Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for Jeff Norton's book 'Metawars: Fight for the Future' which is being published on August 2nd, 2012 by Orchard Books. As well as being an author, Jeff is also a filmmaker and the founder of Awesome, a creative incubator.
I’m very fortunate to play in the creative sandboxes film, television, and now books.
For background, I’m an escapee from the zoo of advertising, and I then worked on both the creative and corporate side of entertainment, produced an award winning family film, managed the Enid Blyton literary estate, and then just over two years ago jumped feet first into the choppy waters of writing.
I’m media agnostic. I now write professionally for television, film (including a feature film I’m attached to direct), but my heartland is books.
It’s a myth that the world of books and the world of film and television are worlds apart. The creative process of dreaming up something new and special and bringing it to life starts in the exact same place: on the page.
I spend every day (starting early) dreaming up and developing the most exciting stories I can muster. And I find my training in screenplay development to be an invaluable tool. Good script development focuses the mind on finding the true essence of a story. A screenplay is a thin document, between 90 to 120 pages (the guiding assumption is one page equals one minute of screen time, which is generally right unless you write rapid-fire banter like Aaron Sorkin). If you’ve never read a screenplay, I highly suggest it. The scripts of many of our favourite films have screenplays online (during Oscar season) and when you read a script for the first time, you’ll be amazed at how efficient the writing is. Every single word on the page pulls its weight. A great script is in service to only one master, the story.
My first book, METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, is an action-packed thriller. It’s the story of two teenagers caught up in the war for control over the internet. The story takes place in a near future when we’re running out of oil and so whoever controls the web, controls the world. Jonah is a sheltered teenager living on a retired bus (with a huge population and no oil, all the London buses have been turned into flats!) with his widowed mother, while Sam is a globe-trotting insurgent, part-assassin, part-terrorist. She spends her nights blowing up buildings that house computer servers in an effort to break the monopoly that one company has over the internet (imagine a mash-up of Google + Apple + facebook + Xbox).
A few early reviewers have called it “cinematic” and “hyper-visual” and it was my intention to trigger the visual imagination to bring the story world to life in the reader’s mind.
The big difference between visual media and text media is the sheer amount of people required to bring the visual media to life. If you’ve ever seen a film crew shooting a scene, you know exactly what I mean. All of those people!
And yet both start with black text on white paper (or in my case, screen). In the case of film and TV, a large team of creative professionals translate the written word into a dynamic visual experience. Books start the same way, with words arranged on a page, but have a very special, one-to-one relationship with the reader. The reader is director, producer, sfx, costume, and (in my case when I read) catering. Cinema-goers today may get 3D, but the reader gets “5S” – a five sensory experience. My job is to put the right words on the page in the right order so that the reader can translate the letters into a multi-sensory experience using the imagination.
It’s my ambition with METAWARS to create a world (well, two worlds actually; the dystopian real world and the dizzying virtual world) that is so immersive and so compelling that young readers will be pulled in and won’t want to leave.
The success criteria for METAWARS is the torch to bedroom light ratio; that is, how much clandestine reading the reader pursues, under the covers and lit only by torchlight, after a parent declares “bedtime” and orders “lights out.”
One of my driving forces in creating the world of METAWARS was to originate a series (there are four books) that would successfully compete with films, tv, and video games for the attention of reluctant readers.
I was a very reluctant reader as a boy, and truthfully found the characters, stories, and worlds in movies, tv, and even early video games to be much more compelling than the books that my parents or school was forcing on me.
It wasn’t until I discovered the second-person narratives of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ game-books and subsequently a dark, dystopian novel called ‘After the Bomb’ that I believed that books had something to offer me. Of course, reading is a lot like athletics: the more you practice, the better you are, and the more confidence you develop. It’s a virtuous circle, but as a reluctant or under-practiced reader finding the right place to hop onto the reading carousel can be daunting and intimidating.
It’s my hope that reluctant readers like I used to be, who all-too-often abandon books at age ten (but devouring films and games), will be hooked by the “5S” experience of reading METAWARS, and ride the carousel into adulthood.
Find Jeff on the web at www.jeffnorton.com, ‘like’ him at www.facebook.com/thejeffnorton or follow him on twitter via @thejeffnorton