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...


I've been working pretty hard of late (not like coal miner or teacher or nurse hard, but pretty hard by my standards) so I gave myself a few days off this week. I'm not a great one for holidays. I like them and all, I just never seem to have one (unless, like Lynsey always says, you include the non-stop holiday that is my life...). That's one of the problems of working for yourself – it's much harder to book a few days off because there always seems to be things to do. Work is like water, it flows out and fills up every available inch of space. Not that I'm complaining! But it is sometimes nice just to say "right, that's it, I'm having a couple of days to myself and I'm not going to do any work or check emails or anything". So that's what I did!

Not that I did anything immensely exciting. Although some of the highlights were:

A weekend of Kung Fu seminars that Jamie and I took, which were so much fun. We learned how to do Kung Fu board breaking, which was awesome (except when I tried to punch a watermelon and slipped off and punched the floor – there is a video of that which I'll try and post here one day) and joint locks, which was cool, and even how to defend ourselves from a knife attack using nothing more than a newspaper (which was fantastic, except when I tried to break a board with my newspaper and hit it with my hand instead, the same hand – I really need to work on my aim)! There was also a school BBQ which the four of us went to. It was great to meet the other students – because we have private lessons we only really see them in passing. Everybody is so lovely, it's like one great big family!

Lots of trips to the beach. We popped out to Waxham after the Kung Fu seminars. It's just the most gorgeous beach ever – miles of golden sand and warm (well, warm for England) water. The sun was blazing and we went swimming (with the seals) and played catch with the American football. So much fun! A few days later the weather was still great so we decided to go to the beach again. Lyns didn't want to go back to Waxham and I did, but in the end we went to Sea Palling (with Mum and Christopher and Matthew too) which is just down the coast and equally lovely. However, we'd only been there an hour or so before police flooded the beach and started telling us to evacuate. I thought it was a terrorist attack – in Sea Palling!!! We grabbed our stuff and vacated, only to see a bomb disposal van. It turned out that an old WWII shell had been uncovered on the beach and we all could have been blown to smithereens! It was a pain, but it was worth it for the fact that Lyns learned I am always right and should be obeyed at all times :-) We drove to Yarmouth instead and sat on the beach there for a while.

That hole would have been impressive if Jamie and Lucy dug it, but it was there when we got there! Jamie's er, new assets, however, were our doing :-)

I think this was actually taken at Wells a couple of weeks ago, but it's pretty cool!

Apart from that, and lots of Battlestar Galactica (the new series is soooooooooo good, I'll blog about it elsewhere), the week just involved hanging out with friends and having fun. I even bought a new bench for my garden and had a BBQ to celebrate:

Anyway, I'd better go get my stuff ready for Edinburgh!

The Book Smugglers

For anybody who wants an insight into what went into writing Furnace then head over to the excellent Book Smugglers blog. It's run by Ana, one of the lovely people I met at the Guillermo Del Torro signing, and is an utterly fantastic place to visit for book reviews and giveaways. Ana recently reviewed Furnace (extremely positively, thanks!) and asked me if I wanted to do a guest post. I started to write something for her, and that something became a very personal insight into a difficult period in my past which ultimately led to the creation of Alex Sawyer, the hero (antihero?) of the Furnace books. There's also a chance to win Furnace goodies!

Anyway, check it out for yourself!

And thanks, Ana, for the chance to bare my soul!

Win Books!

Just a quick note to say that if anyone would like to win copies of Furnace 1 and 2, and The Inventors 1 and 2, plus related goodies, then head on over to the wonderful Tall Tales and Short Stories blog – there are loads of copies to be won! Good luck!


The wonderful Cristy Burne, author of the upcoming Takeshita Demons series (which looks truly brilliant) has taken time out from being a writer and a new mum to interview me on her blog. Take a look here!

I was late out of bed this morning, but I had a good excuse. Yesterday I was in Oxford for a Reading Agency Roadshow! Because of strikes on the trains (now, I just want to say that I have no problem at all with people striking if they want better pay and conditions, sometimes there's no other way to get what you want and deserve, but the trains in Norwich are so bloody awful anyway that I did think a strike on top of everything else was a bit much!) I had to get up at 5.00 – yes, there is such a time in the morning, apparently – which meant I had a full four hours sleep. However, I did manage to snatch a bit of kip on the train, which was cool. A taxi across London and another train got me to Oxford, where I met up with the fantastic Alex Milway, author of the Mousehunter books and another series due next year which looks awesome! We set off in search of the Oxford University Press offices.

