Transcript of an interview conducted for the YA readership group on Shelfari.com
SHELFARI: Can you tell us a little about your YA series The Kingdoms Of Time and Space?
DC: This is, by any measure, a truly ambitious trilogy. It is a cosmic/magical/scientific fantasy (as opposed to a YA romance, rites of passage, relationship-type series). Think ‘His Dark Materials’, ‘Mortal Engines’, ‘Lord Of The Rings’ or ‘Inkheart’. It is multi-layered with intertwining plot lines underpinning a non-stop, seat-of-the-pants adventure through time and space.
It’s really a crossover trilogy that can be read by adults as well as young adults.
There are no vampires, werewolves, sword and sorcery, elves or ghosts (although there is a very special Sun Angel – the last of his species).
Morgan Lane (15) has a superhuman memory and a gift for designing amazing ‘gizmos’. Together with his tomboy friend, the Chinese American Lin Rainbow, who has the power of I-Ching prophecy; and their pet orangutan Winston he is catapulted into a cosmic adventure across the multiverse to the dimension where time and space are one.
Storyline: Book one – Kingdom Of The Nanosaurs
Several staggering events happen on Earth at the same time (but not by chance).
At Cambridge University in the UK Morgan’s Nobel Prize winning father perfects a microbe that will eat pollution and reverse climate change.
A comet named Cygnus Hyperbole heralds an amazing event: the sudden disappearance of all animal life on Earth. Imagine waking up to find no more birdsong, no fish, no pets, no domestic animals, nothing!
And a crazed scientist, Marius Natzler, has been stealing Morgan’s father’s work to create a new form of ‘animal’ life – nanosaurs -(think dinosaurs created by nanotechnology): perfumed dogs, air sharks, flying cats, monstrous spiders and Taurus – a seventeen feet tall minotaur. Ironically, these nanosaurs will replace the real animal kingdom with the slogan ‘Who needs real animals anyway?’ And nanosaurs will not be man’s best friend but mankind’s gaolers.
But, unknown to anyone, something even more terrifying is approaching the Earth. The planet has been protected for millennia by a galactic beam but now is moving away from its influence allowing cosmic parasites called The Shadix to plan an invasion that will herald the end of life on Earth as we know it. The Shadix must wait until the Earth is fully out of the beam’s influence before unleashing their full power but can appear on Earth as shadow forms that suck people into oblivion. They are also able enter and control just one human being – and that human being is Marius Natzler. And that means The Shadix will control the nanosaurs.
But the Earth also has other protectors. The mysterious Guardians (who occupy a breath propelled starship deep inside Mount Everest and have been seen occasionally as Yeti and who caused the animals to vanish) choose Morgan Lane to memorise ‘The Cosmic Algorithm’, the key to all creation. Morgan must protect the ‘Cosmic Algorithm and super microbe at all costs. If Marius Natzler/The Shadix capture ‘The Cosmic Algorithm’ and the microbe they will fully enslave the Earth, reverse climate change and Natzler will rule the planet.
Morgan’s quest is to take ‘The Cosmic Algorithm’ to the edge of the known universe where time and space are one and reprogram the Continuum to set the Earth back on course.
The Guardians send a Sun Angel, Oriel, to act as Morgan’s guide on the great quest and also send the animal spirit guide Animus to enter and transform pet orangutan Winston into a genius with the power of speech. Winston is the only animal left on the planet, the true missing link between the world of men and the animal kingdom.
But the world is descending into chaos, starvation and war as Morgan, Lin, Winston and Oriel battle across a dystopian landscape to locate the Guardians and embark on the next stage of their epic journey. They are captured and imprisoned by Natzler but escape as Natzler announces his ‘New World Order’. The mighty minotaur Taurus becomes their ally as they face a mighty final battle with Natzler’s New World army of men and nanosaurs on the cliffs at Beachy Head, England.
Book two: Kingdom Of The Oracle
Book three: Kingdom Yet To Come
SHELFARI: What were your inspirations for writing the series?
I wanted to create a world of scientific wonder, angel power, magic and metaphysics but in real time – in the world as we know it.
My ‘what it’ thoughts were: What if all the animals vanished from the planet? What would happen in reality? Would mankind survive? What if an ape could be transformed into a genius – a modern day missing link?
I was fascinated by nanotechnology – organic computers reordering matter at the molecular level. And I wanted to contrast that with magic, wonder, angels and the paranormal. What if my hero, Morgan Lane, was a normal kid but very bright but had this astonishing memory. All he really wants to do is be a sports star and meet girls (he also likes to write poetry but he keeps this secret). Like Frodo in ‘Lord Of The Rings’ he is given this awesome task to protect the very source of creation itself. And what if Lin Rainbow could interpret the karmic I-Ching? Prophecy versus scientific logic; cosmic creatures versus ordinary human beings.
I also wanted to inject a huge environmental back story – the reversal of climate change.
People often see science and magic; religion and metaphysics; angels and artificial intelligence; mythology and history as opposites and irreconcilable. I wanted to cast them all into a melting pot and write an adventure story with the pace of a torpedo about the results.
Throughout the book are conflicts and these build the drama and tension. Add to that danger and pace and extraordinary event after extraordinary event and you get a picture of what the book is like.
SHELFARI: I’ve noticed that you’ve tend to do research for your books, what did you learn while writing your series?
I read a lot of material about nanotechnology. I also explored what would really happen if the animal kingdom, including the microscopic, actually did vanish. Most people think human life would eventually die out caused by starvation. No meat. Plant life and crops could not grow without microbes, bees etc even with artificial fertilisers. But in fact, some life could survive and sciences like hydroponics and food manufactured from chemical processes, similar to space food pioneered by NASA. But the human population would dramatically decrease.
SHELFARI: What made you decide to write for young adults?
I think I have always been a young adult. Also, I think you are freer to explore areas that adults would be too blinkered to embrace, unless they were fantasy fans.
SHELFARI: You’ve also written thrillers for adults as well as screenplays, was it hard to switch gears and write for a younger audience?
I have to watch the language and think hard about sex. I know some YA books deal with sexual awakening but I just don’t think it works in this kind of fantasy. I can’t imagine Frodo Baggins exploring his sexuality, can you?
SHELFARI: As a writer, what do you think is missing from YA?
Maybe more crossover work like this trilogy but publishers need to categorise books into neat boxes and crossover is sometimes hard to market. I describe this trilogy as YA fantasy but I don’t know if that is a genuine category or not.
SHELFARI: Do you read YA and if so, what are some of your favorite titles?
Yes, I tend towards the fantasy end. I don’t read YA romance, for instance. I would read anything by Philip Reeve because he has a masterful prose style.
SHELFARI: What are you currently working on now?
Marketing seems to take up so much time. I have to decide whether to write another Mike Delaney thriller to follow ‘The Immortality Plot’, book two of ‘Kingdoms Of Time And Space’ or another children’s book in ‘The Weather Kids’ series.