I was always the different kid. The one you couldn’t place in the sports team. The one who didn’t watch what you watched, who listened to different music. Who trawled shops looking for comics–which were rare treasure when I was a kid, growing up just outside Belfast. I was the Boy who Read Books.
I had allies. A family friend realised that I had a hungry imagination. She gave the Moomins, The Phantom Tollbooth, the 35th of May, the Uncle books. My Dad bought me Spiderman on the understanding that he got to read it after me. My primary school had a book club. There I discovered Alan Garner’s fantasies, and Arthur C. Clarke. An English teacher spent a year working us through Irish and Nordic mythology. Our library had a good science fiction sectio--Victor Gollancz put out their SF in yellow jackets. I worked my way along the yellow spines.
I loved science fiction–it opened up a larger universe to me. I grew up by the sea, and the horizon is very real there: the line where the sky and sea seem to meet. The place beyond which you can’t see. I always wanted to know what it was like beyond that line. Science fiction looked beyond the horizon. There were wonderful things there.
I loved television: the old Gerry Anderson series Stingray, Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5. Dr Who, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Blakes Seven. There was so little then I gobbled up whatever I could find. I’m sure if anime had existed then, I would have loved it too. I might well have vanished into gaming forever. But for me, the pure stuff, the stuff that fired the imagination, was on the page. Worlds! In my head! Mine in the way that images on a screen weren’t. Because I made them out of words.
And now I write.
In the Everness series (most recently Empress of the Sun), I try to write what I felt when I was that kid, watching the Tardis appear somewhere new and wonderful, reading about the sandworm rising out of the great desert. So there’s adventure. Worlds are in peril—and it’s smart, resourceful kids who have to save us. There are loyal friends, deadly enemies, and powerful villains. There is an airship that can travel to parallel universes, and a crew who would go with you to the ends of the multiverse.
The hero is Everett Singh who holds the most powerful object in the Panoply of All Worlds: the key to all the parallel universes. And he’s on the run, trying to find his kidnapped Dad and keep one step ahead of those who want his Infundibulum and don’t care how they get it. Geeky but brave; super-confident but scared; smart but makes terrible mistakes. He’s the hero I wanted when I was Everett’s age. Not a superhero they just made me jealous and feel inadequate. Everett has failings and weaknesses, and the series will test every one of those. He’s the different kid, the Boy Who Reads.
Girls don’t get left out--oh no. Is there romance? Yes but the way it really happens when you’re that age, which is shy and uncertain, and awkward. If you’ve ever felt you were different, if you’ve ever wondered, what’s over that horizon, if you’ve felt that wow when you encounter something amazing, these books are for you. Whoever you are, including the olds, who remember the amazement you could find between the pages of a book.