Wow. The OUP offices are incredible – they look more like the British Museum than a publishing house. There's even a gym inside! But we weren't there to work out (thank god), so we hung out in reception and waited for the event to start. There were loads more authors there, including the lovely M. G. Harris, who I met before at the Guillermo del Toro signing in London, plus Ali Sparkes, who is wonderful (and who signed a book for me as "To Gordon, Oh great writer of epic poems" after something I wrote for Trapped By Monsters). We all grabbed a bit of lunch and then spent the afternoon mingling with an entire room full of librarians! It was great fun – librarians are always so cool to talk to, they're always so passionate about books, and it was brilliant being able to chat to them, even if the 'speed dating' format meant that you only had 10 minutes to talk to each group! Hopefully I'll be visiting a few of their libraries in the near future to talk about writing and Furnace.

After we'd spoken to everyone (and I'd bagged as many free books as I could carry) Al and I, plus Laura and Susan from Faber, went to Cafe Rouge for a well-earned pint and some fancy food. It was a wonderfully relaxing meal, which came to an abrupt conclusion when Al suggested we try and make the next train. This would have been all well and good except in order to do so we had to run for it. Yes, I did say RUN. I'm not kidding when I say I almost died! Al was good enough to take my bag of books, but even so I could only waddle for a few paces at a time for fear of either having a heart attack or being clobbered in the head by my own pendulous man boobs. I persevered, though, and we actually made the train with about 30 seconds to go!!! So thanks, Al, for getting me home!

It was a long old day – over 12 hours on the go for 3 hours of actual talking – but well worth the trip. It's always great to hang out with Al as we have a good chat about publishing and writing. Besides, I got the chance to read some more of Ramsey Campbell's The Grin of the Dark on the train, which is one of the most terrifying books I have ever read. I'll blog about it when I've finished!

So, probably back to work today. I say probably because I'm not sure I can be bothered... I might just read instead.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

I just have to tell you all about the amazing sandcastle that we built on Wells beach on Saturday! Jamie and I popped out to meet Lyns and Lucy, and Lucy's great aunt and uncle, for the Wells carnival. Mum came too, which was lovely. After watching the floats and eating several buckets worth of ice cream we wandered up the coastal path to the beach and set about creating a masterful kingdom of sand.

I love building sandcastles – it's the same Imperial part of me that loves to build my own country in Civilisation and my own city in Sim City – it's just so much fun. And I have to say that the sand at Wells is absolutely perfect for it – it's very damp and oily, which means it holds together extremely well. We bought a giant bucket and a spade and got started on a moat, adding several turrets and a gradually ascending walkway to get to the main keep. And below is the finished result (viewed from the back, that giant mound holds the main keep, the vertiginous walls too steep for any invading army, and that wooden walkway is raisable)!

This is the view from the front (with Lucy to give a sense of scale):

Here you get a better idea of the various defences. You have to enter over a narrow bridge, guarded by a 'W' formation of towers. Invaders would have to pass into an open courtyard, leaving them exposed to attack, and would need to make their way towards the middle point of the 'W'. The only way onto the path is by passing through this tower, and anyone who does has to make their way up a steep, winding path to get to yet another tower (the upper right point of the 'W'), then through that and up another open, narrow path to reach the keep (the uppermost tower). By this point they'd have all been picked off! So all in all a pretty damn awesome construction – Peter jackson and the Lord of the Rings crew eat your heart out! The towers each represented one of the elements, with special flags, and there was a magical tree in the centre of the courtyard thanks to mum. The sand was even so wet that the moat held water for a few minutes, how cool is that!!

Here's one last picture of the architects:

Anyway, I should probably do some work now...

James Patterson!!!

Wes, my editor in the US, has just emailed me to let me know that James Patterson – quite possibly one of the best-selling writers in all of history – has read Furnace Lockdown (well, the US version, so Lockdown: Escape From Furnace) and loved it! Loved it enough, in fact, to give us this quote to use:

"Fresh and ferocious, Lockdown will hook boys with its gritty, unrelenting surprises." --James Patterson

How cool is that?! I've read a couple of Patterson's Alex Cross novels for adults and they've been tense, gripping reads (I love the films too), so it's a real honour to know that he's read my book and liked it. Thanks James! With any luck it will help me sell a fraction of the 150 million books that he has sold to date!

Another Awesome Review!

