Monthly Archives: January 2011

Breaking Dawn Read-along: Preface, Chapter 1

Welcome to the first Novel Novice Read Along! We’re reading Breaking Dawn in preparation for the movie in November, going chapter by chapter and discussing.  Our schedule has us taking two chapters per month which may seem very slow to many of you. Indeed, when I first read Breaking Dawn, I read it very quickly in a matter of days.  Our goal here is to really read and think about the book and allow time for discussion. Maybe even change some opinions? I admit, of the four Twilight books, I feel Breaking Dawn is the weakest. Maybe taking the time to re-read, analyze, and discuss will change my mind?

Here are some questions to think about as you read the Preface and Chapter 1. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.  Don’t feel obligated to answer every one. Find something you want to talk about while reading? Bring it up in the comments.

NOTE: I came up with this questions while reading Breaking Dawn on my Kindle. As the Kindle does not have page numbers, I cannot reference the page the quotes appear on. However, I will try to make sure the questions appear in order so that the quotes shouldn’t be too hard to find, if you want to go back and look them up for reference.

Please, let’s keep the discussion civil. It’s OK to disagree with each other. It’s NOT OK to call someone names or be rude or mean. Remember, there is a living person reading and responding. The same goes for Stephenie Meyer. It’s OK to discuss her story and her writing, but NOT OK to attack her as a person.

Book One: Bella, Preface

1. The first time you read the preface, who did you think Bella was referring to? What did you think the situation was?

2. In the movie Twilight, a small portion of the preface was spoken as a voiceover during the opening credits. In New Moon, we actually saw Bella running through the square in Volterra. In Eclipse, the preface was ignored in exchange for Riley’s transformation, however the epigraph (Fire and Ice by Robert Frost) was recited by Bella as part of her studying. How, if at all, do you think the preface of Breaking Dawn will be represented in the movie?

Chapter 1: Engaged


It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my dad and mom, did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About my new car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About the shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?

“Yeah, who cares what they think,” I muttered under my breath.

Why do you think Bella cares so much about what other people think?


Very, very convenient—too convenient—that my truck would wheeze its last wheeze just weeks after Edward and I had agreed to our lopsided compromise, one detail of which was that he be allowed to replace my truck when it passed on. Edward swore it was only to be expected; my truck had lived a long, full life and then expired of natural causes. According to him. And, of course, I had no way to verify his story or to try to raise my truck from the dead on my own.

Would you have accepted Edward’s explanation, or would you have called him out on it?  Would it have affected how you felt about him, or would you accept it as part of his imperfections?


Or maybe, just maybe, a small voice whispered in my head, it’s not a joke, silly. Maybe he’s really that worried about you. This wouldn’t be the first time he’s gone a little overboard trying to protect you.

Edward has a history of being overprotective when it comes to Bella. Do you think he’s justified in this behavior?


The HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOY? posters were not Jacob’s father’s idea. It had been my father, Charlie, who’d printed up the flyers and spread them all over town. And not just Forks, but Port Angeles and Sequim and Hoquiam and Aberdeen and every other town in the Olympic Peninsula. He’d made sure that all the police stations in the state of Washington had the same flyer hanging on the wall, too. His own station had a whole corkboard dedicated to finding Jacob. A corkboard that was mostly empty, much to his disappointment and frustration.

Charlie reacting strongly to Jake’s disappearance. How do you think he would have reacted/handled Bella’s disappearance?


“You know what’s best for you.”  (Renee to Bella)

It seems someone else is always trying to make decision for Bella or tell her what’s best for her — Charlie, Edward, Jake, etc.  Renee is the first one to step aside and trust that Bella will do the right thing. How do you think this made Bella feel? Do you think Renee was right in that Bella knows what’s best?

8. Several places in the first chapter, Stephenie Meyer summarizes events that have happened in the previous books. How do you feel about this? Did it bother you while reading or did you not even notice it?

9. What parts of Chapter 1 do you think will make it into the movie? What parts of Chapter 1 would you like to see in the movie?

