Interview with Alastair Swinnerton
It’s a Children’s/Young Adult fantasy novel about an over-medicated fourteen year old boy called Max Tovey who can see the past, like a peripheral overlay on reality. He also has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and is on medication, for the PTSD, and for his ‘visions’. But the only cause his Doctor can find for the PTSD is a recurring nightmare of fighting alongside his grandfather Percy on a Somerset Hill Fort against Romans and Demons - but Max has never been to Somerset, nor has he ever met Percy. But then he has to go there, for his grandfather’s funeral, when he discovers to his delight and alarm that he’s a time traveller, and that the recurring nightmare is actually a memory of a past that’s been changed – by Percy. And so, alongside a weird and wonderful collection of other time travellers, ancient Kings, giants and battle faeries, Max embarks on a wild ride through West Country history, both real and mythological, to find the legendary Montacute Cross, close the gates to the Underworld, and lift the curse on his family.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to get the weirdness out of your head.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My animation writing resumé is at www.toonspace.co.uk, but other than that I can be found at www.alastairswinnerton.com. I don’t blog nearly as much as I should, but I just think the world is rather over-full of writers talking about writing, and, seriously, who needs to know what I just had for supper? Sure, J K Rowling gets retweeted at the speed of light about everything from politics to the rugby scores, but then she is a goddess, and I’m not. Not that I would be a goddess – oh, you know what I mean...
Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
My main character, Max, because he is in many ways me. That sounds a bit up myself, but in defining his character I got to explore his Dyspraxia and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dyspraxia is little known as a condition, and until a family member was diagnosed with it, I had no idea it existed. But when I started reading up on it, I realized that was completely me. When I was young it was just known as ‘clumsy, shy and having a sieve for a brain’, but now it has a name. It’s part of the autism spectrum, and the main symptoms are extreme social awkwardness, the inability to filter your thoughts for weirdness before they come out of your mouth, and a problem with short-term memory – the ‘in one ear and out the other’ syndrome. Obviously most teenagers have that, but with Dyspraxia, it’s actually a physical thing, in that there’s a problem with the hippocampus, the part of the brain that translates short term memories into long term ones. Max has all of the above in spades, as did I when I was his age, before I began to learn coping mechanisms.
But he also has PTSD, which in a teenager can have catastrophic psychological effects. His stems from what turns out to be a real memory of fighting for his life alongside his grandfather when he was ten, until his grandfather went back in time, and changed the past so that the episode never happened. But Max still has nightmares about it, as, it turns out, do many of the other people involved. My own PTSD doesn’t have quite such dramatic origins, and I won’t go into what caused it, but suffice to say I know all about the panic attacks, the startling at sudden noises and the fear of leaving even your room let alone your comfort zone that Max has had ever since what is known as ‘the incident’. Almost as soon as I’d created Max as a character, long before I had the plot for the book, I knew he had to have these traits, and in many ways they actually informed the plot of the book, which for me was very interesting, letting my character’s problems define the way the story played out.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I hope they will think it’s a ‘rip-roaring ride through time’ as one reviewer put it, but I also hope they will identify with Max as he battles with his problems, and ultimately, if not defeats them, then at least finds a way to cope with them. Mostly I hope they will feel that I’ve created something a little different, not just mixing sci-fi with fantasy, but also putting a hero in the middle of it all who plainly doesn’t want to be a hero, but who ultimately accepts that he has to be if he’s ever going to sort his life out.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
In the UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Multiverse-Max-Tovey-Chronicles/dp/1943755019/ref=zg_bs_5346559031_46
In the US - http://www.amazon.com/The-Multiverse-Max-Tovey-Chronicles/dp/1943755019/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8
Direct from the publisher - http://www.europeangeeks.com/store/p7/The_Multiverse_of_Max_Tovey_%28Print%29.html
From Barnes and Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-multiverse-of-max-tovey-alastair-swinnerton/1122499624?ean=9781943755011
Or just go into your local book store and get them to order it!
How do you research your books?
Almost entirely by reading up on the subject, and a lot of staring out of windows and thinking. I spent a long time researching this one – it was probably two years or so before I actually started writing. Local mythology and legends, the real history of Ham Hill itself, and of the Inn that’s at the centre of it, then wider into general Celtic myths and legends, just making sure I got my facts right before the writing began. I have an electronic bookshelf like you wouldn’t believe – god bless archive.org!
The as yet unnamed sequel. Nine months have passed since the end of the first book, and (spoiler alert!) Max and his best friend Myvi are no closer to finding the Montacute Cross, or the crosses of Arimathea’s disciples that must be found first – it’s like Time has hidden them all. And then, at the beginning of book two, they find themselves at the Battle of Hastings, rescuing an injured King Harold, who, until moments before they got to him, had one of the crosses around his neck...
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
I was a big fantasy and sci-fi reader when I was young – Tolkein of course, and C S Lewis, but also Moorcock, Asimov, Philip K Dick, and later the legends that were Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. But more than any of those, this book was probably most influenced by an early literary love of mine, Alan Garner, and especially his books ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and ‘The Moon of Gomrath’. I loved the way he brought myth and legend into ordinary places, mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary if you like. When I started working this book out, and decided it had to be set around Ham Hill, I really wanted to try to do with my beloved hill fort what he had done with his own beloved Alderley Edge in Cheshire.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
How do you mean, when I’m not writing...?