When I went down to London to meet Guillermo Del Toro I met a few people who I'd been talking to on Twitter, including the lovely Ana from The Book Smugglers. Well she was good enough to read Furnace and post a wonderful review of it on her blog! Check it out here (and have a browse of the site, it's got some really fantastic stuff on it)!

Thanks Ana!

In other news I've spent today working on the new book. This one has really grabbed me and I'm enjoying just rolling with it. I still have no idea where it's heading, but it seems to be taking a shape of its own. It's funny, when you start writing a book you really have no idea what sort of tone it's going to have, and this one is growing darker with every chapter. In fact there was a point where I wondered if it was actually going to be an adult horror book as some of the scenes were so horrible. But I think it's still best suited for an older teen audience. It could have quite easily turned into a book for 8-12s, but it wants to be something scarier and more violent, and who am I to say no to a story?! I'm 14,000 words in, I'll keep you posted on how it develops!

I haven't been sitting on my butt all day, though. For a bit of a change of scene Jamie, Lucy and I popped up to the UEA for a game of badminton and a healthy dinner, which was nice! We weren't keeping score, but I'm pretty sure I won...

I was Googling Furnace today (yes, again!) and found some reviews that I don't think I've seen before. They were written by some teachers in Australia, which is amazing! It's so great to get their approval! Anyway, I have posted them below in case anybody is interested!

Thanks everyone!

Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith (MINOR SPOILERS)

The start of this novel is gripping. More importantly, any teen male reader will just want to turn the pages as quickly as possible. A prison that is chiselled out of a huge underground cavern is an amazing setting for the incarceration of teen male offenders. The twist arrives early in the novel when it becomes apparent that prison officials head out into communities and set up potential inmates. The chapter delineations also add to the tension that the author intertwines into the plot. The temptation is to read just one more chapter. Prison life is described with great detail and with multi sensory language that engages the reader. The use of guards and their wolverine type assistants spread a fear through the ‘Furnace’. There is no escape and the inmates recognise this hopeless state. During evening lockdown, the Warden of the Furnace sends out a group of creatures called ‘wheezers’. These beings visit the cells of the teen prisoners and mark the cell bars with a large cross. The significance of this action is not only literally terrifying for the characters in the story but also for the reader. There is graphic description of the aftermath of being selected by these beings and the unfortunate cell dwellers become transformed in what appears to be secret experimentation on human teenage bodies. As in all large gatherings of people, smaller social groups develop. As expected, some of the inmates tend towards dominating as many others as possible. Alex and his small group attempt to break this standover group with violent consequences. The underground cavernous prison does have a geological flaw which is discovered by the main character Alex. Seeking the help of his cell mate Donovan, a plan of action is developed to attempt an escape. But no one escapes from Furnace! The plan becomes known to two other inmates and one of them is Kevin, the leader of the standover gang. This puts a higher risk of failure to the group but they persist. Some action packed events then occur which makes the reader feel as if there is some justice at times, no matter how small. The final chapter provides an insight into the emotional desperation of Alex and friend Zee, as they make their way to an improbable escape from Furnace. Not all of the group attempt the final step and the torment of Donovan being taken from his cell the evening prior to the escape haunts Alex. If caught, death from the Furnace authorities would result. There was only one chance for freedom and Alex took it. However, success is not guaranteed.
Trevor Dangerfield, Elisabeth Murdoch College, Vic

Set in the future, in a time of zero tolerance of youth crime, following the Summer of Slaughter, Furnace: Lockdown transports us to a sinister penitentiary, the toughest maximum security prison in the world, named after its builder, Alfred Furnace. At some twenty six floors deep into the bowels of the Earth, it is a place of violence and evil, with giant guards in black business suits, mutant dogs to chew up inmates, ‘wheezers’, with filthy coats, ancient metal gas masks stitched permanently into their skin, and carrying syringes of contaminated blood and

