Your new novel Big Game hits the shops on the 1st January 2015 before it goes to the big screen in May 2015. Could you tell us a little bit about the story?
Big Game is set in Finland and is about a young boy called Oskari. In Oskari’s remote village, there is a tradition that a boy must go into the wilderness before his 13th birthday and hunt. Whatever he catches will prove what kind of man he is going to be. The big problem is that Oskari is a hopeless hunter and thinks he will fail. In fact, everyone in the village thinks he will fail – including his father. But when Oskari heads into the wilderness, he stumbles on an escape pod from a plane that has been shot down over the forest. Investigating the strange object, Oskari discovers that inside the escape pod is the President of the USA. Air Force One has been shot down and a group of dangerous terrorists is closing in on the President. There is no one to help. The only person who can save the world’s most powerful man . . . is Oskari.
How did you find writing the book?
I wrote Big Game based on an early draft of the film script. I hadn’t seen the film or any stills from it, which worked well for me because it meant I had to imagine everything for myself. I didn’t want to write a straightforward ‘novelisation’ so I changed one or two things. Sometimes scenes work better on film than they do in a book, so I added a few things, took a few things away, and gave Oskari more of a life beyond the main story. The biggest difference between the book and the film, though, is that everything in the book is told from Oskari’s point of view. He narrates the story, which means we never leave him. I wanted the reader to join Oskari on his adventure - for them to feel how scared, lost and vulnerable he is. Oh, and did I mention that I loved writing Big Game. It’s a fantastic, fast-paced, action-filled story, and Oskari is such a good character. But the story also has a big heart. Everybody expects Oskari to fail, so I really enjoyed bringing him out of his shell, persuading him that he does have some skills and that he’s tougher than he thinks.
The film stars many well known famous faces including Samuel. L. Jackson, Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber and Felicity Huffman. Have you had the opportunity to meet any of the cast?
Well, Sam Jackson and I are now great friends and we spend a lot of time catching up with the other Avengers and . . . actually, that’s not true. No, I haven’t met any of the cast, and as far as I know, there aren’t any plans for that to happen. That would be great, though, wouldn’t it? My son and daughter would be so jealous if I had the opportunity to meet Nick Fury!
You have written books for both adults and children, is this something you always wanted to do? Which do you enjoy the most?
At school, most of my friends were into cars, football, cricket, that kind of thing, but I wasn’t interested in any of that. I was interested in stories – films, TV shows, comics and, of course books. I loved the escapism and excitement of stories. When I started writing for myself, I often shifted styles - one moment I’d dream of writing for adults, the next I’d dream of writing for children. That’s probably why I now write for both, and I really couldn’t say which I enjoy the most. I just love stories!
You have had many different and interesting jobs, from a dishwasher to a Social Security Fraud Officer to an author. What has been your stand out moment in your career so far?
Some of those jobs might sound as if they were interesting but . . . not so much. None of those things was ever a career for me - except for being an author. As for ‘stand out moments’? Well, being an author is a precarious career, so every publication is a huge achievement!
Are you working on any other novels at the moment? If so could you give us a sneak peek into the story?
I’m always working on something new! I’ve just sent my publisher the first draft of my next book for younger readers. It’s a fast-paced action adventure set on a mysterious island off the coast of Central America, about a boy who has just 24 hours to rescue his sister, save his mum and prevent a world-wide disaster . . . phew. There’ll be plenty of editing to do, I’m sure, but in the meantime I’m busy writing my next book for adults, which is a creepy thriller set in 1880’s South Dakota.
Lastly if you could give a young budding author one top writing tip what would that be?
This might sound obvious, but there are two things a budding author MUST do. Read and write. Reading is so important because it helps to develop an instinctive feel for what works and what doesn’t. It teaches a budding writer what shape a story needs to be, and it helps them to understand what kind of stories they want to write and how to achieve the effects they want. And this might sound like a no-brainer, but you need to write. If you want to be good at football, you have to play football; if you want to be a great painter, you have to practice painting; if you want to be a doctor, you have to train for it. Writing is no different - If you want to be good at it, you have to practice, practice, practice. Very few authors made a huge success out of the first thing they ever wrote.