Friday, 17 August 2012
Friday Feature: Interview with Anthony McGowan
Award winning author Anthony McGowan has taken on a new project, writing a sequel series to Willard Price's Adventure books. The original series was a favourite of mine when growing up - my dad used to read them to me a lot - so I was eager to get my hands on Leopard Adventure, which certainly didn't disappoint! While waiting for the next book in the series, I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Anthony.
1. Was it your idea to write a sequel series to Willard Price's Adventure books, or were you approached to do it?
It wasn't at all my idea – it came to me as a proposal through my agent. The idea originated with the Price family, who sold the rights on to the same company that owns the rights to the Ian Fleming books, who then approached my agent, who then … all very complicated! But as soon as my agent mentioned it, I leaped at the opportunity to step into the great man's shoes.
2. Do you have a particular favourite of Price's original series?
I'm rather fond of Merlin Kaggs, the villain who recurs in the South Sea, Diving and Cannibal Adventures, so they're all favourites of mine. But I think the best from a literary point of view is the very first – Amazon Adventure.
I agree that Amazon Adventure's great, but Kaggs is a superb villain so that trio of books is probably my favourite - I reread Cannibal Adventure a few months ago and thought it was still really exciting twenty years or so after I first read it!
3. How different is it writing a series based on someone else's work - even with the vast majority of characters being new ones of your own - compared to writing something completely original?
I didn't have any problems standing on someone else's shoulders. I've been able to take it in more or less any direction I fancied. However, what I have found quite tricky is writing a pure adventure story, where there's a huge need to keep the excitement levels up. So I can't waste time indulging my taste for gross-out comedy or surreal darkness.
4. It's been a good year for fans of classic 'Boys' Own' stories - in addition to Leopard Adventure, we've had the second book in Andy Briggs' Tarzan reboot. Are there any other older books you'd love to see modern authors tackle?
Good question. I didn't read very much children's fiction when I was younger – I consumed huge amounts of non-fiction, then went more or less straight on to adult fiction - so I haven't got loads of cherished childhood favourites that scream out 'update me!'. And the books I did love – such as the Lord of the Rings, well, you'd have to be insane to even think of continuing them. However, there was a strip called Billy's Boots in an old comic, Tiger and Scorcher, that I'd quite like to novelise...
I think Lord of the Rings is probably one of the very few classics which is virtually untouchable in terms of sequels or reboots. Billy's Boots sounds like a great plan, though!
5. You write for a range of ages, having achieved success writing adult thriller, teen novels and books for younger children. Which age range do you prefer writing for?
Definitely teens. It's the groove I hit most easily. Perhaps most people my age are still teenagers in their heads.
6. You're appearing later this month at Edinburgh International Book Festival to talk about the Adventure books. What's the best thing about giving these sort of talks?
When they go well, you you get a huge adrenaline rush – it's all down to the first joke you tell – if the faces in the crowd light up, and you get that combination of splutters, guffaws and outrage, then you know you're in for a good one. And the first drink afterwards in the pub is always very pleasant...
7. In between writing books, you're also a keen cricketer. If you were given the choice between winning a major book prize or taking five wickets in the Ashes, which would you pick?
These days I'm more of a batsman, so if the choice was a century, then I'd take it in a flash. The sad truth is that at my age, literary success is rather easier to achieve than sporting glory. But at night I dream of flashing cover drives and towering hooked sixes, rather than neatly-turned metaphors.
8. Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what was the soundtrack to Leopard Adventure?
Sometimes – if I'm really in the groove and writing smoothly, then music helps to keep it going. But if I'm stuck, or working on a particularly tricky bit, then I need silence. As for what I listen to, I've got (and I've just checked) 6563 tracks in my iTunes library, and I play through them, randomly. I basically I'm an indy music fan, so there's a lot of Smiths and Pixies action going on.
That's one seriously well-stocked iTunes library! Very impressive.
9. What are you reading at the moment?
I've just finished Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, which is magnificent, and I'm also reading Postwar by Tony Judt – a history of Europe from 1945. And I've also just finished a scientific study of badgers, which I'm using as research for my next book...
Sounds intriguing! I'll look forward to reading that one.
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Anthony.