disease, and cruel Warden Cross, ‘patched together from darkness and filth’, with ‘eyes like vortexes to suck you in’. Furnace is a place of monsters and murderous hatred, unending terror and humiliation, where food is a pulverised rotting mush, tempers are frayed and inmates endure ‘exhausted bodies and fear-stricken minds’. ‘You’re dead. You just don’t know it yet’, the reality, as inmates’ endless days of mind games and bloodlust, rotting in the guts of the Earth, desensitise and dehumanise. Into this inhuman, unpredictable living Hell comes teenager, Alex Sawyer. With a two year history of bullying school kids for money, and of burglary, his conscience buried as “King of the World”, Alex is framed for the murder of his best friend, Toby. As ‘fresh meat’, placed in a cell with Carl Donovan, Alex quickly learns about sirens, The Skulls, work as a ‘chipper’, ‘trough time’, the ‘blood watch’ and The Hole, with other ‘new fish’, Zee and Jimmy sharing his plight. Escape appears implausible and impossible, but Alex tries to keep the idea of freedom alive. As the story reaches its powerful climax, Donovan is taken away on the ‘blood watch’ and Alex may have found a way to break the power of
Furnace. ‘Death is behind him, death is ahead’; what hope? I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, Furnace: Solitary, due for release in September 2009. Though confronting and possibly disturbing for some, Furnace: Lockdown is an amazing, highly imaginative futuristic fantasy. As an action-packed, adrenaline-charged, page-turning novel which will definitely engage readers aged 14-18, particularly males, I was hooked too. The grim, taut prose, with its horror-filled, fast-paced action and realistically chilling descriptions, brilliantly evokes the escalating tension and suspense and the terrifying, sickening brutality of this debasing, disgusting, almost demonic death camp. Furnace: Lockdown is recommended for inclusion in the secondary school library collection, for individual borrowing across all year levels, with an awareness of the extremely graphic and brutal nature of the story and its ‘eternity of hopelessness and misery’. Though a matter for individual school decision, with this in mind, for study as a shared class reader within English or Social Science classrooms, the book does have a lot to offer and, on a positive note, Alex does not give up hope. It is an excellent, cleverly crafted, thought-provoking discussion starter, presenting issues of justice, violence, punishment, power, survival and inner strength. Interesting to consider Alex was the school bully and extortionist, yet he comes to the defence of Monty when he is being bullied, it being the unwritten rule not to help, because ‘the place needs scapegoats’. Also for discussion, Alex’s family and social / cultural background pre-empting his life of crime, along with a range of creative writing
extension activities the book offers. The hint of a river running deep under Furnace, as a possible escape route, is also symbolic and a clever parallel. For Alex, having enjoyed Greek myths and legends at school, he must now get back over from the other side of his own River Styx to escape his Hell. Alexander Gordon Smith has indeed penned a riveting, sure-fire winner.
Alison Cassell, Qld

Hold your breath. Hold tight. This is a journey of fear and trepidation, of horrors no one would want to imagine. Worse than your worst nightmare. Imagine you were “actually in hell” for one of the crimes you didn’t actually commit. Well welcome to Furnace, welcome to a living hell. Thoughts of escape will be the only thing to keep you alive and wanting to go on. No sky, no daylight. Forget the niceties of The Great Escape. This is not a heroic tale. It is a story of survival. Every page unravels new fearful images - the wheezers with their faces removed. The fellow prisoners who might get to you first. Childhood is a thing of the past. You are taken through the terrifying journey of Alex and he needs to get out! This novel is not one I could say I enjoyed, but one that grabs you by the throat and leaves you with an insignificant level of hope. It is a novel I think may leave younger readers a little unnerved and therefore it really is aimed at 14 +. Boys would find it interesting as it takes them into a futuristic prison world for Juveniles. It deals with the moral issues about incarceration and how we punish crimes. It also examines the concept of innocence and how they are abandoned by the legal system. There is no justice, yet the legal system is expected to do something about juvenile crime. These not-so-innocents are the scapegoats. This novel would work well with a unit on “Conflict” but be warned, it does contain violent actions that may shock so be aware of your audience. Extracts from this could also be used with more academic students due to its appropriated references to Dante’s Inferno. This novel would entice boys to read and teach them a moral lesson along the way. Some may not like the uncertainty of the ending but there is a sequel!
Regina Forrester, NSW

