Welcome to my
online journal...

My name is Alexander Gordon Smith, and I'm the author of various books including The Inventors series and the brand new Furnace series.

This is my blog, and is where I talk about books, writing and, well, probably other stuff too...

Fun at the Palace

No, not Buckingham Palace, Crystal Palace! Today I was down in South London at Alex Milway's wonderful Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival, which he has set up from scratch for the first time this year. Now, setting up a whole festival is no mean feat, it takes a huge amount of work and passion and creativity, and is, from what I've heard, pretty much a full-time job. But Alex is perfect for that job, as he does have oodles and oodles of enthusiasm and creativity. He decided to set up a festival, and he just went ahead and did it! And what a fantastic job he made of it too.

There were a series of workshops throughout the day, of which mine was one. I headed down on the train (well, trains, as there were bloody ENGINEERING WORKS so one train became about three hundred, but then that was the only bad part of the day so I can't really complain) and went straight to Upper Norwood Library, run by the lovely Fiona. I was about five minutes late, so when I arrived I saw that my workshopees were already waiting – mostly kids, but also a couple of adults who thought it was an adult workshop (one of which, I realised later, was Cristy Burne, winner of the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award for her new novel Takeshita Demons, which looks amazing)! They were all great, and we cracked into some exercises straight away, including how to build the foundation of a horror story by looking at your worst fears. An hour later and there were some terrifying plots for horror stories doing the rounds, and I hope that everyone who was there goes off and writes a scary story! Many thanks to everybody who came, it was great meeting you all!

Afterwards I went for a delicious (but very hot) Thai lunch with Alex and some other festival folk and we chatted about books and writing and films and all sorts of other things, which is always lovely but especially so once you've finished a workshop and can relax. Thanks to Bookpirate for footing the bill! After that we waddled contentedly up to The Bookseller Crow for an afternoon of readings. It was a fantastic lineup, with Alex reading from his new Mousehunter book, then the marvelous Sam Enthoven reading from TIM Defender of the Earth, then me, then Sarwat Chadda with his first ever reading from his new horror Devil's Kiss. It was the first time I'd met Sam and Sarwat, and they were both brilliant. I'm really looking forward to reading their books. Incidentally, I discovered that Sarwat's mother-in-law lives about one minute from my house in Norwich, how weird is that?! After some signings from the DFC illustrators we headed over to Smash Bang Wallop, a lovely gallery, and enjoyed some well-earned drinks. I met tonnes of other talented people there, including Sue Eves, although I didn't get to meet her wonderful dog.

So all in all a perfect day, and Alex should be immensely proud of himself for pulling it all together so expertly. Hopefully there will be another one next year!

And I just have to say that out of all the places I've ever been in London, Crystal Palace is by far the nicest. Where else can you be walking down the street, turn your head to the side and be blown away by a view like this (which, if you can't make it out, is the WHOLE of London):

Happy Birthday Lucy!!!

Yay, 10!!!!

We had a day of shopping yesterday to celebrate, and I treated Lucy to a DSi, which are actually pretty cool. The cameras, and photo editing software, are the best thing about them, so much fun! After shopping we met Lyns and had dinner in Pizza Express, which was yummy. I really should do something about my expanding waistline though...

Anyway, have a great birthday week, Lucy!

Happy Birthday Mike!

He turns 50 today!!! I do quite like having a friend who's old enough to be my dad, it makes me feel better whenever I start worrying about the fact I'm 30... I popped out to join him for a drink at the Adam and Eve, which is the oldest pub in Norwich. I brought my Uncle Frank with me too, which was great as he lives in Aberdeen and we hardly ever see each other, or even speak to each other, let alone go out for a drink with each other. It was great being able to have a good chat with him about writing and life, especially as he's one of the main reasons I wanted to be an author. He once wrote a series of stories about a dragon called Whispy, who couldn't blow fire, and I'll never forget reading them as a kid and realising that these stories hadn't just magically appeared in books, they had been written by somebody I know, and if my uncle could write stories, then I could too! Not to mention they were brilliant. Go on, Frank, write some more!

A Break Between Edits...

