Here are the questions and answers to the interview. I hope that you enjoy these and that they entice new readers to the series.
- The Pirate King is the third and final adventure, what can we expect?Friendship, space pirates and a galaxy load of adventure! Teenage tearaway, Jake Cutler, returns in The Pirate King to search for his father and save his friends. The galaxy is now at war and Jake is right at the heart of it. He needs to lead the independent colonies into battle, but will anyone trust to a spacejacker? Jake has to prove himself as a leader, so he can take down the corrupt Interstellar Government once and for all.
- How would you best describe a swashbuckling adventure?
Fast and furious, where daring heroes use their courage, wits and sword skills to defeat sinister villains and save the day. Swashbuckling spans several genres, featuring pirates, musketeers, knights and outlaws – with heroes such as The Three Musketeers, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Princess Bride, Robin Hood, Zorro, Blackbeard, Jack Sparrow, Morgan Adams and (of course) Jake Cutler.
- How did you feel, when you had written the last word?
I knew at the time that the writing process wasn’t quite finished, that there would be edits and re-writes, but typing that final full stop was like finally solving a very long and complicated puzzle, or finishing an epic game of chess. It was over, the first draft was complete. I was mentally exhausted, but buzzing from the achievement, as well as relieved to hit the deadline. I remember that there was a strange emptiness in my head, where before there had been a relentless hive of activity and trains of thought spanning three novels. But it didn’t last long – because writers move on; our brains becomes restless and we get itchy fingers. A question suddenly popped into my head: “What’s next?”
- Is this really the end? What's next?
For now, this is the end of Spacejackers, or at least the end of this particular trilogy. However, you never know when adventure might call again for Jake Cutler. It has been a lot of fun writing the three Spacejackers novels, but it’s time for a change. I’m going to work on a few new ideas this year and see where they take me. But who knows, there might be a fourth Spacejackers novel one day.
- What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Swear words. When you’re a child, there’s nothing more intriguing than a collection of forbidden words. The fact that these words are kept secret from children, that they are reserved for adult use only, makes them as notorious as Lord Voldemort. What really gives swear words power is the reaction of those who hear them. The level of offence and upset that these words can cause made me realise that language must be used with respect.
- What dreams have been realised as a result of your writing?
It’s always special to get published, to see your name in print, to see your ideas on a page, to discover your book on a shelf, to hold it in your hands, to smell its print, to hear the audio book, to download the e-book, to visit schools and speak at literature festivals, to sign copies for excited children, to receive positive reviews and to be short-listed for an award. Writing a trilogy was a massive challenge and a journey of discovery. It’s still hard to believe that all three books are now published. I’ve still got a few more writing dreams to realise, including winning an award, improving sales in the USA and having my books adapted as films.
- Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Yes, I started writing a YA novel before Spacejackers, but I stopped half-way through the final chapter. The story is dark and gritty, however it’s not easy to describe and I knew it would struggle to find a mass market, therefore I decided to park that particular manuscript and make my name with a space pirate adventure instead, before taking another look at it.
- Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely. They say that you should not judge a book by its cover, but the cover can help a book to stand out on a crowded shelf. Awards, reviews and recommendations are useful when searching for the best books to read, however a good cover can often tell you everything you need to know. I was adamant that the Spacejackers cover would feature a skull in a space helmet over crossbones, because this would tell readers exactly the sort of book they were buying.
- What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
For children’s books, it’s important to make things easy for the readers, so they can immerse themselves in the plot and enjoy the experience. Yes, books should challenge your imagination and vocabulary, but not to the extent that readers have to work for every sentence. For me, quirky sentence structures and excessive ‘wow’ words disrupt the narrative flow, which can burst the reading bubble and get in the way of the story. There are other important elements, such as tone, pace, spelling and grammar, as well as avoiding obvious clichés and tropes. But most of all, children’s books should be engaging and exciting (and if possible, fun)!
- You're hosting a literary dinner party, which authors/illustrators would you invite?
Everyone has their favourites, however I would include those whose works have touched me the most, as well as those who would make fascinating dinner guests (assuming we can go back in time). My list of children’s authors and illustrators would include JRR Tolkien, Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Richard Adams, Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson, Quentin Blake and Raymond Briggs. I would also have David Baddiel and David Walliams on standby, in case the dinner conversation became too serious.
- Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’ve discovered a lot over the last few years as I’ve written the Spacejackers trilogy. I’ve discovered that the average author earns £11k a year (according to the Society of Authors); that girls read more than boys (according to the Literacy Trust); that reading for pleasure helps children to do better at school (according to the Institute of Education); that school and public librarians are literary saints; that book bloggers are massively important for the industry; that you should trust your agent and publisher; that writing is not a gift, it’s hard work; that commercial novels are less likely to be short-listed for awards; that family time is precious; and that I love writing children’s books!