Wednesday 15 April 2015

A Wednesday Welcome to Scott Perkins...and Howard Carter Saves the World!


I'm so delighted that Crooked Cat Publishing have such a lot of talented authors because I'm getting the opportunity to meet lots of new CATS. Today, it's the turn of Scott Perkins. His debut novel Howard Carter Saves The World  launched a couple of days ago. 

Howard Carter Saves the World has such a fabulous cover. When I first saw it, I wondered just how relevant the name in the title might be. Read on now to find out a little about that and a lot more about Scott Perkins...

Hello Scott. Wecome to my blog. Which part of the globe are you from and where do you call home now?

I grew up in Missouri, which is about as close to the middle of North America as you can get. It was a great place to grow up, tromping through the woods and getting muddy and bitten by all manner of bugs, chasing frogs and snakes, blowing up army men with firecrackers... sometimes I felt like I was stuck in the 1940’s and sometimes the 1980’s and 90’s were very much present. At times, my life was an Archie comic ghostwritten by Ray Bradbury.  

I moved to Denver for art school and met my future wife there (she was in engineering school) and then we moved several more times before washing up on the shores of Seattle, Washington. We now live on a small island in Puget Sound (Our “Secret Island Lair” as we call it) which is about 26 miles from Seattle, which is exactly the right distance for me even when it’s a truly fantastic city like Seattle.

It’s beautiful here. We never intend to move again. 
Nancy says: I spent a few days in Seattle before and after going to Vancouver, Canada. It was a fascinating city. We took a cruise around Seattle but didn't quite get as far out on Puget Sound as you're describing. It is a lovely area to live in.
Tell us 3 more things about yourself that wouldn’t be covered in your bio.
1.      I’m a hand tool woodworker and have been since I was old enough to hold a hammer. I can build almost anything from a photo. My grandfather taught me because “That’s What Boys Are Supposed to Do” and I must confess that I absolutely love it. It’s a very useful form of sculpture, really, and as with everything I see it as another unique way of telling a story.

2.      In college some of my friends referred to me as “The Adventure Nerd” because I am an avid mountain climber and backpacker, but I would haul a stack of books with me no matter how far I was going to hike. I’ve climbed many of the tallest peaks in the continental United States and crossed the Grand Canyon on foot. That part of your brain that tells you to get back from a ledge or get down from a ladder? It misfires every time and instead I climb higher.

3.      I’m nuts about history and as part of that, I started doing historical baking demonstrations. Events hire me to come out and build a wood fired bread oven on their site and then I have a troupe of likeminded goofballs who come out with me and demonstrate baking and other foodways as they were practiced in England around the reign of Elizabeth I.  I love food and love to cook and bake and enjoy the challenge of taking away the modern conveniences to see if I can get by without them.
Nancy says: That sounds like great fun. Whenever possible, and practical, I used to plan for cooking during my class projects when I taught upper primary school classes. When doing Romans and Celts we'd make something suitable in class- like 'Fat hen soup' , or flat bread from spelt flour, and one time we had a Roman Banquet. Japanese traditional dishes like Miso soup and sushi were fun to make too. We cheated, though, and had to use an electric cooker since we worked under strict health and safety conditions. 
Your debut novel has just launched. What genre is Howard Carter Saves the World?
Science fiction… with an asterisk. I wrote it as an ode to all the great, fun, and mostly goofy science fiction novels that I grew up reading: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ender’s Game, the Tom Swift books, the Mad Scientist Club and other books, most of which are considered YA these days.  But it’s more on the fantasy end of Sci Fi, as there’s some very fantastical science at play that is key to the story much as you encounter in Hitchhiker’s Guide, Doctor Who, or Star Wars.
Please tell us a little more about it.
Howard has an uncanny knack for robotics and engineering. He makes friends a little too easily, and because he knows how to create cold fusion from an ice confection called Frozen Funtime Pops, a little too powerful. Also, he never quite gets their brains to work right.

His antics keep getting him in trouble and his family has to move from one city to the next, but one night one of his old escaped robots tracks him down carrying a dire warning: The aliens are coming for him and the government is looking for him too. Before too long, he’s on the run from a secret government agency that wants his technology, an alien scout who learned all about Earth culture from watching children’s television, and a mad scientist who just wants to recruit him for his alma mater. Not to mention the approaching alien horde, a sentient lawn mower with an artistic streak, and family members from past and future ganging up on him!

It’s enough to give a kid a complex.
Were there any triggers which led to the plotline for Howard Carter Saves the World’?
Whoa, that’s a big question.  The short version is that my wife said “Tell me a story” and the whole thing came tumbling out more or less as it’s seen on the screen today. Unusually for me, it didn’t change much between idea and publication.

