S.M. Wilson lives on the west coast of Scotland with her fiance and two sons. Her day job is as a nurse in public health - and her dream job is writing fiction.
Her love of YA fiction started as a teenager and has never stopped. She wrote The Extinction Trials to try and infect her sons with the same love of reading that she has - watch out, she's hoping it's contagious!
The Infinity Files, Published by Usborne Books
S.M. Wilson's The Infinity Files takes us to the far reaches of the universe where an inter-planetary war rages and where Ash Yang, who dreams of becoming a star fighter pilot, is instead chosen as the new Guardian of a library like no other - and with a far greater battle on her hands.
This is a fast-paced, far-flung adventure for sci-fi fans and anyone who enjoys a great read. S.M. Wilson tells us more:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your new book and series, The Infinity Files
The Infinity Files is my dream space story about a giant library at the end of universe that saves things from planets to allow their existence and learning to be preserved, looked after by a reluctant and feisty heroine who learns to find value in herself and the artefacts around her.
2. What took you from writing about dinosaurs in The Extinction Trials to writing about space?
It's like a weird list of dreams - books I've always wanted to write. Dinosaurs. Tick. Space. Tick. Next up I'd love to write a YA murder mystery, but am not sure I'm clever enough for that!
3. Have you always been a sci-fi fan? Any favourites? What impact did films like Star Wars have on you as a child?
I am a hard and very specific sci-fi fan. Loved and adored Star Wars. I remember the absolute horror of finding out Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. Whilst Princess Leia's wardrobe was sometimes questionable, her characterisation by Carrie Fisher was great. Star Trek the Next Generation I still watch, and the episodes with Q and the Borg will always be my favourites. I even wrote an episode myself where I was Captain Picard's daughter... funnily enough, no one ever made it!
4. Is the Library at the End of the Universe in The Infinity Files (a nod to Hitchhiker's Galaxy?) a bit of wish fulfilment?
Let me be honest - I have never read, or watched Hitchhiker's Guide. I know the general plot, but it didn't influence me at all. This was all purely the space adventure I wish I'd had as a young woman. I love fierce female characters, and like to pretend they are based on me, but I would never be as brave as Stormchaser in Extinction Trials or Ash in The Infinity Files. I can pretend though...
5. Does Ash Yang, as Guardian of the Infinity Files, have your dream job? What is Ash's journey in this story?
My real dream job would be a female version of Indiana Jones - and Ash gets a bit of that - but in space!
Ash's story is about her loneliness, her initial fixation on revenge, and that horrible feeling of failure. Her story is that of someone discovering who she is, why she's been selected for this role, and of found family. That's probably my favourite part.
6. Which of the items in the Infinity Files would you like to have at home?
This is easy - every single one - including the ones I haven't even dreamed up yet. My brain hasn't even unfolded what I could have in there. You'll notice the artefacts are traditionally old. Imagine all the new technology that we couldn't even possibly understand that could be in there too!
7. Who are your favourite supporting characters?
Always, always Orius - the Keeper of the Infinity Files. After ten minutes you'll realise he's Yoda from Star Wars and actually also appeared in The Extinction Trials series from book 2 onwards as Octavius. This tiny, incredibly clever, and incredibly powerful character will always steal a little of my heart.
8. In the future world you create, planets colonised by humans are at war - a war that no one questions. Are you a little pessimistic that humans will ever learn from our history?
Whilst I would love to reach the level of humanity that apparently exists in The Next Generation - even in that world they just moved their wars to other planets and species. I honestly don't think humans ever learn properly.
I saw a really interesting tweet the other day where someone referred to our current pandemic, saying something like, 'not asking you to fight in a war - just wear a mask'. In the UK we've had one of the highest death rates - it's devastating.
Whilst at the beginning we had little understanding of the mechanics of the disease, we do now, and I spend my life shaking my head at those determined not to follow some simple rules, or saying the disease doesn't exist, whilst others are losing loved ones in hospital.
9. What's next for Ash Yang and how many books are you planning in The Infinity Files?
This is a duology, so the second book is written and just waiting for some final tweaks.
10. Are there other genres you'd like to explore as an author?
As I said above I've read some great YA murder mystery type books and would love to try one. Unfortunately, I fear that any kind of murder mystery requires planning - and I've never really planned any books I've written. I'm always a pantser and am on book 54 - so it might be a struggle to start now.
11. Your characters do a lot of travelling - what are your favourite destinations on planet Earth?
I love London because it's usually joined up with meeting writing friends and some sightseeing. I've loved Florida with my family, New York, Portugal, Tenerife, Costa Dorada, Barcelona, Paris, and I've been to some fantastic places for writing conferences - San Diego and Denver, but it's normally about the people and not the place. I love meeting writers from across the world and have some best friends in USA, Canada and Australia - all through writing.
12. What's your favourite escape from writing?
Reading! Every single time. I am a huge reader and on average read a book a night. I have always had the ability to read quickly. I've also discovered the joy of audiobooks driving to and from work and just before I sleep at night.