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

What starts out feeling like a cross between Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series and Ally Condie’s Matched — by the end of Delirium by Lauren Oliver, the novel has taken on a life all its own. This new book from the author of Before I Fall will find its niche among fans of dystopian fiction — though readers of any genre will find something to enjoy. It combines all the best of dystopian with romance and pulse-pounding action to create a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In Delirium, Love has been identified as a disease — and at age 18, everyone is given The Cure. And for Lena, that’s all she’s ever wanted — to be Cured, and to avoid the sickness that claimed her mother’s life. But just weeks before her procedure, Lena does the unthinkable … she falls in love. And now she’s got to reconcile what she’s always believed, to what she now feels deep inside. Is Love really a disease? Or has her government been lying to her all this time? And if Love is a disease, does she still want the Cure?

The concept behind Delirium is what makes this such a classic dystopian novel — yet Oliver stands out from a sea of similar stories with her execution. The writing alone makes you aware that you’re reading something special; Oliver has a gift for words and phrasing, and her skills as a writer are in full effect here.

Likewise, Oliver has clearly put a lot of effort into writing the rules of her futuristic society. The evidence is plain to see throughout the novel — from the creepy excerpts from “official texts” at the beginning of each chapter, to the ease with which Oliver writes about her world. There are layers to the society Oliver has created, and while it is a complex world, it is easy to follow as the reader.

It’s also refreshing to see a Young Adult novel that doesn’t rely on a love triangle. Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m a sucker for a good love triangle. But Delirium doesn’t need that drama to add intrigue and tension — Oliver’s story alone creates that tension. And there is a constant thread of tension that pulses throughout the novel — keeping you on the edge of your seat, and both eager and afraid to turn the page. This tension continues to build throughout the whole novel — and by the time you reach the very last page and the dramatic, cliff-hanger conclusion, you’ll be gasping with shock.

Delirium is in stores tomorrow.

2nd Annual Literary Lovers Mash-Up Writing Contest

Today, we’re launching our 2nd annual Literary Lovers Mash-Up Writing Contest. We had so much fun with this last year, that we’re doing it again. This is your chance to imagine if two unlikely literary heroes met and had an explosive romance. For example …

What if Mr. Darcy met Bella from Twilight?

What if Katniss from The Hunger Games met Jace from The Mortal Instruments?

What if Edward Cullen met Jane Eyre?

Can you imagine the possibilities?

Here are the details:

The Contest:

In 500 words or less, write an explosive love scene (or an explosive romantic meeting) between two characters from DIFFERENT books. These can be contemporary, classic, YA, romance, etc. Anything, as long as they are books!

To make it easy, be sure to use the Literary Lovers Mash-Up Writing Contest Entry Form to submit your short stories.


Depending on the number of entries we get, we’ll send out as many sets of Novel Novice bookmarks as possible — just for participating! (But, unfortunately, we can only send bookmarks to those of you in the U.S. Sorry, we just can’t afford int’l shipping rates!)

The best entries will also be published here on Novel Novice!

If we get some really amazing entries, we may even throw in a couple books as grand prizes. But you’ve really got to wow us!

The Rules & Guidelines:

  • Please keep stories to 500 words or less (approx.)
  • Use proper spelling & grammar
  • Stories must include a pair of characters from TWO different books
  • Please use the entry form. Entries submitted any other way will not be counted.
  • If you’re feeling inspired, you MAY enter more than once!
  • Anyone, from ANY country can enter — but we can ONLY send prizes within the U.S.

The Deadline:

All entries are due by Valentine’s Day – Monday, February 14th at midnight (PT)

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments & we’ll reply!

Need more inspiration? Check out the winning entries from last year!

New middle/elementary-grade titles enter best sellers’ top 10

While there aren’t any major changes to the YA line-up, two titles for younger readers have entered this week’s top 10: Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm; and One Crazy Summer — a National Book Award finalist — by Rita Williams-Garcia.