I've just sent off the final proof edit for Furnace: Solitary, which feels great. It is a terrifying, spine-chilling, bowel-loosening feeling, though, sending a book off for the final time. I mean even in this final read-through I found some more typos. Frank, my uncle and a great proof-reader (and writer), found one where I'd written 'nose' instead of 'noise'. How do these things slip through?! There are bound to be some typos in the finished book, but I guess that's just life. And it happens to everyone. I recently read on the wonderful and mega-famous Darren Shan's blog that his latest Demonata book had a whopping great big typo on the last page where the publisher had run some text on from the last line. Which is awful!

Anyway, Furnace 2 is now done and dusted, and it's now straight on to the copy edit for Furnace 3. Copy edits are less stressful than proof edits, I find, as you know you'll have a couple more chances to change anything further down the line. However, they are a lot more work because they often involve some big and complicated structural edits, and sometimes rewrites of entire sections of the book. But I've only got until Friday to get this back to Trevor, the fantastic copy-editor, so I'm hoping it won't be too bad...

Before I crack on with that, though, here's a quick rundown of the highlights from the last few days:

Thursday: Lynsey, Lucy and I went to Yarmouth for a quick visit to the Sea Life Centre, which was fab. There are loads of great fish and other sea creatures there, some of which you can touch. I even prodded a starfish, although was told afterwards that I'd actually poked it in the bum (which is right in the middle of its back). Nice! The highlight of the place was the octopus, which was only small but which was truly mesmerising to watch. They are so graceful, and so alien, and so beautiful. And they're as clever as dogs, cleverer actually as they can unscrew jars if they want whatever's inside, and I've never seen a dog unscrew a jar! After that we walked along the seafront playing on the arcades and eating fish and chips and doughnuts. Great fun! The only disappointment about the day was that Jamie didn't want to come. He wanted to go into town with his friends and buy World of Warcraft. Oh where has my lovely little brother gone?!

I popped into town afterwards to meet up with some friends, Luke, John and Nathan. But by 10 we were all knackered, and Luke, bless him, had actually fallen asleep in the bar. It's terrible getting old.

Friday: Lucy was at a sleepover so Lynsey and I went to see Let the Right One In, which is an amazing Swedish vampire film. I won't say too much about it, other than that it is remarkably atmospheric, and terrifying. The two main actors, both children, are fantastic, and the film instantly catapulted its way into my top five vampire films of all time. Go see it! I'm going to buy the book as well, as apparently it's also really, really good.

Saturday: My good friend Joel is getting married in a couple of weeks, and to celebrate his Stagness we decided to do something outdoorsy and adventurous. Luke booked fourteen of us at Go Ape, which is a massive assault course set 35 feet above the ground in Thetford Forest. I've been before, and remembered very little about it except for being covered in cold sweat and shaking like a leaf by the time I'd finished. It seemed a little better this time round, but it's still bloody hard work. It's all climbing rope ladders, crossing tiny bridges, swinging over the ground on Tarzan swings, struggling up rope nets and speeding down ziplines, which was all terrifying but great, great fun. By the time I'd finished I was definitely at least 3% more of a man than when I'd started. After that it was curry then beer, although I managed to get away with only having four pints and a cup of tea, and as a result lost the 3% gain in manliness that I had accrued earlier than day. Never mind.

Sunday: I was on the radio, see below!

Monday: Kung Fu again, and we're all really getting into it now. We've finished learning the first form, and plenty more to boot. So much fun! And Jamie seemed much more himself today as well, rather than the sulky teenager we've got used to. It was fun watching Lucy and Jamie playing around crazily like they always used to!

So that's about it for the last few days. I'd better get on with the edit now, wish me luck!

The Future of Gordy

Sorry about the lack of posts, it's been a crazy week of editing – just finished the final, last-minute, heart-attack-inducing proof edit of Furnace 2 and about to begin the copy edit of Furnace 3 – but I did have time to go on Future Radio yesterday to chat with the lovely Simone about films, horror and lots more. Podcast here!

Ha ha!

Thanks to Jen for making a little Gordy boat montage:

Trapped By Monsters

The wonderful site Trapped By Monsters is running a poetry challenge which is well worth entering if anyone enjoys silly verse! The rules are the poem can be no more than eight lines long, must include the word Bobbly, and must answer the question: Is there any chance it snapped off by mistake? Here's my rather dismal effort!