13. Do you have any space-themed gadgets on your desk for inspiration?
I have absolutely none but would love some! I do own a Star Trek tricorder and com badge that says Beam me up Scotty. But I'm trying to find a rocket shaped stress ball that I can throw when I need to. I am currently making do with a donut shaped one. My colleague at work and I take turns throwing it at each other!
The Extinction Trials: Exile
S.M. Wilson's Debut The Extinction Trials - in which individuals battle to win a place to visit Piloria, a land in which dinosaurs still roam - has gripped its 11+ readership since its launch at the end of last year. The follow-up, EXILE, is just as compelling a read.
The Extinction Trials saw the winners of the trials taken by boat to Piloria where they were tasked with stealing dinosaurs' eggs; many did not survive the challenge. In EXILE, Storm and Lincoln once again find themselves heading for Piloria, but this time the stakes are higher and the dangers even greater, especially as the trust that bound them together during their first visit has been broken.
We asked author Susan Wilson to tell us more about The Extinction Trials: Exile.
1. The Extinction Trials, published last year, was your debut YA title. Do you now write full time or do you have another 'day job'?
My day job is working in public health, I'm a nurse and health visitor and look after some of the screening and immunisation programmes for our area. I'd love to write full time but it's just not a possibility right now.
2. You already write romance, so what took you into writing an adventure fantasy?
I found my feet writing romance and I still love it and still write it. But I read YA books passionately, I love and adore then and it was always a field I wanted to work in. I found my agent Sarah on my first YA submission and she really helped shape The Extinction Trials into something that could be sent around publishers. I was really lucky it found a home at Usborne who have been extremely enthusiastic about my dinosaurs!
3. The Extinction Trials has been described as 'The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park.' How would you describe it?
I actually think that description is the best this book could have. Lots of bloggers and reviewers have commented about how accurate they think it is.
4. In the book, you create an alternate world where people live on one continent; dinosaurs on another. What gave you the idea for this, and why did you decide to avoid offering an explanation for this setting?
I just imagined what if our earth had evolved a little differently than it currently is? Who says that different evolution can't occur in different parts of the planet? We've found scientific evidence that it has happened in certain areas in the world. I just did it on a much bigger scale!
5. How did your main characters, Stormchaser and Lincoln, develop?
They are still developing. In the books they are teenagers, and people grow and develop at all stages of life. For Lincoln it's all about loyalty and survival, he will do absolutely anything for his family. For Storm, she doesn't have that grounding - everything about survival she's learned on her own and forming relationships is difficult for her. Both are strong and both are feisty, but in entirely different ways.
6. Absent parents but especially absent fathers is a strong thread in your novel. Why did that become such an important part of the story for you?
Let's face it, how many teenagers in YA have a happy family? It happens rarely because it helps shape the people they become and helps you understand their decision making. I thought this was important for both Storm and Lincoln.
7. Dinosaurs also have a big role in The Extinction Trials! Were you a fan before you started on this book? If there was one dinosaur that you bring back, which would it be?
Doesn't everyone love dinosaurs???? I've always been a fan. My favourite place on the planet is the American Museum of Natural History; their dinosaur specimens are just fascinating.
What I love more is the fact that millions of years on, we are still virtually discovering something new about dinosaurs every day. How brilliant is that? And if I'm bringing something back it has to be the T-Rex. Every single time!
8. How much research did you need to do into dinosaurs, and were there any surprising facts?
I did loads. I have kids books, adult books, research books and academic journals on dinosaurs. I even sent a few emails to the American Museum of Natural History which they kindly answered.
My one big change was the raptors. In real life they were the size of chickens, but Jurassic Park took a bit of poetic licence and made them bigger than humans, and for storytelling, that works well. I decided just to go with the flow and not write them differently from how they are now commonly considered.
9. How well would you have survived on the dinosaur continent, Piloria? And your weapon of choice?
I would survive approximately sixty seconds on the dinosaur continent. You'd want to be with me. Just consider me dinosaur bait. I can't climb. I'm not a great swimmer and I am definitely the slowest runner on the planet. So the dinosaurs could eat me, while you were escaping!
10. The setting of Piloria also provides lots to think about in terms of colonising virgin territories and damaging the environment; are these issues that are close to your heart?
Geography was not a subject I studied at school so I had a big learning curve on these issues. I remember visiting a museum that had an electronic counter with the population of the world climbing constantly. It was more or less terrifying. How do we sustain our planet when there are so many people? It definitely played into the story for The Extinction Trials.
11. Are you planning a sequel to Exile? If so can you give us a glimpse into what next for your characters?
There is a follow up to Exile and it will be the final book in the series. The only spoiler I'll give is that 85% of the book is set on Piloria.
12. Although dangerous, Piloria also offers much to entice the characters. Where is the most dangerous place you've ever visited?
I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere really dangerous. I've visited some great places. I loved Athens, Rome, Venice, Sicily, Monaco, Barcelona. I'm not really a beach girl and far prefer a city to explore!