Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Author Interview: Martin Dukes

I’m really excited about this interview because I love Martin’s book Caught in a Moment which you can see from my review if you haven’t already checked it out here.

1) Hi Martin, thanks for sparing some time for this interview, can you tell us a little about your book Caught in a Moment which is the first instalment of a trilogy?
'Caught in a Moment' is the first episode in a series that describes the experiences of fifteen year old Alex Trueman, as he faces a series of increasingly testing challenges and discovers that he has unique and constantly evolving powers. His adventures take him into a number of strange and exciting places and his journey is enlivened by encounters with some very scary villains, bent on various schemes of wickedness up to and including the destruction of the universe. He soon finds that the universe is arranged according to rules very different to the principles that he has learned at school. Time, in particular, behaves in a dramatically different way. Alex is a daydreamer, someone whose hold on Reality is already a tenuous one. In the trancelike state of his daydreams he accidentally slips into a new place, ‘Intersticia’, a parallel universe that exists in the gaps between moments in time. From this vantage point the world around him appears to be frozen. Alex finds himself trapped here together with a few fellow daydreamers and others whose presence there derives from more tragic events or more sinister activity. The book recounts his adventures in Intersticia, his gradual discovery of those strange powers latent within him and his attempts to intervene when the shadow of death falls across that place.

2) The idea for Caught in a Moment is so original, what was your inspiration?
Like many people I’ve always been fascinated by the prospect of time travel and have read a great many books on the theme from HG Wells to Asimov. Many years ago, when handling a roll of 8mm movie film it struck me that time could perhaps be thought of as a series of consecutive moments rather than as a smooth, uninterrupted continuum. Leading on from this was the idea that the spaces between the moments, the interstices, might constitute a universe of their own in which time operates differently. I like to think it’s an entirely novel premise for a book but they do say ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’ so it’s quite possible someone else thought of it before me.

3) If you could stop time for an hour what would you do?
That’s a question of considered on many occasions and “Caught in a Moment” is to some extent an elaboration of my own ideas on that issue, ones that I have fantasised about since I was a schoolboy myself. Naturally, the potential for practical jokes would be tremendous but also the opportunity for wickedness or for seeking personal gain. Anyone who had such an opportunity and time to plan for it would face a stern test of their character. If I could stop time right now – well, it’s been a ridiculously busy week and a busy day so far. I think I’d put my feet up, make myself a nice cup of tea and read a good book until time gets going again.

4) How and when did you first realise you loved writing and wanted to be an author? What was the first thing you ever wrote?
In a drawer somewhere I still have a book I wrote when I was ten years old. This was called “The Adventures of George and His Friends” which tells the story of a duck and various other animals on what amounts to a road story. This epic yarn is written in my own fair hand and copiously illustrated using felt tip pen in a manner creditable enough for one of such tender years. I remember entertaining younger relatives and siblings by reading from it. Various chocolate smears and sticky parts suggest that they sometimes got to read it for themselves. I’ve been writing ever since, although it has only been in recent years that I have felt confident to extend my potential audience beyond the realm of sticky-fingered five year olds.

5) What can we expect for the second/third instalment in the series?
The second volume of Alex’s adventures is entitled “Worm winds of Zanzibar” and is already published. In this episode Alex spends only a little time in Intersticia. Instead he is transported to a version of 19th Century Zanzibar that exists in a parallel universe and in which history has evolved along somewhat different lines. His powers have come to the attention of some dangerously unpleasant people in the angelic realm of Elysium, a world already introduced in the first book but here described in more detail. They recognise in Alex a missing piece in a jigsaw of power that they have been trying to assemble for millennia. As well as avoiding the clutches of these enemies Alex also has to navigate the perilous politics of Zanzibar and escape disaster in the form of a natural cataclysm that threatens that world. Alex evolves in terms of the growth of his powers but also in terms of his character as he responds to the various threats that come his way. 
This process of personal growth and evolution is completed in “Angelic Upstart”, the third and final volume. I intend to publish this during the course of the summer. In this episode Alex discovers the full extent of his powers but finds that there is a hugely challenging trade-off between power and responsibility. I suppose the central theme of the trilogy as whole is the relationship between these two concepts. I try to imagine what it would be like to find oneself in possession of god-like powers and I use one schoolboy’s personal journey to illustrate the triumphs and the tragedies that might occur along the way. I hope that the conclusion is ultimately a satisfying one.

6) How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
My wife tells me that Alex has characteristics she recognises in me too. When I was at school I was also moderately clever but lazy and under-achieving with a tendency to daydream. Alex fits this description rather well but I think that's as far as it goes. I don’t think his actions and attitudes necessarily reflect my own, either as a fifteen year old or at any time since. I certainly never set out to write myself into the story. I suppose Alex’s character is one that I felt I could relate to on a personal level and this made it easier to write about him. It must be much more difficult to write a main character who is utterly different to yourself. 
My other characters are an amalgam of people I have known. A little like Mr Potato Head they are assembled from various bits and pieces, but in this case a variety of experiences and observations to make up distinct personalities. I had many friends like Henry who were better than me at sport (a large category!) and who seemed better equipped to navigate the complexities of teenage life.

7) What are some of your favourite movies, and what actors/actresses could you see playing the main characters from your book?
I loved the Hunger Games movies and I can see the feisty Jennifer Lawrence playing the role of Kelly. Alex isn’t obviously heroic material, however, at least not from the beginning. He needs to find the hero within him and would need time to develop the confidence to take centre stage. I think Jamie Bell might creditably do the job. I was a big fan of his role in “Jumper”. Although the film itself was far from universally acclaimed I really liked the ideas in it. One of my favourite movies of all time was The Green Mile, with magical performances by Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. Right up there at the top is Groundhog Day, another story that plays games with time and features an unforgettable starring role for Bill Murray. I watch that movie over and over again, which is kind of appropriate really!

8) What scenes were your favourite and least favourite to write?
That’s a tricky one. When I’m writing I’m not really conscious of finding particular parts of the task less enjoyable than others. Once I get myself into the right frame of mind writing takes on an impetus of its own and it’s sometimes hard to stop. I guess it might come across to the reader if there were any parts that I hadn’t enjoyed writing so much. It’s easier to pick out favourite parts. I love writing the action scenes, when the pace of things picks me up and I’m carried along with it on a wave of adrenalin. I feel there are times when a book almost writes itself. It’s like it was in there all the time and you just had to let it out. I enjoy the funny bits too. If I had to pick a few lines from the whole of 'Caught in a Moment' I think I’d pick the few lines you singled out as a quote when you were reading it. This is when Alex is horrified to find himself eating snark. I was delighted you appeared to like that part too.

Quick Questions
Fan fiction yay or nay? Nay for me. I prize originality.
Ebook or paperback? Paperback. You can instantly see how far you are through it.
Tea or coffee? Coffee. I have a Nespresso machine. Superb!
Zombies or vampires? Depends on the context. I imagine a vampire would make for a more stimulating dinner party guest. Yeah – let’s go vampire on that one.

About the Author
Martin Dukes is a writer and teacher based in the UK, with a keen interest in history and all things military. In addition to actually teaching Art and Design, he designs the publicity and marketing material for his school in Birmingham. When he is not writing or wasting his time playing computer games he likes to travel, eat things that are probably bad for him and collect models of military aircraft. His ‘Alex Trueman’ trilogy, of which ‘Caught in a Moment’ is the first volume, reflects his interest in history and in science.

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