This Week    Children’s Chapter Books Weeks on List
1   THE LOST HERO, by Rick Riordan. (Disney-Hyperion, $18.99.) A return to Camp Half-Blood and semi-divine characters old and new. (Ages 10 and up) 15
2   MOON OVER MANIFEST, by Clare Vanderpool. (Delacorte, $16.99.) In this Newbery winner, 12-year-old Abilene solves a mystery in Depression-era Kansas. (Ages 9 to 12) 2
3   THE GIFT, by James Patterson and Ned Rust. (Little, Brown, $17.99.) A sister and brother flex their new powers; a Witch and Wizard book. (Ages 10 and up) 6
4   THE RED PYRAMID, by Rick Riordan. (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99.) Ancient gods (this time from Egypt) and a mortal family meet. (Ages 10 and up) 38


5   I AM NUMBER FOUR, by Pittacus Lore. (HarperCollins, $17.99.) Members of another civilization live secretly among Earth-dwellers. (Ages 14 and up) 7
6   TALES FROM A NOT-SO-POPULAR PARTY GIRL, by Rachel Renée Russell. (Aladdin, $12.99.) The further reflections of Nikki Maxwell on the agonies of middle school; a “Dork Diaries” book. (Ages 9 to 13) 27
7   TURTLE IN PARADISE, by Jennifer L. Holm. (Random House, $16.99.) An 11-year-old thrives after being sent to live with relatives in 1935 Key West. (Ages 8 to 10) 1
8   THE LYING GAME, by Sara Shepard. (HarperTeen, $16.99.) A long-lost twin impersonates her dead sister to try to solve her murder. (Ages 14 and up) 5
9   MATCHED, by Ally Condie. (Dutton, $17.99.) In this dystopian romance, a girl rebels against a deterministic future society. (Ages 12 and up) 8
10   ONE CRAZY SUMMER, by Rita Williams-Garcia. (Amistad, $15.99.) Delphine and her sisters spend the summer of ’68 in Oakland with their estranged mother. (Ages 9 to 12) 1

The Saturday Post: Covers, Titles, Trailers, Movies & More!

* Let’s start with the news we were most excited about … so excited, we didn’t even wait until today to share it. The Hunger Games movie has been given a release date of March 23, 2012. Let the countdown begin!

* Fallen Archangel this week revealed the title & a brief synopsis for book 3 in Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series. Book 3 (originally titled Tempest) will now be called Silence and it’ll be in stores on October 19th!

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone in this book. They’ve overcome the secrets riddled in Patch’s dark past…bridged two irreconcilable worlds…faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust…and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they’ve worked for—and their love—forever.

* Myra McIntire unveiled the cover of her upcoming debut novel, Hourglass. We are SO excited to read this book:

Since the age of fourteen, Emerson Cole has seen strange things – dead things – swooning Southern Belles, soldiers, and other eerie apparitions of the past. She’s tried everything to get rid of the visions: medication, counseling, asylums. Nothing’s worked.

So when Emerson’s well-meaning brother calls in yet another consultant from a mysterious organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to give it one last try.

Michael Weaver is no ordinary consultant. He’s barely older than she is; he listens like no one she’s ever met before; and he doesn’t make her feel the least bit crazy. As Emerson ventures deeper into the world of the Hourglass, she begins to learn the truth about her past, her future–and her very life.

A seductive time-slip novel that merges the very best of the paranormal and science fiction genres, Myra McEntire’s Hourglass is a stunning debut from an author to watch.

* Speaking of books we can’t wait to read … Cassandra Clare has revealed the “placeholder” cover for Clockwork Prince and a quote. (A “placeholder” cover is just that … it holds the place of the REAL cover, which will be revealed later this year):

“What desperation drove you to me, in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm? What has changed at the Institute? I can only think of one thing…”

* Speaking of Cassie Clare’s books … Lots of rumors going around about Alex Pettyfer and whether he will or won’t be in the City of Bones movie. Truth: we don’t know! But our friends at Mundie Moms have compiled all of the news and separate fact from fiction about what we DO know. The Mortal Instruments Examiner also has a good break-down.

