Alexander Gordon Smith: Hi Mike, thanks so much for interviewing me on your blog, it's great to be here! :-)
The Subtle Chronicler: No problem, thank you for agreeing to do this!
Who exactly is Alexander Gordon Smith?
I'm not always sure... I've just finished writing a book, The Fury 2, and I'm in that weird post-writing phase that feels a little like post-traumatic shock. I've been immersed in this book for weeks, much longer than usual, and it's taking me a while to find my way out now that it's finished. That's the weirdest thing about being a writer - you live so many different lives. You have to get inside the head of your characters, right in there, and you become so absorbed in their world that you forget about your own for a while. I often can't remember a single thing about my own life after I've been writing, but I can remember every detail of the lives of my characters. It's like you lose a little piece of yourself to every character and every book.
But other than that, Alexander Gordon Smith is a 33-year-old writer, filmmaker and horror fanatic!! :=) Oh, and I go by the name Gordon - my parents rearranged my first and middle names so that my initials wouldn't spell GAS!
Did you ever worry if your novels were too dark to be categorized under the Young Adult section?
No. They're dark and they're violent, and terrible things do happen, but I think it's important for teenagers to read books where bad things happen. Horror is a good thing, because I don't think you ever see heroism, humanity and hope like you do in a horror story. When things are at their worst, you really do see people at their best. When things turn bad, people fight tooth an nail for everything they believe in. They fight for their family, for their friends, for their loved ones; they fight for what is right, and what is just. They fight because they know they must. People sometimes accuse horror books of "corrupting" young minds, but I believe the opposite. I believe that horror makes teenage readers aware of their own powers, their own strengths and abilities, their own priorities too. It teaches them, without explicitly teaching them, that they have what it takes to survive. It teaches them about friendship, too; the kind of friendship that keeps you standing shoulder to shoulder with someone even when the world is falling apart around you. I honestly believe that horror makes better people of us, it makes heroes of us, even if that heroism is just facing up to our everyday lives. It gives us hope when things seem lost. It makes us human, and all the better for it.
I think the key to this argument is in the heart of the book. The heart of the Furnace books is friendship, pure and simple. If a book has a good heart, then no matter how dark the story gets there will always be a positive message there somewhere.
You've stated that you don't exactly plan and just go with the flow while writing. Did you ever reach a block in the road that made you turn back a couple of chapters or even the whole book?
I do prefer to go with the flow, it feels more natural that way. Planning everything in advance feels a little too much like playing god. One of the best things about writing is being there alongside the characters, experiencing things at the same time they do. For me it's about writing at the speed of life - you write in real-time (or as close to it as possible), so that when something happens your reactions, and your characters' reactions, are more natural and more honest. There's no right or wrong way to write a book - whatever way works for you is the best way for you to write. But for me, if I plan something in advance then I feel like I'm cheating because I've had too much time to think about it. I like to be there in the dirt and the blood, fighting for my life alongside the characters. The choices they make are gut decisions, and sometimes they are stupid because they're made i nthe heat of the moment. Sometimes those decisions get people killed, but the trick is never to go back on them, because it's those mistakes that make your characters real people, it's what makes readers empathize with them. The character who always does the right thing is just that, a character.
I sometimes feel more like a nature documentary filmmaker than a writer - you know, those people who film lions eating their prey. It must be really tempting to step in and save the life of a poor baby gazelle, but by doing that you're interfering in the story. If you go back and change something that your character did just to make the story easier to write, then your story will feel less genuine. Well, that's how I feel when I'm writing anyway (and to be honest, if I was one of those filmmakers I'd probably try to save the baby gazelle)! I love writing at the speed of life because it's so exciting. You literally have no idea what might happen next, so you have to write the story as fast as you can to find out.
Would you ever go back and change anything about your books and do something differently than what you already did?
There were definitely times when I was writing the Furnace books that I worried I'd written myself into a corner. But I did my best to stick to my principles! It was made easier (or harder, depending on how you look at it) by the fact that the first three Furnace books were published before I started writing the fourth and fifth books. It meant that even if I wanted to go back and change something, I couldn't! It was great, because it forced me to work with the world I'd created, rather than go back and hack it up and rearrange it. Yes, some of the characters who died might have stayed alive if I'd gone back and changed some things at the beginning of the series, but I don't think the story would have worked anywhere near as well. We can't go back in time in real life, so why should my characters have that luxury! :-)
The only time I have ever changed something big in a book was in my first novel, The Inventors. One of the characters died halfway through the story, a little robot called Clint. My editor thought it was a bit too dark for middle grade and asked me to bring him back. It was a good call, because it was a pretty sad moment, so I'm glad I did it. YA is a very different ball game, though!
I do quite often read back through the books and think 'Did I really write that? That's awful!' The more you write, the better you write, so of course you look back at the early stuff and cringe a bit. But I guess that's just like everything in life!
Do you plan to write more creepy, terrorizing and haunting novels for us fans?
Yes! I'll be writing books for as long as I am able (and for as long as they'll let me)! It's the most amazing thing in the world, being able to sit down and build a world and fill it with characters and watch what happens. I'd be doing it even if I wasn't being published - being published is really just a bonus. And horror will always be my genre of choice, because no other genre gives you so much creative freedom. Literally anything can happen. There's barely a week goes by that another idea doesn't pop into my head, most of them creepy, terrorizing and haunting. The trouble is finding time to write about them all!
A question aside from your work, what are your thoughts on this brand new world where fans have such a huge impact on authors with social networks and blogging/reviewing, compared to what was back then?
Well, I never really knew what the old world was like, because my first novel came out five years ago when the social media scene was really getting some momentum. I didn't use social media much back in 2007, but as soon as Furnace was out in 2009 I started Facebooking and Tweeting and blogging. I love it. I can't imagine living i na world where I didn't have contact with fans. I have the best fans in the world, they are seriously awesome , and they are what makes this the best job in the world. I get emails and Facebook messages every day, and they are a constant inspiration to keep writing - you know your audience, not quite face to face but close. You are friends with them. Without that interaction I'd feel like I was talking to a brick wall when I wrote.
Thanks so much for interviewing me on your blog!! :-)
And thank you so much for allowing me to interview you! Your answers seriously got me thinking about the way I write which is always a grand help!
You can check out more information about Alexander Gordon Smith over at his;
You can also check out the first four books in the Escape From Furnace series (Paperback) down below: