• Susan Moore

    Susan Moore



    APRIL 2017

    For children looking for a fast-paced plot, a setting with a difference and some rather impressive gadgets, SUSAN MOORE's Nat Walker trilogy (CRIMSON POISON, EMERALD SECRET) will hit the spot.

    The books, which feature feisty heroine Nat Walker in a futuristic but recognisable world, have adventure and mystery at their heart.

    In Crimson Poison, Nat travels to Mongolia to seek out the cure for a devastating poison, while also fighting her aunt's attempts to lay her hands on her inherited fortune. The second book, Emerald Secret, brings Nat to London where she follows the trail of a hidden sword that the villainous Ivy Shiversand believes will give her absolute power.

    We asked SUSAN MOORE to tell us more about the trilogy, creating settings for her stories and what she has planned for the final book!

    Q: What took you into writing for children and what were you doing previously?

    A: I'd always wanted to be a writer but it didn't happen until later in my life as my father believed I should 'get a proper job with a secure income'! Instead, I worked in I.T. project management for many years. I did get to work at both Sega and Lucasfilm in California, which fueled my love of technology and children's entertainment. Finally, when I returned to the U.K., I enrolled in an MA Creative Writing course and focused on writing for children.

    Q: Why did you decide to set your books about Nat Walker in the future?

    A: I'm fascinated about exploring the possibilities and potential future for our world. I think that has been fueled by working at Skywalker, and subsequently in the Dot.comboom in San Francisco. The future gave me a chance to 'think out of the box' and create gadgets and robots that I'd have liked as a kid :-)

    Q: What makes for successful world building?

    A: Great question! When creating a fictitious world you get to design and architect what you want, but because Nat's world is in the near future, as well as not being 'off-planet' in some far flung galaxy, I had be careful to keep it 'real' in the sense that the world is both relatable to kids' today, while at the same time new, exciting and different.

    You have to look at the world as 'whole' and treat it in a 360 way, hitting the five senses of the reader in a refreshing way. I focused in on designing gadgets, transport, robots, food and fashion, wondering what it would be like to eat a 'Slamburger', wear a 'Smart T-shirt', ride on a 'Slider' with your animal robot at your side.

    And once you've created the world you discover there's a whole set of rules you have to follow as to how it works, just like our world of today.

    Q: Were there specific topics you had to research for these books eg martial arts, technology, places?

    A: Indeed. I spent many hours, days, weeks and months researching many ideas and things that I wanted to write about. I'm a big fan of Mongolian history and read many books, as far back as 'The Secret History of the Mongols' - the oldest surviving Mongolian-language literary work. I watched countless kung-fu movies, my favourite being 'Enter The Dragon' starring Bruce Lee.

    I love adventuring and over the years I've travelled to many parts of the globe. Hong Kong is a favourite of mine, as is Borneo, both of which feature in 'Crimson Poison'.

    Having been immersed in the technology aspects of industry for many years I've always kept an eye on the latest gear and gadgets. I have a massive pile of notebooks and sketchbooks, stuffed with all my findings - I think there are enough ideas in them already for a dozen more books!

    Q: Nat, your heroine, is a strong character who thrives on adventure. Why did you make her so 'kick ass' and do children need more strong female leads like her?

    A: When I first started writing about Nat I wasn't really certain what type of character she was going to become. She's grown in her own way to be 'kick ass' through the tough situations she's been put in. I set out to write a thrilling adventure story, but until you put your protagonist under pressure, I don't think you can properly predict how they are going to react.

    I love it that Nat manages to somehow find her way out of some pretty tough, life-threatening situations. She's smart but vulnerable. Her guardian, Jamuka, is the one who's taught her kung-fu, and I think that gives her a resilience that the futurescape of the story demands.

    Both the boys and girls who've read the books tell me how they much they like Nat, and they're rooting for her in her hour of need. It's great to see 'girl power' active and helping thwart the toughest of villains!

    Q: You also have some wonderfully strong female villains in these books - why did you decide to make these characters women rather than men, and which one did you have the most fun creating?

    A: In 'Crimson Poison' I wanted to create a strong female villain who wanted to substitute herself for Nat's late mother. This character of Aunt Vera was great fun to create with her avaricious, grasping ways and awful shopping habits.