* Oh? And more for you Alex Pettyfer fans … he was on Ellen yesterday to promote his upcoming YA book to movie adaptation, I Am Number Four. Here is the delicious, delightful eye-candy:

* Did you see the haunting new book trailer for Afterlife by Claudia Gray? It’s the final book in her Evernight series:

Win Lockdown & Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith

All this week we’ve been featuring Alexander Gordon Smith’s Escape from Furnace series, and today we’ve got YOUR chance to win the first two books! Just keep reading for details …

The Contest:

Use the Novel Novice Escape from Furnace Contest Entry Form and tell us your worst nightmare.

The Prizes:

Two (2) winners will each receive a copy of Lockdown and Solitary, the first two books in the Escape from Furnace series, courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

The Rules:

  • U.S. & Canada only
  • One entry per person
  • Use the contest entry form; comments on this post do NOT count as entries

The Deadline:

All entries are due by midnight (PT) on Friday, February 4th.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments!

Exclusive Guest Blog from Alexander Gordon Smith

Today, we’re delighted to be hosting a guest blog from Escape from Furnace author Alexander Gordon Smith!

Hi, it’s great to be back on Novel Novice! I’m taking a break from Furnace today because I’d like to talk a bit about my first book, The Inventors, and how I wrote it with my nine-year-old brother!

I owe my writing career to my little brother, Jamie. I sometimes deny this when I’m talking to him, because he sees it as an excuse to ask for all my royalties. But it’s true. I’ve always been a writer, ever since I can remember – I’ve still got a copy of my first book, which I wrote when I was six or seven – but without Jamie I’m not sure if I’d ever have had a novel published. I certainly don’t think I’d be making a living out of my writing now. And I definitely wouldn’t be enjoying it so much!

Jamie was nine when we started writing together. We’ve always been very close, and we would make up our own games and stories on a daily basis. But it wasn’t until the summer holidays in 2005 that we decided to try and write a book. It was Jamie’s idea – we both loved reading, and he wanted to write a story of his own. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so we looked back over all the games we’d played, all the scenarios and characters we’d created, looking for the one that we loved most.

People say that writing is a very solitary profession, one where you talk to yourself and your characters and your cats or your goldfish more than you talk to real people. But it doesn’t have to be. One of the most fun and exciting parts of the writing process is the sharing of ideas, because when you bounce ideas between people they really have a chance to grow, to become more than the sum of their parts. I think that’s especially true when you’re writing with a child, because their imaginations are still blazing, still going through that phase of incredible atomic fission and fusion. Nothing is impossible to a child, there are no rules, the universe is literally theirs to play with. Creating a story with a young co-writer opens up possibilities that never would have existed if you were writing by yourself.

So Jamie and I came up with an idea for our first book, The Inventors – two inventors who have to save the world from an evil genius. We set to work immediately, deciding who our heroes and our villains were going to be, thinking about what could happen to them, what kind of trouble they’d get into, how they’d meet the bad guy, who their friends and family were, what kinds of clothes they wore, what they liked and what they hated, everything! The more we chatted, the more the world of the story began to take shape around us. One of us would have an idea, then the other would run with it, turning it into something different then passing it back. These little flashes of inspiration would go through a wonderful process of evolution, becoming things that neither of us would have dreamed of on our own. Our fictional world came to life because we were sharing it, because we were building it together.

We were also living it. Jamie wanted the story to be as real as possible, so he decided to become an inventor himself while we wrote it. He was only nine, but he loved building and experimenting with things and he had the ambitious goal of attempting to create every single invention in the book for real. I thought it was a great idea. The most important thing when you’re writing is to know your characters as well as you can – better than you know your friends, maybe even better than you know yourself. And what better way to get into the mind of your protagonists than to actually live their life!

