Alexander Gordon Smith Interview
I had the pleasure of being able to do an interview with Alexander Gordon Smith, the author of the Furnace book series. He was super nice and willing to help me out and I have to give him major props for his awesome response to my questions (no matter how ridiculous they were). A co-worker of mine said she’d read his books based off his answers alone so that’s gotta say something right? Read away my friends and enjoy…
Hi Cassidy, thanks for interviewing me on WatchPlayRead, it’s fantastic to be here!
- If any song could be the theme song of your life, what would it be?
Great question! It would probably be Tonight Tonight by the Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve always loved that song and it contains the lyrics “the impossible is possible” which is how I try to live my life! I tend to listen to soundtracks more when I’m writing, though, and ideally I’d have Hans Zimmer (my favourite composer, he wrote the music for dozens of films including The Dark Knight, Inception, Gladiator and The Thin Red Line) and an orchestra following me around twenty-four hours a day to compose a soundtrack for my life as I lived it!
- How do you relate to the main character of the Furnace series, Alex? Does he share some of your traits and/or experiences?
Alex is me, but a version of me that made a few bad decisions in his life. When I was a teenager, I went through a phase of getting into trouble – nothing as bad as Alex, but staying out all night, getting into fights, drinking in biker bars, that kind of thing. Thanks to my family I got back on track before it became too serious, but Alex was a version of me that didn’t get rescued. Whereas I grew up and lived my life, he never got the chance to – he was stuck in this weird purgatory in my mind. Years later, when I was looking for a scary story to write, I realized that Alex’s life was the perfect starting place. He wanted to live, to have a story to tell, so I kind of just sat back and let him tell it. Luckily for me that story involved a terrifying prison and some incredible adventures! I wrote the story exactly as Alex lived it. It really felt as though I was just transcribing the events, rather than creating them – sometimes the story moved so fast I could barely keep up with him!
So yes, there are parts of Alex that are totally autobiographical, which is why I think – I hope – that his voice is so strong, and so believable. It’s why he’s a complex character, not a hero but not a villain either, just a regular kid who has made a few bad choices and is trapped inside this nightmare. Of course the more I wrote, the more Alex became a separate, unique individual – he’s a lot cooler than me for one thing! He’s more like a brother now than anything. I still feel so close to him, even though the series has finished. I know Alex better than I know any other soul on Earth!
- If they were to make a movie of the Furnace series, who would you like to play Alex?
Wow, a movie of the Furnace books would be the best thing ever!! There has been talk of it, and the books are doing the rounds in Hollywood, but nothing has been confirmed yet. I’d quite like to see a cast of unknowns – when you don’t recognize actors in a movie it makes the story more believable. Having said that, I always thought that a young Shia LeBeouf would have made a great Alex, and J. D. Williams (Bodie from The Wire) would have been ideal as Donovan. They’re both a bit old now! My choice for the warden would be Liam Neeson because I think he could play evil really well. Who do you guys suggest?
- If they made a movie of your life, who would you want to play you?
I got asked this question when I was studying film at college. Back then I said Bill Murray, because he’s one of my heroes, and I think I’d still pick him even though he’s way too old to play me! He’s just a genius.
- What made you decide to transition to young adult novels, after starting out writing children’s books?
I didn’t really set out to write Furnace for any specific age group – it could have ended up as a children’s, YA or even an adult horror. I just had this character, Alex, in my head and I knew he wanted to tell his story. I wrote down what happened exactly as I saw it. I didn’t censor it (well, apart from the swearing) and I didn’t try to force the book towards a particular age group. I think if you do that – if you are over-conscious of who you are writing for – then you sometimes end up compromising. And I didn’t want to do that. The story in the book is exactly the way that Alex lived it, and it turned out to be a YA one!
- What is your favorite book and/or author, and why?
My favourite book of all time has to be Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. In my eyes it’s the perfect story, with the perfect characters, perfectly written. It’s an incredible book. My favourite author, though, has to be Stephen King. He’s another one of my heroes, and one of the reasons I started writing. He has an amazing ability to create utterly real characters, people you totally believe in and who you genuinely care about, and his imagination is boundless. When the horror starts in a Stephen King book, you know the characters so well that you get totally sucked in to their world, their nightmares. You’re fighting for survival right there alongside them. It’s an amazing experience.
