Thursday 29 August 2013

Phoenix inspirations: Astrolabes

My new book Phoenix is set in space. The story takes place in a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies. The main character is a Human boy called Lucky. He's trying to cross the galaxy to find his father, but the only people who will help him are the crew of an Alien starship – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair.

When I first started thinking about the story, back in 2005, all I knew was that it would involve an epic journey. But when I realised it was set in space, I thought a lot about the starships, and how they'd work. And one thing that really transformed it was the idea of the Astrolabe.

This is an actual Astrolabe: part of the collection held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Astrolabes were ancient astronomical devices, popular in the Islamic world a thousand years ago, and then in medieval Europe.

They enabled people for the very first time to find their exact positions, wherever they were, even at sea, and navigate from there. They were analogue computers – like the GPS of their day!

It was when I started to think about Astrolabes that I made a breakthrough with the starships in my book. What if there was a science-fiction version of the Astrolabe: an incredibly powerful navigational device that enables people to cross the great gulfs of interstellar space? What if you could actually go into one of these devices: if it allowed your consciousness to move through space, faster than the speed of light – even at the Speed of Dark?!

That's one of Dave McKean's incredible images from the book! When Dave and I talked about ideas for illustration, one of the first things I gave him was a bunch of images of Astrolabes – and I was amazed when I saw what he'd done with the idea. I hope you like it too!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Amazing Reactions...

I'm feeling a little emotional tonight, because there've been some seriously amazing reactions to Phoenix coming in...

For a start, one of my very favourite writers, Jacqueline Wilson, sent me a postcard telling me she thought was Phoenix was brilliant (and yes, she actually underlined the word 'brilliant'), structurally perfect, and a total page-turner!  And then she wrote a piece on her website about her summer reading, which says she 'especially loved Phoenix'!  When one of your heroes says something like that, it really means the world, especially when their own work is so brilliant in every way...  I can't wait to read her next one, Diamond, which is out in September!

Then I got a text from Paul Stewart, the awesome author of The Edge Chronicles, Wyrmeweald and Barnaby Grimes, saying that he'd started reading Phoenix on Wednesday, couldn't stop, and had just finished it on Friday morning!  He apologised for reading it in two days when it had taken me seven years to write – but he knows what a compliment that is, something every writer dreams of hearing...  I couldn't thank him enough, particularly as I find his own work unputdownable...

And then there've been some fantastic reviews in the past few days.  I particularly love this one by Shelagh Rowan-Legg on Dorkshelf, who also interviewed me for the same site.  She says Phoenix is:
"one of my best reading experiences this year.  A science fiction story with amazing and real characters, dramatic action, a fascinating mythology and incredible artwork by Dave McKean, I can’t recommend this enough...  At nearly 500 pages, the book may seem daunting, but it’s the kind you can’t put down... A remarkable adventure story for any age."
Click here to read the full piece!

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Space Stories Blog & Edinburgh Book Festival

I've just done a piece for The Guardian books blog about space stories - here's the first paragraph:
I write fiction for young people because I love the infinite imaginative space it offers. Children and young adults are incredibly open to the literature of the fantastic. So far this century, we've enjoyed stories about magic and wizards, vampires and werewolves, and post-apocalyptic dystopias. Yet the most fantastic subject of all remains unexplored territory: space.

Click here to read the full piece!

Also, I'd like to say a huge thanks to the Edinburgh Book Festival for hosting me today, and to everyone who came to my event and was involved in it - thank you all so much!   I hope you enjoy reading your new copies of Phoenix!

Monday 5 August 2013

Lovely Review!

I just wanted to say a big thanks to Vincent Ripley for his lovely review of my new book Phoenix on his site, Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books.
"Just like the brightest light from the furthest star, this book is a creation to behold...  It is a breathtaking epic space adventure that will have you gripped in so many ways... If you particularly enjoy a good sci-fi space fantasy then this book is for you - it has certainly rocketed to the top of my favourite reads this year.  Even if you wouldn't normally enjoy this genre, I would still recommend that you try this book, as it really is that good."

Click here to read the full review!

Thursday 1 August 2013

Phoenix Countdown & Competition: Lift-Off!!!

And so at last my new book Phoenix is published today!

It should now be on sale in all good bookshops, and all over the web.  The 'Buy Now' button on my publishers' page will take you to lots of places you can find it – including Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, Blackwells, WH Smith, independent booksellers via Hive, etc...

Happy reading everyone...

...and if you leave a comment on one of the images I've been posting in the last week, I will pick one comment at random and send that reader a signed copy of Phoenix!