I wasn’t keen on the idea for long, though… Because Jamie decided that he wanted to test his inventions on me! It all started one afternoon during the holidays. Jamie told me he wanted to use my kitchen to make an invention. He wouldn’t let me see what he was doing, but a few hours later, towards the end of the day, he emerged. I went into the kitchen and it looked like a bomb had gone off in there – sawdust everywhere, all but one of the cupboard doors off their hinges, even a saw half way through the kitchen counter! But Jamie wouldn’t tell me what he’d been doing. He claimed he needed to come back tomorrow to finish off his invention. It was quite late, so he went home (he lives just down the road, with my mum) and I went to bed. I got up in the middle of the night for a midnight snack (something I do a little too often), trod zombie-like into the chaos of the kitchen, opened the only cupboard door left (which was where I kept the biscuits) and all of a sudden I heard a blaring alarm and a voice yelling ‘Put down the cookie!’ It almost gave me a heart attack!

What Jamie had done was buy an infrared spy device (he hadn’t made it, he was only nine!), one where you could record your own message and which was triggered when the beam was broken. He had then dug out a little channel in the cupboard shelf and planted this device in it, knowing that sooner or later I’d open the door and be scared half to death. He experimented with loads of gadgets like this, putting traps in the house and the garden and building a remote control insect (from a kit) which he used to try and stick pencils up my nose. We even built a pair of gunpowder-propelled rocket boots together (which he wanted to test on me). But it was great, because when it came to writing the book we knew exactly what it was like to be an inventor, to design and build and test things. We knew what it was like when these inventions worked, when they went wrong, when they blew up in our faces. We had lived the same life as the characters in the book, so we could write about them easily and naturally. It was an amazing experience, and one which hopefully makes the story feel so much more alive to a reader. It certainly made the book more appealing to a publisher, because we got a deal for it straight away!

Jamie is fourteen now, fifteen next month, and although we haven’t written a book together for a while he still helps me research (he locked me in an underground medieval dungeon when I was writing Furnace to help me experience what it was like to be buried alive)! And I hope we’ll work together on a story again soon. Although I do enjoy writing by myself, it’s nowhere near as fun as working with Jamie! But I really recommend it to every writer out there – don’t feel like you have to go it alone, that it’s you and your story versus the world. Work with someone, share your ideas and see what happens when you let them bounce back and forth between you – especially if your co-writer is your child or a younger relative. You’ll be amazed at how much your original vision expands and blossoms, how your story becomes a world of endless imagination. Just don’t forget to share your royalties!

One Year Anniversary Guest Blog: YA Urban

We’ve been featuring guest blogs from some of our favorite buddies in the blogging world over the last month to celebrate our One Year Anniversary, and today we’re delighted to have JP from YA Urban! JP is one of our FAVORITE guy bloggers and we’re always impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication (especially when you learn how young he is)! Thanks JP for guest blogging, and the rest of you — go check out YA Urban!

Congrats to the team at Novel Novice for an great year. Every time I stop by, something catches my eye and I’ll think, “Whoa, that is really cool!” and read on. One of my favorite things about NN is that they go the extra mile (or, rather, an extra thousand miles.) They have an entire staff of awesome people: Sara, their admin. and publicity director; Steph, Libby, Billy, Joe, Jana, Christie, and Taylor, NN contributors; Stephanie, NN’s fantastic graphic designer; Tiffany, the founder of NN’s Twilight-themed sister site; and Elena, the MG (middle grade) reviewer at NN. All of these people have a level of awesome that all YA and MG readers appreciate – I think more than they know.

More evidence of the extra thousand miles at NN that I speak of are all of the spunky things they feature on the side of their ever-helpful and true reviews: Book of the Month, “extra” posts about varying things like news and views in the literature world, generous contests and more. I have to say the thing out of those I really look forward to all the time is their Book of the Month – because NN helps you see all the aspects of the novel they have chosen to feature, and things may have missed.

If, after all this proof, you don’t know the truth that is NN has spunk! then you are missing out, bud.

Happy one-year anniversary to Novel Novice. I can’t wait for the excitement in bookish peoples’ lives to come.

Book review: Father of Lies by Ann Turner


Truth or Lies?

Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, Lidda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can’t, or won’t. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?


 There are few moments in American history that contain more sinister drama than the Salem witch trials, which is why I am so disappointed that Father of Lies doesn’t manage to capture it. Historical fiction, when at its best, creates a bridge between the time period in which it’s set and today’s readers. We get to see how much we have in common with our ancestors and we are able to identify with them. History comes alive.

Father of Lies fails to do this for several reasons. Lidda is a mostly flat character surrounded by a one-dimensional supporting cast. It’s almost as if the author got too bogged down in research and getting the facts right, that she forgot to inject some creative license. It’s like reading a list: first this person caught “witch fever” and accused someone. Then so-and-so. And then this person, too. What we get is the same scene repeated over and over with little variation. The “good stuff” gets skimmed right over — including the dramatic conclusion. I will say that the book’s conclusion is good, but that’s just it: Things start getting interesting and it ends.

I was also a little put-off by the author’s heavy-handed interpretation. We are told in no uncertain terms what actually happened in Salem. We are not left to draw our own conclusions. Other popular explanations for the infamous witch hunt and subsequent hangings are brought forward in a sort of epilogue from the author called, “What is true and what is not true.” It’s too bad none of these possibilities are explored in the story itself.

That said, Father of Lies might be a good resource for middle-grade history buffs-in-the-making. It might even be useful in the classroom, as it shows the progression of “witch fever” in Salem and does a good job describing what life was like in Colonial America, especially for girls and women. It is the oppressive societal norms that made power a very heady, dangerous thing when granted to a handful of young girls with wild imaginations.

Father of Lies will be in bookstores Feb. 8.

Exclusive Q&A with author Alexander Gordon Smith

Today, we are delighted to host an exclusive Q&A with Escape from Furnace author Alexander Gordon Smith! We’re featuring his book series all week-long!

Hi there, thanks for interviewing me on Novel Novice, it’s fantastic to be here!

There are a lot of scary, freaky things that happen in the Escape from Furnace books … but what do YOU think is the scariest part of the books?

Wow, great question! I managed to scare myself quite a bit when I was writing the series. I was really, really close to Alex, the main character, I felt like I was inside Furnace with him, and for me the scariest parts were the times that he lost hope, the times he almost gave up. I didn’t plan the books, so it really was Alex who drove the story forwards. I found myself relying on him to know what to do, how to survive, and when he lost hope I did too. It was a terrible feeling. In Solitary, Alex is thrown into solitary confinement – basically a cramped, lightless hole in the ground. The parts of the book where he’s locked away in there, when he is tormented by his own demons, were definitely the most terrifying to write. As for the most frightening to read, I think it has to be the Blood Watch in Lockdown – when the wheezers come for their victims…

How did you get the idea for Lockdown and the Escape from Furnace books?

The idea for the books really came from the character of Alex, who essentially was me. When I was a teenager I went through a terrible phase of getting into trouble – stealing, fighting, drinking. I was never as bad as Alex, but I was certainly in danger of becoming a criminal. Luckily, my family was great, they stopped me before it went too far and put me back on the right track. I moved on, grew older, started to do okay in life. But there was a version of me stuck in my head who never got that chance, who never got rescued, and who never got to tell his story.

I had wanted to write a scary book for ages, but I couldn’t think of an idea that worked. After a while, though, I realized that this version of me locked inside the purgatory of my head was the perfect starting place for a novel. I turned to Alex and finally let him tell his story. Fortunately for me, that story involved a nightmare prison! But the whole thing really did grow out of this one character. It was Alex’s life, red in tooth and claw, I just wrote down what happened.

What do you think are the most valuable lessons readers can get from these books? What do YOU hope they take away from reading them?

The Furnace books are horror books, I never wanted them to become ‘issues’ books. I certainly didn’t want to try to teach lessons about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Alex is a bad kid to start with, he commits some pretty awful crimes. But these crimes pale in comparison to what he is forced to do to survive when he’s locked away inside Furnace. This isn’t a story about a bad boy who goes to prison and learns the error of his ways!