The Short Saga of Slobbery McHorribly
There once lived a beastie called Slobbery McHorribly,
Whose slippery snout was all nobbly and bobbly.
He would wheeze through the forest sniffing everyone smelly,
Leaving them covered in bogeys and nose jelly.
Well one day the monsters grew tired of his schnozz,
And snuck into his snotnest to cut the thing off.
When dawn came the monsters said to old Slobbery:
‘Must have snapped off by mistake, but at least you can breath properly!”


After a stressful morning of film stuff yesterday (who would have thought that making a feature-length movie with no money and no experience would be so difficult?!?!?) I was in desperate need of some fun. Luckily for me the Easter Fair was on in Chapelfield Gardens! I went and met Lucy and Lynsey, and their friend from Manchester, Nicky, at the Red Lion and wolfed down a gorgeous Sunday Lunch, then we swung by and picked up Jamie and headed into town for some seasonal fun.

I very quickly began to regret having eaten so much for lunch...

It wasn't so bad to start with. Jamie and I had a go on all the gun games (as boys are wont to do), and won Lucy a fair few cuddly toys to add to the ones that the girls had won on various other games. We got a bit obsessed with the hoop games too, and came painfully close to victory so many times. I've been a bit nervous of carnies (are we allowed to call them that?) ever since we had a carnival at university, and my friend Luke was bold enough to ask whether the hoops actually fit over the things they were supposed to fit over. The only response he got was in the form of the stall owner vaulting over the counter and chasing him across a field. Which kind of answers the question, really. But the lady at the Easter Fair did show us that a win was achievable, and indeed we managed to add to the little posse of cuddly bears and elephants and other creatures that Lynsey was lugging around in her bag.

After that it was the Dodgems, which I absolutely adore. I think we went on five times in the end, and we all must have had severe whiplash by the time we staggered off. I've got a huge bruise on my knee where Lynsey and Nicky rammed me!

After that I was feeling a tad green, but Jamie was adamant that I joined him on some horrific spinny contraption that looked more like a torture device from the Inquisition than something you'd do for fun. I held out as long as I could but then gave in. Now, I used to go on these rides all the time when I was a kid, sometimes twenty times in a row, and come off feeling as fresh as a daisy. But I'm OLD now! I swear, when that thing started I honestly thought I was going to have a stroke. You know that feeling when you're at the train station and a high-speed one shoots past and you try and follow it and you feel like somebody has pulled your stomach out of your bottom? Well that's what it felt like, but it wouldn't stop! After a minute or so I got used to it, then for the next couple of minutes it was actually okay, then I started to feel like I was going to chunder, and was eyeing Jamie's new jacket as a way of getting revenge for making me ride the ride. But fortunately it stopped soon after and I managed to sway back onto solid ground. I was so ill that I only just managed to eat a hot dog and some candy floss, which for me, at a fair, isn't very much at all!

After that the girls went off to watch 17 Again, which I thought was probably even more likely to make me hurl than the fairground ride, so Jamie and I went home. A great day though!

Aye aye, Cap'n!

Today I'm recovering after a day on the boat. Not my boat, obviously, but a day hire boat. Kate, Simon and I hired one out for a location scout on the Broads. The weather forecast promised rain, but it was glorious sunshine all day (apart from the ten minutes where we were mooring the boat when it rained so much and so hard I thought we were going to sink), so much so that I'm currently burned to a crisp! It was absolutely beautiful out there on the rivers and broads, I can't believe I haven't done it since I was a kid, especially considering it's less than half an hour up the road and cheap as chips.

We took our little picnic boat out at Wroxham and chugged along the waterways through Horning and up to Ranworth. Here we met Jen (the director), Tania (the DoP) and Nathan (who had nothing better to do), grabbed some lunch in a nearby pub, then set sail (well, set engine) and travelled a bit further downstream. There are some magnificent locations – including an old 14th Century Abbey which is supposed to be haunted by a monk who was skinned alive and nailed to the door, nice! – and we're definitely hoping to use some for the film. The week on the boat is the one I'm most excited about, as hopefully it will feel like one big holiday!

