Hello, friends! I am so excited about today’s interview. I am a huge fan of the Lego Bionicle story line, and today in the spotlight, I’m thrilled to welcome a co-creator of Lego Bionicle – Alastair Swinnerton. He’s got a neat young adult book! Check out an excerpt after the interview.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. I mean, I’d always read, and I liked writing stories, but if anyone had told me I could do that as a job, I wouldn’t have believed them.
My father ran the family steel business, and it was always kind of assumed I’d go into that, but when it went under in the steel strike of the early eighties, I think we were both secretly relieved. He’d been a soldier as well, an officer, and I went to a few army interviews – they paid for you to go to University, more than you got from the Government. But when I discovered you had to spend several years in Northern Ireland, I realized that I wanted the money more than I wanted to be a soldier. It wasn’t until I went to college in Manchester that I realized what I really wanted to do.
I became friends with some of the guys at Cosgrove Hall Productions, who made Dangermouse, among other cartoons. They’d go to the pub at lunchtime, think up the next episode, then go back to the studio and start working on it.
What do you do now?
I sit in pubs and come up with stupid ideas, otherwise known as being an Animation Scriptwriter. And now of course I’m also a novelist, which is even better than scriptwriting, because there’s no tortuous story approval process, no Political Correctness Police looking over my shoulder, just me, my imagination and my publisher – and hopefully some readers!
I’m giving you a super power that will make your biggest dream come true–guaranteed. What’s going to happen?
I’ll suddenly find myself sitting in my writing shack, looking out over my lake, and writing my next book.
Did you ever give up on your dreams?
I’ve felt like it many times – living on the edge can get very wearing, especially when you have a family to provide for. But no, I didn’t ever give up. Even when I took a break from the scriptwriting and got a job, I was still writing in my spare time – and the fruits of that are about to be published!
What advice do you have for people who are trying to decide if they should chase their dreams?
Just do it, and do anything you have to do in order to keep doing it. If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder what might have been.
If you could have any super power in the world, besides what I just gave you, what would it be?
The ability to Time Travel, of course – and then go back, find my teenage self, and tell him that he can make a living out of writing stories.
Author bio: Alastair has been writing for children’s television for over twenty-five years. Among his many credits are ‘The Wombles’, ‘Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch’, and the Bafta-nominated CBBC Christmas Special ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’, which he wrote, co-produced and co-directed. He was also one the co-creators of Lego® Bionicle®. ‘The Multiverse of Max Tovey’ is his first Young Adult novel. Alastair lives in Somerset with his family, and spends much of his spare time walking the dog, more often than not at his beloved Ham Hill.
The sun was low in the sky and what felt, to Max, like an autumnal chill was settling in as he sat and stared out from what would one day be called St. Michael’s Hill towards the giant Eastern gate of Hamdun Fort. Max guessed it was autumn anyway, as leaves were still on the trees and bushes in the fields below. The slopes of the great hill, however, had no trees, as they would one day have, but covered only in bracken and small bushes, so as not to give potential attackers any cover. And as Max knew only too well, attackers were coming. He guessed the inhabitants of the fort knew this too, because the beacon was burning at the high end of the hill where the War Memorial would one day stand, and down below hundreds upon hundreds of people were heading towards the safety of the fort from all around. Max’s plan was to mingle with them and get into the fort that way. But as he went to stand up, the world started to spin, and he stumbled, and sat down again with a thump. His head was suddenly full of noise, and the enormity of his situation suddenly flooded over him. What are you doing here?! What have you just done?! Did that all really happen?! The Romans are coming for goodness sake – you’re fourteen, you can’t fight Romans! Max tried to stand again, but his legs were jelly – but worse, as he peered down the slope of the hill, the world started spinning again and he had to almost throw himself backwards to stop from feinting and falling down the hill.
“Stop it!” he yelled to himself, as he shook his head violently to try to stop it spinning. He started deep breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in, out, in, out. He knew what this was – this was a panic attack. He hadn’t had one of these since… since before he went on the medication. But of course he wasn’t on the medication any more.
“Come on, stop it you idiot!” He had found that talking out loud was often a good way of stopping these – if you live in your head too much, as he did, your head can start to play tricks with you, start putting thoughts in you that make no sense, but which increase the sense of panic. Shouting out loud helped distract him from them.
“Come on Max, get a grip – it’s just a panic attack, you’ve had them before, you know how to deal with them.”
And now, slowly, the panic began to subside. Max tried standing again, and it was a bit better. He looked over the side of the steep hill, and the world wasn’t swirling around nearly so much.
“Come on, you can do this – you have to do this! You have to save Myvi from the Romans! Come ON!!”
He’d initially dismissed the idea of Travelling into the fort, in case he materialised in front of someone and they took him for a Demon or a witch or something. He could take someone’s clothes, but that would involve knocking them out, and Max wasn’t sure he could actually bring himself to do that – and anyway, whoever’s clothes he took would eventually raise the alarm. He had no choice – he’d have to Travel there, to Myvi’s hut. If he could remember which one it was.
Max relaxed his body, breathed out, and let his focus blur. In his mind’s eye he began to see the inside of the fort, and the hundreds of wattle, daub and thatch roundhouses filling much of the first of the three huge fields in neat, orderly rows, like a first century housing estate. People were coming in from the other fields, spades, hoes and rakes over their shoulders from a long day’s farming. Max thought he saw Joseph outside one of the huts, but the vision began to fade.
“Come on Max, concentrate!” Max berated himself, and the vision became clearer again. Now he was seeing inside the hut, and remembered it, all the familiar possessions, especially Joseph’s long grey cloak. This must be the one.
Max took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly as he zoomed in on the hut, picturing the inside in his mind, the simple straw mattresses, the fire, and the large cooking pot hanging from the roof in the middle, and then Max breathed out heavily, closed his eyes, hung his head and held his arms out as if about to dive. As he opened his eyes again, reality bent and swirled around him like a dust storm in a fish-eye camera lens and Max was sucked through the vortex that centred on Myvi’s hut, and then he was in Myvi’s hut, trying to keep his balance, but he couldn’t, and fell over onto a pile of metal plates, causing them to clatter across the hut. Max held his breath in fear of someone having heard, but no-one came. He breathed out, and sat down on Myvi’s bed. The fire was still going, the warm, homely smell of stew emanating from the cooking pot hanging over it. Max suddenly realised he was hungry, very hungry – he did some quick calculations, and realised why he was feeling so hungry – he hadn’t eaten for a day in real time, since he was last here in fact, which in theory was tomorrow here, although all that could have changed now. He hadn’t slept either, for that matter. That’s the problem with Travelling through Time – you lose track of it. Max took a bowl, and ladled it full of stew, eating it in a couple of ravenous minutes, before his eyes could stay open no longer, and he fell fast asleep.