Last month I reviewed Scott K Andrews latest novel TimeBomb. A YA novel featuring, time travel, Roundheads and Cavaliers, fabulous characters, and oodles of fun. Yet after finishing the book I did have questions. Luckily for me Scott was willing to answer some of them. Today is the release day for TimeBomb and to celebrate I get to share Scott’s answers to my Author Query with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Scott K. Andrews?
Writer, geek, dad, husband, dogsbody, wage-slave, anarchist, surrealist, narcissist, distruster of ists.
How would you introduce people to the TimeBomb trilogy?
It’s a thrilling adventure in time and space, full of mystery, excitement, tragedy, horror, love and all the good stuff. If you like Doctor Who, The Hunger Games or Fringe, this should float your boat.
How did you go about structuring your timelines, because that must have been so complex. Did you use flow charts, sticky notes, notecards?
I started off winging it, figuring I could keep it all straight in my head. I ground to a halt halfway through book one when I realised I was digging myself the deepest narrative grave of all time. So I stopped and spent a week doing colour-coded flow charts for each character. After that, things started to come together. I maintain those flow charts now, and they hopefully keep me on the right track.
Before starting the actual writing, how much of the series did you have planned out? Did you know what would happen in each timeline and where they would intersect throughout the trilogy?
Basically, yes. But I realised I had to write in a totally different way for this trilogy.
For the St Mark’s books I planned the book as if all my heroes’ plans worked. That was my outline. Then I kept having things go horribly wrong and as they improvised in response, so did I. I knew they’d win in the end, but I just kept throwing spanners in the works and it turned the whole series into a long improvisation. I quickly found out that wouldn’t work at all in a time travel series.
I had the various staging points in my head, and I’ve roughly always known how it would end. But the details were deliberately vague to me so I could find them in the writing. As I say, I abandoned that about halfway through book one, and now it’s all pretty much nailed down.
Your St. Mark’s Trilogy, part of the Afterblight Chronicles, wasn’t marketed as a YA series, yet did feature young adults. TimeBomb and its sequels are published as YA. What draws you to writing protagonists of this age?
For the St Mark’s books I just had some stuff about my education I really wanted to get out of my system so I created fictional versions of the teachers and bullies who made my life hell at school, and then horribly murdered them. Free therapy! But it was never really a YA book in my head – it’s a bit too hardcore, I think, to really be YA, although others disagree.
TimeBomb is more my idea of YA – it’s still pretty intense and quite brutal at times, but it’s not so nihilistic and grim as the St Mark’s books ended up being – there’s more fun in the mix.
I just like writing about that coming-of-age period, that time when everything seems more intense, more deeply felt, and you’re figuring out who you are. It’s enjoyable to me to put all the mixed up feelings you have when you’re a teenager and then put them in the narrative pressure cooker of having people trying to kill you. Working out who you are is hard enough but doing it under fire, or in the wrong time-period, is great fun to write.
In the first few chapters of TimeBomb, when Dora and Jana first jump they have flashes of themselves at different points in time, many of them less than reassuring. Will we learn what they all meant during the course of the series or only selected ones?
All the flash-forwards where they meet themselves are there for a very specific reason, and that’s all I’m saying :-)
A large part of TimeBomb is set in Civil War England. Did you have to do a lot of research into the history of the time?
Some, not an overwhelming amount. I read a few books, watched a few select episodes of Time Team, that sort of thing. I was blessed with an editor – the magnificent Anne Perry – who studied the period at university, so she put me right on a few things.
What’s next for you? Hard at work on book two or have you already moved on to a new project?
No, I’m hip-deep in the quicksand that is book two, trying not to thrash about too much for fear of sinking.
Any appearances or conventions planned?
Not yet. Next year, though, definitely.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
At the moment I’m obsessed with researching my family history. So far I’ve uncovered a hitherto unknown uncle and called him on the phone, and reunited a pair of long lost siblings who burst into tears. It’s huge fun and appeals to the part of me that wishes I was Sherlock Holmes – following clues and trails and hunches to uncover alarming, incredible and implausible tales of all sorts.
Other than that, all the usual – social justice, niceness, equality, diversity, raising a son and daughter who add to the sum of good in the world rather than the opposite.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
When writing, I kind of seal myself off in a metaphorical cave, so I have no idea what’s coming soon. When I finish each book, I poke my head out, look around, see what’s been going on, buy lots of books I really don’t have time to read and then crawl back underground to write the next book. Until I stop 9-5 it’s the only way I can manage it. So sorry, I’m useless to you in this respect :-(
However, brilliant recent(ish) books that I picked up last time I surfaced were Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, The Three by Sarah Lotz and Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human. Every one of them will make your day better, if you give them your time.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
My house is small and I share it with a wife and two kids. I wish I had room to shelve my books, but they’re mostly under the bed or in the loft. But I have grandiose plans for walls of bookshelves and when that day comes I shall probably re-order them in completely different way every few months, just for fun, like I used to do when I was single :-)
Bio: Scott K. Andrews is the author of three novels in Abaddon’s Afterblight Chronicles series – School’s Out, Operation Motherland and Children’s Crusade – which follow the adventures of a group of schoolchildren trying to rebuild society after a viral apocalypse. He has also written audio dramas, comics, episode guide books and was the lead writer on Rebellion’s Sniper Elite: V2 computer game.