Alastair Chisholm's new sci-fi book The Consequence Girl has just been published by Nosy Crow Books, and follows his earlier science fiction novels Adam-2 and Orion Lost. As well as an author, Adam is a puzzle creator and has written quite a lot of books of Sudoku and other puzzles for kids and grown-ups. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife (who is lovely), two teenagers (who are lovely but very loud), and a cat named Maudie, who is yowling at him even though there is clearly food in her bowl, look, it's right there, look. His hobbies include writing and playing games on his phone when he should be writing. You can follow him on Twitter @alastair_ch
The Consequence Girl (Nosy Crow Books)
The Consequence Girl is a gripping and thought-provoking science fiction story about a girl who is on the run. Her story explores what happens when things go wrong and the abuse of power, but it's also about family and how individuals can change things for the better by doing the right thing. Alastair's earlier books include Adam-2 and Orion Lost.
In this video and Q&A, author Alastair Chisholm tells us what inspired The Consequence Girl, why he enjoys writing science fiction novels - and who he'd like to play his main characters if a film of his book were made.
Read a chapter from The Consequence Girl
Q&A with Alastair Chisholm
1. Are you still a computer programmer by day? When do you find time to write?
I am! But on a slightly shortened week these days. I still love programming so I'm very lucky to be able to do both. I mostly write first thing in the morning, last thing at night, weekends, and every waking moment in between...
2. Can you tell us about your new novel, The Consequence Girl?
The Consequence Girl is about a girl named Cora who has the power to look back in time and see why things happened - and even, in some cases, change what happened. She's been hidden away on a mountain for most of her life, but now people are coming for her…
3. Your earlier novels including Adam-2 and Orion Lost also explore science fiction themes. What do you most enjoy about writing science fiction? Do you write in other genres?
I've just had a brilliant time writing stories about dragons (the Dragon Storm series) for younger readers, and my picture books are full of fairy tale characters and silly cavemen. But I love how science fiction comes from events in our own world. Aliens, robots, space travel, incredible technology - we can see the seeds of all those things right here on Earth. That's a very exciting idea! And science fiction gives us a brilliant way to use these to set up really big questions in an accessible way.
4. You explore very different themes in each of these novels. What was your starting point for the story?
Often there's just one scene that sets me off. In this case, it was an image in my mind of Cora standing on a snowy, woody hill, gazing out across the silent wilderness. Where was everyone else? I wondered. Why was she there? I thought, she's removed herself from the world - and after that, everything started to fall into place. I started to imagine her powers, and Colony, and realised this would be a story about how we deal with the world when things go wrong.
5. Were there any points in the story that you struggled to write, and how do you get through when that happens?
The original story was much longer, and more complex - it was one for older readers, but I realised when I came back to it that it would work much better as a middle-grade book. That needed a lot of chopping and reorganising! I'm lucky, though - I'm in a writing group, and they're great at giving good feedback and encouragement. And my editor Tom Bonnick did a brilliant job of seeing where I could cut and where I couldn't…
6. Can you tell us how you created the world and settings for The Consequence Girl?
In Cora's world, a group of god-like creatures (the "Glories") settled on the planet two centuries ago, helped the humans, and then suddenly left for no reason. So I named the parts of the world as if they were parts of the settlement. The biggest city is Base, and Cora lives near a remote town called Recon - which is just short for Reconnaissance. The third city is Sheen, because it's literally the remains of an old mining machine ("machine", "sheen"). I liked the idea that the names remained, but no one remembered what they meant - kind of like our own place names.
7. Can you tell us about your main character Cora and the challenges she faces in the story?
Cora has been hidden from society her whole life. She has this incredible power, but her guardian Selene is determined that she doesn't use it, and Cora doesn't understand why - in fact, as the story goes on, she's not sure whether she can even trust Selene. Not only that, but everyone she meets wants to use her power for themselves!
8. Did any of the characters take you by surprise?
There's a scary woman called Sisal, who runs the security on Colony. She's pretty horrible, but what surprised me was how plausible she could sound - in fact, Sisal thinks that she's doing the right thing. A lot of this book is about the abuse of power, and it was scary to see how easily you could justify all sorts of terrible deeds "for the good of the Colony"…
9. Other than a great story, what would you like your readers to take from The Consequence Girl?
Hope! In this book, bad things have happened, and people respond in different ways. But Cora eventually finds a way to keep going - and it's something I hope all of us can manage. We all have the power to do something to make things better, even when we think we don't.
10. The book is very filmic - who would be your first choice to play Cora, Selena and Kai? And where would you choose for the setting?
I'm not sure about Cora and Kai, but Selena was ALWAYS going to be Danai Gurira - Michonne from The Walking Dead TV series. She's kick-ass and terrifying and brilliant and I loved writing her scenes.
Colony is a snowy, wintry world, with lots of pine trees and steep hillsides, and I imagined something like the Scottish Highlands, or perhaps Norway - somewhere remote, where people are rare.
11. When can we expect a sequel to your earlier novel, Orion Lost?
Hah! I can't say for sure, but I'd love to return to the Orion one day and see how Beth and her crew are getting on. I have lots of questions about how exactly the Event happened, and what's going on with the Videshi aliens…
12. Given that you write about space a lot, would you ever want to visit it?
It would be pretty amazing, wouldn't it? We should definitely keep exploring- it's so exciting seeing the Mars helicopter do its thing, and finding out more about the ice moons of Saturn and Jupiter, where there's a chance of actual, alien, life.
But as I get older, I find myself thinking that it's pretty amazing down here, too, and it would be good to keep it that way. It costs so much to send a billionaire to space for a day-trip - imagine what they could have done down here with that money…
13. What is your first choice for reading in your downtime? Any recommendations?
I'm a huge comics fan, so 2000AD is my favourite weekly binge. Check out the 're-gened' specials, they release every few months for younger readers, or try The Phoenix, which is brilliant. But there's a lot of awesome middle grade fiction out there as well. Anything by Darren Simpson is great, and Kirsty Applebaum does wonderful concept books, too!