- What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Being from the UK, I’m afraid I don’t know what a Klondike bar is! However, if it’s chocolate (or any kind of candy for that matter) then I’d do pretty much anything for it. I don’t have much willpower when it comes to sugar! It’s probably better to ask what I wouldn’t do for a Klondike bar…
- What was your inspiration for the Furnace series?
Like I say, Alex was the real inspiration for Furnace. I wanted to write something really scary, and I couldn’t think of any ideas that genuinely terrified me. But I had this character in my head, this version of me, and I realized that Alex’s life was the perfect starting place for a horror story. I also drew on my own worst fears – being accused of a crime I didn’t commit, being buried alive, being hunted, mutant dogs (I love dogs, but ever since I saw one of my best friends get their ear chewed off by an Alsatian I’ve been a bit nervous of them)! I wanted Furnace to be a frightening experience for the reader, and I knew that if I wrote about the things that I was scared of then the fear and panic and claustrophobia in the book would be real.
- Since WatchPlayRead is a geek’s paradise, what is something that makes you geek out?
Everything! I am a total geek, and proud of it! I love comics, I play video games (including Warcraft – I’m Gordzilla on Chamber of Aspects if anyone wants to look out for me), I collect weird toys and action figures, I’m in love with all things Japanese, I get ridiculously excited by sci-fi weapons and gadgets, I build weird inventions as research for books (usually with my little brother Jamie) and I’m utterly obsessed by horror. Being a geek means you get to stay young at heart, it’s a great thing!
- Any hints on what’s to come in the future for Alex and the Furnace inmates?
I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who haven’t read the books. But I will say that the series gets more terrifying and more action packed with every new installment! In Solitary, Alex and his friends discovers that there are even worse horrors than the warden and his freaks in the blood-soaked tunnels beneath the prison. And in Death Sentence, Alex realizes that in order to defeat his enemies, he may have to become one of them…
I really hope you all enjoy the books!
- Would you rather have the ability to fly or be invisible?
I’d love to be able to fly. I have dreams about it sometimes, and the feeling of pushing up from the ground and soaring into the air is exhilarating. I hate planes – they’re number one on my list of fears – so being able to fly between countries by myself would be so awesome. Being invisible would be cool for a little while, I think, but it would soon get a bit boring. Being able to fly would never lose its appeal.
- What made you decide to become a writer? Did you have any other ideas for your life before you started writing or was this what you always wanted to do?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was six or seven. When I was really young I used to think that books were magic, that they appeared on the shelves by themselves. As soon as I realized that real people wrote books – and I have my parents to thank for that as they used to make up stories for me and my sister – I thought that if other people could do it then so could I. I’ve still got some of my first stories, and they’re pretty awful, but I kept writing and kept reading and gradually got better. I’m so lucky to be able to make a living doing the thing I love most, and I think that anyone out there who wants to be a writer (or who has any kind of dream) should just go for it. Anything is possible.
The only other job I’ve ever wanted is to be a truck driver. I still think that I’ll have a break from writing and spend a year driving those massive rigs back and forth across the States, and maybe even up the frozen rivers. It would be awesome!
- Any advice for aspiring writers out there?
I think the most important piece of advice is to never, ever give up. No matter what happens, no matter how long it takes, don’t ever lose sight of that dream. You have to want to be a writer because you love writing, because you have stories that you want to tell. The road to publication can be a rocky one, and yes there will be rejections along the way – almost all writers go through the same thing. Harry Potter was rejected by about twelve different publishers before Bloomsbury took it on! I compare getting a rejection to going on a bad date. You want to find somebody special, somebody who totally understands what your writing is about, who shares the same excitement for it. You’re not always going to find that connection with the first editor you contact, or the second, and so on. In order to find your soulmate you have to meet a few frogs along the way! If you get a rejection, just mark it down to experience and keep writing.
If you’re passionate about your writing, if you love telling stories and creating characters and building worlds, if you keep working at it and keep dreaming, then you WILL be successful.
Other than that, the best piece of advice I can offer is to read and read and read and read. It’s the best education a writer can get.
Good luck with your writing!!
And thanks again for interviewing me on WatchPlayRead, it’s been great! :-)