The long version is more complicated…
Four years ago, almost to the day, I was completely at loose ends in writing terms. My dad had passed away and I had been in a car accident bad enough to put me into physical therapy. It was a pretty dark time all around for me. I was at that age when you’re trying to sort out the things you were doing to impress or otherwise prove yourself to your family and the things you genuinely want to keep doing. My dad was the primary literary influence that I had growing up and more than a little of what I’d been writing up to that point had been very much written with the idea of “Dad is going to read this” in the forefront of my mind. Without that, I didn’t know whether I’d keep writing long-form stuff or at all.

One day I wrote a short story about a man my age who was bitter and angry that the World of Tomorrow he was promised as a child had never materialized and I named him Howard Carter. So he built a “Kill-o-zap!” ray gun in his room and went out to wreak some minor havoc. It was called “Howard Carter Invents the Future” and it was a very dark, cynical, almost dystopian sort of story and I didn’t enjoy writing it at all. But there was something to it that I couldn’t walk away from. I changed his age to eleven, gave him a pair of well-meaning-but-clueless parents and the entire demeanor of the story was altered to this silly, almost gleefully anti-dystopian story that I quickly became addicted to. It started out in a place of deep hurt and became something joyful and healing.

I wrote four Howard Carter short stories in a month, one after another. He built a robot, travelled back in time, cloned himself to get out of chores… all the things kids dream about but can’t do. I was just having fun and noticed that my wife in particular was really, truly, enjoying the stories. She’d say “Tell me a story” and off I’d go.

Scott Perkins
The time travel story hinged on a mix-up about his name (because of course he shares a name with the guy who found Tutankhamun) and my wife convinced me that it had legs enough to be the foundations for a novel. But a story like this begs to be taken in small bites and I always liked the idea of writing a serial. So when November rolled around, I signed on for National Novel Writing Month, set up a blog specifically for Howard and his friends and wrote three or four chapters a week, posting them unedited for the world to see.

It was incredibly liberating and I fell in love with writing again in the process. I don’t know that I ever want to do it that way again, but it was an amazing experience.
...I don't know if I have the discipline to do a NaNoRiMo and I presently don't have the time, but it's an interesting learning curve, I think!
How much general research did you have to do?
In a way, I’ve been researching this novel my entire life. I’m a sponge for the odd and the curious. I’m one of those people who never lose at trivia games. Even I don’t always know where I picked something up.
The only two things I remember specifically looking up was how to turn a Snickers bar into rocket fuel, (which is actually thing that is possible) and the bit about the RAND corporation study that pops up at the end, which is entirely real. So much of the really preposterous-sounding stuff in the book is the stuff that I didn’t have to make up.
What is your hero's biggest challenge?
Being a good kid and remaining a good kid in spite of his mad science leanings. Howard desperately wants to be a good guy and fights the whole way as the world seems bent on turning him into a super villain or at least a tyrant.  There comes a point in everyone’s life where you have to stand up for yourself to yourself, and for Howard that takes on a very literal dimension.
...a tough call, I think.
What was the hardest section of the novel for you to write? Why?
Any part when Howard interacted with his dad. I was still raw from the loss of my own dad and though their relationship is very different and the characters very different from me and my family, even brushing up against that relationship felt very… tender.
An author isn’t necessarily drawn to their main character. Who's your favorite character in Howard Carter Saves the World’?
Some people have an inner child; I have an inner mad scientist. Doctor Villainous Deeds, PhD is a strange sort of alter ego for me; I created him on Twitter long before I knew what I was going to do with him and at one point he had over 400 followers of his own. We bantered back and forth and insulted each other and it got a little schizophrenic at times because I never broke character. During his heyday, he interacted with some pretty big-name Twitter-folk like Maureen Johnson and told some very fun stories. One time I stranded him in Kansas and he walked back to Washington, live-tweeting the whole way.
... Keeping up with the twitteruniverse is still a mystery to me.
What are you working on right now?
I’m revising a mystery novel for submission and outlining the next Howard Carter story. These characters are too much fun to stop writing about them now!

Fantastic answers- thank you, Scott! 

More about...
Scott Perkins was born and raised in rural Missouri, dreaming about turning his grandfather’s tractors into giant robots and reading and absorbing the sort of classic science fiction and fantasy that was a little bit ridiculous, and a whole lot hopeful about the potential of humankind. This book is the result of that youth among books, robots, and tractor exhaust fumes.

Scott most assuredly is not a mad scientist living on a secret island fortress somewhere in the vicinity of Seattle, Washington with his wife and assorted feline lifeforms (which most assuredly do not have wings, though it’s not for lack of asking). As far as we know, he’s a writer, sculptor, and graphic designer who does an excellent job of pretending to be perfectly normal at all times..

Howard Carter Saves the World is a coming of age story with robots, freeze rays, pirates, mad scientists, sapient puppets, flying cats, secret government agencies, alien invasions, time travel, pistachio pudding, and jetpacks. Because what fun is a coming of age story without jetpacks? It's also a love letter and gentle satire of all the things that make science fiction fun.

Scott's BLOG
Thank you for visiting, Scott. My very best wishes for great sales of Howard Carter Saves the World.


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