But there are hopefully things that readers can take away with them. I hope the books help reinforce the immense value of friendship; I hope they teach that sometimes doing bad things for the right reasons is better than doing good things for the wrong ones, and that just because you’ve made mistakes in your life doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and that you’re beyond saving. I think the most important message, the one I’d like readers to take away, is that no matter how terrible things get, no matter how bleak life is, there is always – always – hope. Things will get better.

At the beginning of Lockdown, Alex admits he’s not a good kid. And while he definitely doesn’t deserve the punishment that’s handed down, he also isn’t completely innocent. Why is this so important to the story? How do you think the books would have been different if Alex was completely innocent?

I think the main difference is that the story wouldn’t be believable. The Furnace books do require a fairly hefty suspension of disbelief at times – as do many horror stories – but I hope that the characters, Alex especially, feel like real people. They have to, because if you don’t believe in them then how can you possibly accept the world of the story? Alex is a real person, because he is me in so many ways. I’ve done bad things – nothing too bad I have to point out! – the same way that everyone has done things they regret. There’s no such thing as somebody who is completely innocent – except for young children of course – and a character who claims to be will never feel like a living, breathing person. It would also completely change the tone of the story, because an innocent person’s experience of Furnace would be very different to Alex’s. When I was writing, the most interesting and challenging parts of the story were the ones where Alex wrestles with his own guilt, where he tries to understand the person he has become and questions whether he deserves to be inside Furnace. I don’t think the story would be anywhere near as powerful without this dynamic.

Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from the third book (in stores this summer)?

I think it’s the scariest book of the series so far, but for different reasons. Alex really is in a terrifying place – both literally and psychologically. He discovers the horrific truth of what is happening to the inmates. Worst of all, he realizes that in order to stand any chance of defeating the monsters of Furnace Penitentiary, he must become one of them …

It’s also the most action packed of the series so far as Alex and co make one last, incredible bid for freedom!

In the YA publishing world, there’s a lot of talk about “guy books” versus “girl books,” and it’s fairly clear from the style of the covers that the Escape from Furnace books are being marketed more as “guy books.” But at Novel Novice, we tend to think of them as just “books.” What sort of appeal do you think the Escape from Furnace books have for ALL readers?

I certainly never intended to write a “guy book” – other than the fact that I wrote a story that I’d want to read, and I’m a guy! I have to confess that there aren’t actually any female characters in the first three books, but my hands were tied there because there was absolutely no way that Furnace could be a mixed prison. Without wanting to give too much away, though, there is a female main character in the last two books. I just wrote Alex’s life as I saw it happening, I didn’t ever really consider who would read the books. I hope that, as a horror story and an adventure story, it will appeal to everyone, and I’ve actually had much more fan mail from girls than boys! I’d hate for anyone to think that it’s a book just for boys, because it really isn’t.

And it’s a Novel Novice tradition to ask our authors the following “flash style” questions:

What question do you always wish someone would ask you during an interview?

Hi, My name is Steven Spielberg, would you like me to make a movie of your books?

Now answer that question.

Yes please!!!

If you could trade places with one person for a single day, who would it be & why?

Wow, that’s a great question. I’d love to see the Earth from space, so possibly one of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Or maybe Steven Spielberg so I could ask myself the above question!

What was the last movie you saw?

I watched Land of the Lost this afternoon with the family. It was quite enjoyable! The last thing I saw at the cinema was Tron, which was awesome.

Biggest TV addiction?

Everything, I’m a TV drama junkie! I’d have to say The Wire.

Guilty pleasure?

Meatloaf (the singer, not the food!)

Fruits or veggies?

I can’t remember if chocolate is a fruit or a vegetable.

Karaoke song?

“Bat Out Of Hell” or “I’d Do Anything For Love”

Favorite childhood toy?

It has to be a notepad and pencil, I’d sit and scribble story ideas for hours and hours. That and my teddy bear, Doggy.

Thanks again for interviewing me, it’s been great!