It's not just a book thing!
Our guest blogger today is Jeff Norton, author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, who will be speaking at the Barclays Hub on Saturday, 15th September at 15:00.
It’s an honour and a privilege to be welcomed the island by a festival that’s eager to engage with storytellers. A festival that celebrates the written word is a wonderful way to reinforce the importance of reading and storytelling.
I’ve always been interested in where stories come from, how they are shaped, and what motivates their creation. I’m delighted to share with the literary festival the inside story behind METAWARS, my new high-tech thriller.
On the superficial level, METAWARS is page-turning thriller for young readers about the fight for the future internet. On a deeper level, however, it explores the messy process of moving from childhood into adolescence; the shedding of naiveté and the frightening realisation that the world around you is far more complex than you once believed.
The inspiration for METAWARS came from a confluence of factors (a political speech, being stranded by the Icelandic ash cloud, and my observation of the ‘meta-trends’ shaping the future) but the motivation for the book came from my own experience as a young, very reluctant reader.
None of us in the world of literature should be under any illusions that we are competing for time and attention with the most dizzying and wonderful array of audio-visual media ever unleashed on the general public. From addictive apps to eye-popping 3D films, books have a lot of competition. With that in mind, I set out to create a book that would be as compelling as the most exciting video games and movies. To get reluctant readers into a book, especially boys, I set out to craft a story that was slick, high-tech, and violent, but anchored in a universal coming of age experience that would resonate with young readers.
In my talk, I’ll touch on the original moment when the character of Jonah Delacroix, living on a shuttered London bus, sprang into my head. I’ll explore the macro ‘meta-trends’ that informed the setting for the book and I’ll speak about channeling my own teenage experience into creating characters that grow over the four-book arc. I’ll also share the ways that the publisher and I are bringing the world of METAWARS to life across the internet, enticing readers with videos and contests to lure them into the story-world.
I believe strongly that a literate society is crucial requisite for a stable society and a vibrant, functional democracy. The responsibility falls to all of us to ensure that subsequent generations are well read, can analyse arguments, and separate fact from opinion from propaganda. This process starts at a very young age, with the simplest of picture books, but the inflection point, when many young people, especially boys, fall off the reading wagon, is in the crucial nine-to-twelve cohort. It’s this formative period when readers are made (or broken) for life. Creating and offering compelling books (including comic books, non-fiction, and short stories) is critical to holding and keeping the attention of this fickle audience. With METAWARS, it’s my ambition that a group of readers will revel reading for pleasure and seek out new novels to add to their media mix and become lifelong readers.
It is, quite simply, a fight for the future.
Jeff Norton is the author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE from Orchard Books. He is also a filmmaker and the founder of Awesome, a creative incubator.