I can honestly say I’ve never before returned home at ten minutes past ten – in the morning – from meeting an author. But at least there’s a lot of day left after a thing like that. ‘I’m going to Manchester?’ asked Michael Grant when I emailed him. It’s not easy to know, especially when it says Cheadle Hulme on your itinerary. Trust me, it was Manchester.
We couldn’t decide whether to shake hands or hug. In the end I hugged Michael’s middle and he did something in the vicinity of my head. I had cold hands, so it was probably a good idea. And then we sat down for some post-breakfast coffee and water. It was very nice water.
Michael’s combined Fear-BZRK tour has gone well, and he told me he’d been greeted like a rock star at one Scottish school (always nice when that happens) and the Mitchell library in Glasgow had been impressive.
I wanted to know if Michael actually understands all the computer gamey stuff to do with BZRK, but he sort of avoided admitting to anything. He’s had creative control over the contents of the ARG, but obviously got someone else in to do the transmedia stuff. There will be three books in total, and he’s not saying that some of the characters won’t change sides. I’d been wondering about Bug Man, and Michael said ‘Bug Man is completely amoral, or at least he is in book one. He may have an awakening in book two. And Sadie and Noah will realise how trapped they are.’ So now you know! Or not.
BZRK isn’t exactly politically correct. Sacrifices have to be made. Every war has been like that, and this is war. ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions. People always start off with some sort of rationale, and you can’t really kill people unless you think you are doing something good. It is a hell of a fine line and a very dangerous place to go.’
I pointed out it’s hard to grasp exactly what happens in BZRK with the biots and the nanobots, and Michael mentioned how ‘if you write near-future stuff, then you’ve got reality nipping at your heels the entire time. I thought it was speculative when I wrote it and now it’s fact.’
(I’ll mention right now that I ‘ve tried to avoid any spoilers for Fear, as no one will have read it yet. But it’s hard, because Michael said so many interesting things about it.)
I tried asking for some early, inside information on Light, the book that comes after Fear (which is out in April), but like the last time we met, he’s keeping most of it to himself. That includes the very big secret that he hasn’t even begun writing it. Michael has a ‘mere’ four books coming out this year, and another four to write next year. But he doesn’t suffer from RSI, because he only types with two fingers, and he likes doing it sitting in a rocking chair on his deck, squirming a lot.
I mentioned that all his books are quite long, as well. ‘Stupid of me. I should write shorter books. I hope I can nail it in four months.’ Basically, the situation Michael has laid out in Fear, will have to be resolved and everything tied up neatly in Light. He’s confident he’ll be able to. ‘It’s been a long, long job and I’ve had fun through the whole thing.’
We tried to see if we could agree on whether Drake or Penny is the worst, but it’s a hard one. Drake is bad, but he’s normal whilst being evil. Penny is a psycho, and even Drake can’t stand her. And for the Astrid haters Michael explained that ‘I deliberately made people dislike Astrid, she’s the girlfriend, the perfect girl in so many ways.’
I said how impressed I’ve been with the development of all the children in the FAYZ. How they’ve been able to learn to do what modern children never need to, or get the opportunity to do. Michael feels that too many adults – and it’s always the adults – have very little belief in the capabilities of children today, and that includes being really horrible to others.
Something that wasn’t clear to me when we last met, was that whereas little Pete is autistic, I suspected it was ‘just something he was.’ It has since become obvious that Pete’s autistic-ness has a bearing on all that happens in the FAYZ.
As Michael put it, ‘I wanted the basic theory, that the gaiaphage alters the law of physics. Autistics have brains that are overly wired, too ready to go, and they get hit with data and it’s just like opening up a firehose in their heads and then they withdraw. So I thought that’s the kind of person who would be particularly vulnerable. Pete has all the power and no responsibility, so I thought that would be fun to play with. How I’m ending that I don’t know. I’ll figure it out…’
I had to apologise that it was me taking photos this time, but said hello from the real photographer, mentioning that her pictures of Michael are about to appear in an American reference book on authors. ‘Photos? You’re kidding? I’ve kind of lost weight since then.’ He has, and he looked good, dressed in a more relaxed style. I wanted to know the secret behind his success. ‘The usual really depressing way of eating less and exercising a whole lot. Way more exercise than you think it will have to be, and you have to be a lot more hungry.’
I told him about Bookwitch and Michael Grant fan Cynical, who had instructed me to tell him who he can and who he can’t kill off. I’d brought a greeting to her from him to pose with, which he gamely did. ‘Cynical Kate.’ He laughed. ‘I like that!’ We went outside to get better light, and ever the perfectionist, Michael had to check all the photos…
Once I’d snapped him with the real Manchester in the background, it was time for me to go catch a train and for Michael and his publicity lady, Isla, to check out of the hotel in order to convey themselves and all of Michael’s luggage to Cheadle Hulme and his next school event.
(This previously appeared as a blog post on 16th March 2012.)