    In 'Emerald Secret' I set off writing about Nat's arrival in London with a male arch villain in place of 'Ivy Shiversand', but I kept coming to mental roadblocks on the journey. I was watching the 'Young Victoria' film with my daughter one evening, and had a lightbulb moment that the villainous tech-warrior man should instead be a woman, who wanted to be queen. From there, Ivy's character flourished and became hugely enjoyable to write about - I think she's been most fun to create!

    Q: Nat also travels a lot - she lives in Hong Kong and then London, and visits Mongolia; are these all places you are familiar with?

    A: I love exploring Hong Kong - by land and water. It is an island city that never ceases to amaze and excite me. The multi-cultured nature of its history gives it a rich, tapestried depth and breadth that makes it fascinating to use as a backdrop for Nat's home, as well as a being character in itself.

    I am still an 'armchair traveler' to Mongolia although from my reading, watching documentaries and films, I feel as if I've been there already! We're planning to visit next year having waited for our daughter to be old enough for a horse expedition across the Steppe.

    As for London, it's my favourite city in the world. I've lived, worked and explored in it over many years. It's a place that's so steeped in history, with so many secrets and hidden places, that it's a pleasure to be able to write about it, imagining how it could be in the future.

    Q: The future world you create is full of amazing gadgets - beetlebots, robot companions, Sliders etc. Which were your favourites to create, and which gadget would you have in today's world, if you could?

    A: My top two are the robot companions and Sliders. If I have to choose one then it is most definitely a robot companion like Fizz! I'd love to have grown up with a dragon at my side as my constant robot companion.

    Q: You also play with the idea of computer games and future virtual worlds. Are you a gamer, and has gaming helped inspire these stories at all?

    A: In the past I have worked in the gaming world at Sega, and have long since held a fascination with games and virtual worlds. I wouldn't class myself as a 'gamer' but I am fascinated by the idea that as humans we create immersive games that take us out of our normal reality and into a human-imagined one.

    Q: Why is fashion such a strong part of your future world building and if you could have one piece of clothing from a future wardrobe, what would it be?

    A: I love fashion! It's such a great part of being human, being able to clothe yourself in a way that extends, enhances, creates your outward identity. More than the clothing though I'd like Wen's special hair dyes that work automatically, the moment you comb them through your hair!

    Q: As well as looking to the future, you play with the past with replica ancient boats, the Victorian clothing worn by rich Londoners, and the traditional clans from Mongolia. Do you feel it's important to keep an eye on the past as well as looking to the future?

    A: Absolutely. There is so much we can learn from history. I want to inspire children to get excited about delving into the past, fueling their creative imaginations by using pieces and parts from bygone days such as viking boats and pennyfarthings with a futuristic twist. They will be the architects of our future world, so let's show them what has gone before, and then inspire them to put their own creativity to work.

    Q: If you time travel, would you choose to go somewhere in the past - and if so, where - or would you prefer to travel to the future?

    A: Another great question! Am thinking hard here, weighing up past vs future.... I'm settling on the future because it's the great unknown. Forty years hence would be good, as long as I stay the same age as I am now! I'd love to see what our world has become. I am an optimist at heart, so hoping it will be bright and more settled than it is now.

    Q: What next for Nat Walker - can you give us a glimpse into her next adventure?

    A: Nat has to make a journey to San Francisco, the city where her mother was born. The stakes are raised. There are others who are searching for the second sword, and Nat is in a race against time to find it. There's a battle being fought for her guardianship too. Both the Clan and Aunt Vera are closing in. Nat will be tested beyond the limits of where she's reached before.

    Q: Where is your favourite writing place?

    A: My shed. I love my shed. It's not big, but it's at the bottom of the garden, away from the rest of the world. I've got a wolf and a chippet who both like to come and lounge while I write. There's a guest chair too for any visitors who come to visit, and I've always got coffee on hand!

    Q: Nat has lots of adventures - what has been your most adventurous holiday or outing? If you could have use of Nat's Junko, where would you sail it?

    A: My most adventurous holiday took place many years ago, in my early twenties. I was the accountant on an expedition truck through Africa. We camped for six months, traveling from the Sahara, through West Africa, Central Africa to the East Coast. It was an amazing, extraordinary experience, one which is indelibly etched on my memory.

    Right now, if I had Nat's Junko, I'd be sailing it to San Francisco, under the Golden Gate Bridge, anchoring it in the Marina and staying there until Nat's adventure there is complete!