I do... I do!
The series continues with "Ice Shock" and "Zero Moment", while the fourth book of Joshua's adventures "Dark Parallel" will be out on April 7th 2011.
Now for Libby and Patrick's questions and MG Harris's answers - and then do please come on over to MG's own blog to see how I'm doing...
1. What is the book you wish you had written and why?
If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. It's a post-modern classic which plays with the idea of writing, reading and the 20th century novel. One quotation from that novel appears in The Joshua Files and the title of ZERO MOMENT is taken from the same quotation.
2. Who are your characters inspired by?
Benicio, Josh’s older cousin, is inspired slightly by my cousin Oscar. Both are cool, good-looking and brilliant (Benicio is an aeronautical engineer and pilot, Oscar is doing a doctorate in fluid mechanics).
I think it’s possible that Carlos Montoyo is in some way a version of my own father, who died when I was twenty. It seemed obvious after I’d finished INVISIBLE CITY – my father was also named Carlos. But I certainly didn’t plan it that way. My father was the Chief Executive of a mining company, responsible for many hugely complex projects. So Carlos Montoyo has that kind of taking-care-of-business attitude. Occasionally I have even quoted my father word-for-word, in some of the fatherly talks he has with Josh, things that my father said to me when I was the same age as Josh.
3. What can we expect from your new book DARK PARALLEL?
Putting a time-travel device in the plot is a bit like Chekov’s gun – if it’s mentioned in Act 1 then you can bet that it will be used in Act 3. In ZERO MOMENT Josh has repaired the time travel device – the Bracelet of Itzamna. He’s already tried to change the past and save his father. It’s given Josh a healthy fear of the unpredictability of time travel and he’s not keen to try it again. But someone else may have changed the past – and now the world is back on track for an apocalypse at the end of 2012. Josh’s hand is somewhat forced…and he’s thrown into a full-on time travel adventure. So we’re going into the ancient Mayan past, and into a parallel world of the present – but with a very different, horrific recent history.
There’s teenage romance too. The tension between Josh and his reluctant betrothed Ixchel finally erupts...
4. If your book was ever made into a film, who would be your ideal cast?
I’m not an expert on young actors and almost anyone who looks right now to play the youngsters would be too old by the time any film could be made! But here are some possibilities who right now could be ideal...
Carlos Montoyo – Edward James Olmos
Eleanor Garcia - Olivia Williams
Andres Garcia – why not Andy Garcia himself?!
Blanco Vigores - Steven Berkoff
Susannah St John – Dianne Wiest
Simon Madison – Cillian Murphy
Benicio - someone like Diego Luna when he was in Y Tu Mama Tambien
Josh - Tyger Drew-Honey
Ollie – Dakota Blue-Richards