Check out this fab interview between Jeff Norton, author of sci-fi fantasy novel Alienated and a Toppsta mum and her children, aged 12,13,15 & 17.
What was your fave book as a child?
There is an author called Gordon Korman and I loved his books as a boy. One of them was called No Coins, Please and it was hilarious. I also loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I really credit them with helping me to become a confident reader.
Which authors do you love?
I think we’re very lucky to have so many incredible authors writing for young people. It’s hard to pick out my favourites, but a few that stand out for me are Philip Reeve (I love his Mortal Engines books), Malorie Blackman (Noughts & Crosses), and for grown-ups, Margaret Atwood.
What inspired Alienated?
A big part of the inspiration for Alienated was the idea that we all feel out of place, especially in someplace new. I wanted to explore the idea of feeling a bit alien, and that’s where the idea of the only two human kids at the high school for aliens came from.
We loved your MetaWars series and looked forward to reading Alienated, do you believe it offers a message to today's kids?
I try first, and foremost, to write a compelling story, but yes, I suppose all of my books do have a message embedded in the narrative. MetaWars, if you read the entire saga of four books, is really about the importance of “living for real”; getting off social media and living in the real world. There are many messages in Alienated, but the dominant one is the importance of family. While the book is about friendship, teamwork, and self-belief, ultimately, it’s about a grieving family that finally heals and comes together at the end.
Our fave character is Sonya because she's that rebellious side of us all. Are the characters based on people you know?
Each character is fictitious, but I do draw elements from people I know now or went to school with. So be careful…or you might just wind up as a character in one of my books!
We believe that books should appeal to both sexes which is why we loved Alienated. Do you think more authors should stop aiming their work towards either gender so as not to alienate a whole section of readers?
That’s a really good point. I deliberately wanted Alienated to appeal to both boys and girls, and young and old (I joke that it’s for anyone aged 9 to 99). I personally don’t think that books should have any gender labelling at all; books are books and kids are kids. One of the best aspects of reading fiction is that it enables empathy; you the reader project yourself into the skin of another person. I think we could all do with more empathy, and especially between the genders, so I think books should be marketed to everyone to enjoy.
Would you consider having any of your works made into a film? If so, which?
I’m a very visual thinker, and writer, so yes, I’d love to see my work on screen. In fact, in addition to being an author, I also run a TV and film production company; and yes, we are working on developing Alienated into a film or TV series. It’s a long, and very expensive process whereby you need to get a lot of people to say “Yes” all at the same time, and commit to a lot of money. That’s the big difference between film and books. When I write a book, I don’t need anyone else’s permission to create my story. With film and TV, loads of other people need to come aboard the project.
We enjoyed the fact that Sherman is the only human child there instead of most books where the alien is the odd one in the story. Do you believe kids will relate to his character because so many kids feel angst especially joining a new school?
I hope so! I wanted to explore the emotions that come with feeling out of place in a new environment. In storytelling, it’s somewhat well-trodden ground – Harry Potter is the new kid at Hogwarts, Katniss is the newbie in The Hunger Games – but it makes for getting the reader on the side of your main character and hopefully helps the reader understand some of what they are going through in their day to day life.
What does the future hold for Sherman and his friends?
You haven’t seen the last of Sherman and his friends. When we left them, it was late Spring, and the Nevada summer is very hot indeed, so the crew will be shipped off-planet for a summer camp they will never forget. Watch this space!
We’d like to congratulate you on the success of Alienated, we thoroughly enjoyed reading your genius. Have you done any similar works for grown-ups?
Thank you so much! I am actually writing my first ‘grown up’ novel now. It’s called Looking Glass and it’s set between Oxford and London in Victorian times. It’s a thriller and is a bit scary. I’m about a third of the way through the book, so I should probably get back to writing now. Thank you so much for reading my work, and for such thoughtful questions.