The best thing about the trip, though, was the birds. There were so many of them – grebes, coots and we even saw about ten herons – and it was so wonderful to see them. Yes, I know, I'm starting to sound like my dad... The coots were my favourite. When you throw bread for them they stretch their wings and run along the water to catch it, it's such a funny thing to watch:

It's funnier when they're not in slow motion, but that's the only video I could find! And wouldn't it be so cool to be able to do that!

I'm going to try and get out on a boat a few times this year. My friend Tom, who runs Gatehouse Press, has just bought one, so I'm hoping to go down and take that out for a spin...

Just call me Captain Gordy!

Mind you, it was so knackering, even though you're just standing around doing nothing. Nathan, Jen and I came back to mine afterwards (after bumping into Lynsey and Lucy, coincidentally, and giving them a lift home, it's a small world) and we were going to watch a film, but we were all drifting off at about half nine. We just about had enough energy for a curry though :-)

Easter fair today, yay!

Not again!

Just got back from seeing Monsters Vs Aliens 3D... Again! Jamie couldn't come with us last time, so I promised I'd take him again. I wanted to go and see Fast and Furious (saaaad, I know) but he was insistent. I checked out how the 3D system worked before going this time, and it's such a clever thing. Jamie loved the film, and I have to say I really enjoyed watching it again, but it's definitely the 3D that makes it. And I gave in to Jamie's demands for a Dominos for tea, even though I know it's going to lodge itself in my guts for a week and stop me from sleeping... Nice!

It was cool to spend some time with Jamie though, what with his skateboarding I hardly see him these days!

Zoo For Gordy!!!!

Yay, we made it today! I managed to talk Lynsey and Lucy into it, and Lucy brought her friend Lauren, and together with two teddy bears we all drove over to Banham Zoo for the afternoon. It was so much fun! There is a great selection of animals there, from exotic ones like tigers and giraffes to more mundane things like, well, sheep. Actually it was one of those mundane ones that really stole our hearts, the cutest little goat kid in the world!!!

I really loved seeing the giraffes – so tall – but the real highlight of the day was watching the cheetahs and tigers getting fed. I know they're safely behind bars, but there's still something absolutely amazing (and terrifying) about being a metre or so away from a big cat. When they look you in the eye you still feel that instinctive fear, that knowledge that you wouldn't last two seconds in the wild if you were nose to nose. And yet at the same time they're so cute! We fed the sheep and goats ourselves, although the way the goats were going for my fingers I thought they were turning into carnivores too!

It's incredible seeing just a fraction of the huge variety of wildlife out there, from spoonbills and marmots to spider monkeys and wolves. And don't forget the meerkats, and the seals! I do have mixed feelings about zoos, especially when you see some of the smaller compounds (and especially especially when you see the birds without room to fly properly), but I guess you've got to remember that so many of these species are on the verge of extinction, and zoos with their research and breeding programmes are a great way to ensure that doesn't happen. And it really does make you appreciate your place in the magnificent mix of nature.

No monkeys throwing poo though :-(

I think I might adopt something. Any suggestions? It would have to be one of the unpopular animals that nobody else adopts. Like a camel. Or a pig.

Anyway, debating whether to go out and see Knowing, don't know if I can be bothered to see Nicholas Cage overacting. Again.

Oh, and I wasn't sure what these were, but they were very cute.

I thought since it was such a nice day yesterday we should all do something fun, and I suggested going to the zoo. I haven't been to the zoo for years, and I do love looking at all the animals. But could I convince anybody to go? No! Jamie, now 13 bless him, only wants to skateboard, and despite being covered in bruises and having a huge gash on his face from a recent faceplant he still insists on foregoing everything in favour of whizzing around on a plank of wood attached to some tiny wheels. I don't personally see the attraction, I mean maybe if it had a V8 engine attached to it... I asked Lynsey and Lucy, but they inexplicably chose to stay at home and watch the Chuckle Brothers. Thanks a lot, Barry and Paul.

So instead I decided to catch up on some mail, and managed to post off a load of parcels to people which I'd been meaning to do for ages. And I also finally got the nail pulled out of my car tyre. It was actually a huge screw in the end, god only knows how it got in there. Which was all very fun, but hardly as good as watching monkeys throw poo at each other.