When I began reading Furnace: Lockdown I was merely an adult reviewing some teenage fiction. I did not expect to find it particularly stimulating to the adult mind but I was pleasantly surprised! I now find myself quite a fan of Mr. Alexander Gordon Smith.
Lockdown is a thrilling read! It drew me in with its excellent writing, vivid descriptions and chilling mysteries. It is not however, a book for the faint hearted. The premise is ghastly, throwing a 13 year old boy into a violent, hell-like hole in the ground that is the Furnace Prison. If it were ever made into a film it would need a rather heavy rating for violence and horror if the filmmakers were to do the writing justice. Characters include writhing, demonic dogs, creepy sub-human guards and the terrifying Wheezers with their syringes “full of blackness and death”. Lockdown however also has emotional depth. I found myself laughing at the lighter moments, particularly the witty repartee between our hero Alex and his cohorts. The book is also not afraid to be tender. As a mother of boys the same age as Alex, I found myself invested in his emotional roller coaster, feeling proud of his wins, devastated by his setbacks and also a little sad as the hardness of The Furnace begins to have it’s way with him.
In a classroom setting, the topic of justice is opened up widely by this novel. When is it right to do what is usually wrong? How does injustice affect people in the short and the long term? Alex’s reflections of his earlier life and the decisions he made that led to his life of crime could promote excellent conversations amongst students. I am really looking forward to reading the next instalment in the Furnace trilogy purely for my own enjoyment! I cannot wait for more of the deeper, darker secrets of this horrific yet fascinating place to be revealed.
Jodie Sheppard, Mountain District Christian School, Vic

Har Har Me Mateys!

Everyone seems to have been working really hard the last few weeks, so on Saturday we decided to give ourselves a break and head out to Yarmouth for the day. Once there, windswept and sunburned on the beautiful beach, we played hide and seek on the dunes. Well, they're not really dunes, more lumpy bits in the beach, but there were enough contours and sea grass tufts to hide us (even my belly remained hidden from view, which is really saying something). Jamie, being a grumpy thirteen-year-old, didn't want to come at first, and we practically had to drag him away from his dank pit of a bedroom. But once he was there, running about and diving into the sand like some kind of hyperactive beach monkey, he absolutely loved it.

An hour or so later, and with enough sand in our ears and underpants to supply a glass factory for a year, we headed up the seafront and grabbed burgers / hot dogs / bacon butties, plus eight donuts. God I love beach food! We were going to have traditional fish and chips, but being optimistic I suggested we had burgers for lunch then fish and chips for tea! Next we popped into the pirate crazy golf course for a quick game before the rain came down. Lyns had never played before (which explains a lot), but then neither had Lucy and she was ace. I, of course, scored a hole in one on the third hole. Go me! Here are the hang being all piratey and golfy:

I had to leave early to run and get the car before it was clamped, and we all got a bit damp in a sudden summer storm. But it really was a lovely day, and so nice to do something that didn't involve sitting in front of a computer for twenty hours a day! In the end we didn't stop for fish and chips, but I made up for it later by sneaking out and having a pie and chips at the chippy round the corner! Sunday was a DIY day – sanding the hall floor (which is the worst job in history) and trimming the hedge (which wasn't too bad). Unfortunately it's back to my desk now, at least until Kung Fu this evening!

Interview and Review!

There's a fab interview with me up on the wonderful Tall Tales and Short Stories Blog. There have been some amazingly interesting interviews up on this blog recently, thanks to Tracy, and it's great to have the chance to appear here!

Check it out here!

Also I forgot to mention the review of Solitary that appeared in The Independent on Sunday:

"The boys in Alexander Gordon Smith's relentlessly horrific and violent Furnace: Solitary (Faber, £6.99) are running, too, this time from a futuristic, nightmarish underground prison first described in Furnace: Lockdown. It's hideously claustrophobic as they try to escape from the "wheezers" and the very real threat of being surgically rebuilt into freaks. It ends on a cliff-hanger. Teenage readers will have to wait until October for Furnace: Death Sentence, the third part of the trilogy" Susan Elkin Independent on Sunday

I'm extremely chuffed with the review, although I'm not sure which makes a better a pull-quote: "relentlessly horrific and violent" or "hideously claustrophobic"!


Feeling very inspired after the Darren Shan news, I finally got round to finishing a book that I've been working on for a while now. It's a series for younger readers, tentatively called The Ghoultown Gazette. It's a horror comedy series, and the first book is called Attack of the Shadow Demons. I haven't really written for this age group before so I'm not sure if the book works, but I've sent it off to my agent Sophie and have my fingers and toes firmly crossed! I also sent off a picture book that I've been writing, which is just a bit of fun, really, but quite sweet! I'll let you know if anything happens!

I've also started work on a new story, for teens again. The idea just hit me last week and I rolled with it. I'm not really sure where it's going, yet, but I'm really keen on the story and the two main characters, Caleb and Amaya. It's horror, of course, and I think it's going to get quite gory. But that's the way I like it!!! The first chapter has Caleb biting a dog on the nose!!

It feels good to be getting a bit of momentum with the writing again, it's been such a busy year of shows and editing that I'm way behind when it comes to producing new stuff!

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