Interview with Metawars Author Jeff Norton

Jeff Norton is a London based writer-director. Originally from Canada, Jeff began his career in advertising, worked in the movie business in Hollywood where he produced the critically acclaimed interactive film ‘Choose Your Own Adventure,’ and upon moving to the U.K., managed the literary estate of Enid Blyton, Britain’s best-loved author. He now writes full time, with a focus on creating amazing stories in immersive worlds.

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The Interview

WORDfest: “We’re over the moon that you’ve agreed to be the very first WORDfest Youth1Town1Book author – thank you!  Do you think initiatives like this can really make a difference?”


Jeff Norton: Absolutely! Bringing authors and young people together makes books and storytelling more tangible and more relevant.  Because books are primarily a text based medium and not a multi-sensory medium (like TV), we sometimes forget that we need to bring books and author to life for readers to make them feel as real as film, TV, and video games.

WF: “Do you as a YA author feel a sense of responsibility to keep producing work that will help turn a generation back to the written word?”

JN: I primarily feel an awesome responsibility to tell a great story.  I’m not exclusively loyal to the written word since I work in television and film, but do feel that only books can give people a five-senses experience.  Well-constructed sentences use the power of suggestion to ask readers to create the world of the story in their heads.  And the human imagination is a much more powerful graphics processor than anything inside the Xbox or PlayStation.

WF: “By your own admission you were a reluctant reader growing up, can you remember what changed that?  Was it a specific book/author?”

JN: I struggled with reading when I was young. I couldn’t find anything as compelling or interesting to me in books as what was on television, in video games, or in films.  At a book fair I discovered an interactive book series called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ where “You” the reader was the hero of the story. They were short, fast paced books that helped me gain confidence in reading. Later, the school librarian recommended a book called ‘After The Bomb’ that was a terrifying tale of survival in a post-nuclear Los Angeles. It was the first book I didn’t want to put down because I needed to know what happened next.  From then on, I had much more confidence that I could finish a book.  I wouldn’t be a reader, or writer, today if it weren’t for my school library.

WF: “Books like METAWARS are obviously brilliant for boys, especially those who have been raised in this technology hungry society.  Where did the idea come from for the series?  Did you design the story with (reluctant) boy readers in mind?”

JN: I wanted METAWARS to play to a broad readership, but yes, in my head I always saw that twelve or thirteen year old version of myself discovering the book and getting hooked on it…and then hooked on reading.  I’ve packed the METAWARS books with all of the awesome stuff that I needed to get me into reading: fast-paced adventure, danger, suspense, but also big, challenging ideas about the intersection of technology and morality.  At its heart, METAWARS is a coming of age story; which is universal in its appeal.

WF: “It’s every authors nightmare question but can you give us some idea of how you come up with your ideas?”

JN: I pay attention to the world around me and think about the logical, sometimes hyper, extreme of what’s going on.  For METAWARS, I observed 10 MetaTrends that I felt were shaping our future, things like brain digitisation and water security, and played those trends out on the page.  It was like studying the future – it was fascinating, frightening, and exhilarating all at the same time.

For my other projects, I sometimes start with a character, or a scenario that I think is interesting; people or places I’d want to spend time with.

WF: “What does a normal writing day look like for you?”

JN: I try to hit my writing desk, with a coffee, by 7:30 am each day.  I’ll spend at least three hours writing, and then split my time between plotting and editing. I put in two to three more hours after lunch, and if the weather is nice I’ll sneak in a run.  I end by about 4:30 pm when I pick my little boy up from nursery.  Sometimes in the evenings I’ll do conference calls with Los Angeles and Toronto on the TV projects I’m working on.

WF: How about some quick fire get to know you questions:
Sci-fi or Fantasy?  Sci-Fi.  No question.
Salted or sweet popcorn?  Why choose when you can have both!
Home cooked or take away? We cook from scratch most nights.
Radio or TV?  TV
Cinema or DVD?  Cinema, but with two young children it’s harder to get out than it used to be.  
Hockey or Ice hockey?  You have to ask?! Hockey is played on the ice! That game played on the field is called Field Hockey.  Go Leafs Go!
Soccer or football? (UK football or American football!)  Neither – I’d always rather watch a movie, or write than watch any form of football.
Facebook or Twitter?”  Facebook for connecting with old friends, Twitter for making new ones.

Jeff Norton is on the web at www.jeffnorton.com, on facebook at: www.facebook.com/thejeffnorton and tweeting at: www.twitter.com/thejeffnorton  The third book in the METAWARS saga, ‘The Battle of the Immortal’ publishes 2nd May, from Orchard Books.

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