The day was saved in the end when Jen rang and asked if I fancied a McDonalds with her and Nathan, which I didn't, really, but I thought I should force one down in an attempt to be social. It was delicious, although I got a Crunchie McFlurry not realising that they had Cream Egg ones, cheated! After that we got some beers and spent the next five hours running people over in Grand Theft Auto. I don't know what it is about that game but it turns people into monsters! So much fun, though...

Anyway, I'm about to try my zoo plan again today, even though it's raining.

Reliving the Past

I've just pasted all my old blog posts on the new blog, which was nice as I got to read back over them all – something I'd never normally do. It really has been an exciting couple of years. Unfortunately some of my old posts seem to have been lost in the cyberether, which means I have to rely on my highly unreliable memory to recall them! Never mind.

A New Blog

Well I thought it was about time for a new blog, mainly because I was writing the old one in html, which literally meant spending loads of time formatting each entry, including copying and pasting every ' and " because for some reason browsers didn't seem to recognise the punctuation that Word provided. What a palaver, it's a wonder I ever wrote an entry at all!

So anyway, this is the new one. Hopefully I'll update a little more regularly now because it's so much easier. But then again I'll probably just find another excuse not to write!

I will just take this opportunity to post some of the reviews that Furnace has been getting. It's been such a joy to see it get such a positive response, and I want to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read it and say such wonderful things. THANKS!

Framed for a murder he didn't commit, Alex is sent to the depths of Furnace prison for life. Or death. The only hope is escape.The unremitting physical and mental horrors of Furnace, with its skulls, wheezers and blacksuits stalking the darkness, will be addictive and gripping for teenage readers who like their villains really, really bad and the fear factor ramped up high.The start of an adventure series – but not for sensitive souls, I think. (Ages 12-plus.)
Sally Morris, Daily Mail

"Smith is a fantastic writer; the prose is sharp and focused, with descriptions that bring this alternate reality to life. Furnace itself is well conceived as a place; absolutely scary and claustrophobic to match, with evil guards and inmates obviously holding onto their minds by the skin of their teeth."

"Here is a dark and dangerous tale of false imprisonment and violent brutality. No, it's not Big Brother, but the new novel from the writer of The Inventors. In a more mature mode, this story takes Alex and throws him into the seven pits of Hell. Alex is a burglar and not a nice guy. One night, while trying to steal some computer gear, he and his mate are confronted by a bunch of mysterious heavy-fisted men who shoot his pal and then frame him for the murder. This being a futurisitic society, the justice system has got tough. Built out of rock and buried miles underground is the Furnace, a hot and claustrophobic prison, full with teenage tearaways. Who are the mystery men and why are they framing young people? You'd be a fool to miss finding out in this tense, exciting and terrifying read."
Thomas Murphy, Flipside

'Faber is coming in all guns blazing with this new series starting in March with Lockdown. It's Faber's teen lead for 2009 and it will be putting the work in to getting plenty of attention. Aimed squarely at a male readership. Smith introduces Furnace-the worst prison in the world, a youth detention centre, a vast hell of an underground fortress and the destination of 13-year-old Alex. He's been on the wrong side of the law but not for the murder he's been accused of: why is he there and how can he escape?'
Ones to Watch, The Bookseller

'Alex Sawyer is no angel but he doesn't deserve to get sent for life to the hellish juvenile prison that is Furnace. It's a subterranean borstal carved out of the bowels of the earth, presided over by brutal black-garbed guards and gasmask-wearing creatures known as "wheezers" that are like something out of one of Clive Barker's worst nightmares.Alexander Gordon Smith employs tight, gutsy language to tell Alex's story, as his hero is framed for murder, gains allies and enemies inside Furnace, and finally, inevitably, plans an audacious jailbreak. This is a punch-between-the-eyes kind of read, punishing in every sense, Gothic in its horrors, darkly claustrophobic.'
James Lovegrove, Financial Times

'Fears of imprisonment are a strong strain for older readers and Alexander Gordon Smith's Furnace: Lockdown a prison "where death is the least of your worries", is an adrenaline-packed thriller for teens that grumpy boys will gulp down as escapism.'
Amanda Craig The Times

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