1. How did you come up with the main group of characters in your series of novels?
I wanted Starkey to be enigmatic--he had to be, he is the source of the mystery. One of his roles is to give the Stardust guidance whilst letting them find the answers themselves to ensure they grow as people. So I based a large part of him on one of my old managers who had a lot of life experience, but wanted us to form our own opinions so just gave us guidance.
For the Stardust themselves, I wanted to cover all angles. So Pippa was named after the pocket size doll I had as a girl because she is small, and for that reason I wanted her to be the superstrong one. Zak, we needed a sporty guy, Jason a Jack-the-lad who initially uses his power for bad then learns to use it for good. Stuart is the geek who gets bullied, and Heidi, who was named after my friend from school (but is nothing like her), is the self-proclaimed leader, who is very clever.
I remember Billie Jean King saying that when she watched ET she asked why none of the girls got to fly the bikes, so for that reason I made sure the girls were strong characters who played as active a role as all the boys. Once I had an overview of their talents, I just constructed them as people. They are from all different backgrounds and walks of life. As they are strangers to each other at the start, I liked the idea of them getting to know each other and bonding and becoming a team. Now when I write them I know them so well that I know how they are going to react in any given circumstance. Everyone has a favorite Stardust, and people see characteristics of themselves in the characters.
2. Why did you decide to have the main characters be teenagers, and what are the challenges of writing teenage characters?
They needed to be teenagers because they are given their powers whilst newborn babies, and these powers were fine tuned by Starkey when they hit puberty. I also feel this was the right age for them to start learning about life and making massive decisions on right and wrong.
At the time of initially writing the Stardust, my children were the same age so I had guidance from them and their friends.
3. When you first got the idea for your series, did you know it would take place over the course of four books? In other words, how did you figure out the overall structure of the series?
Initially, I wrote it as a TV script to send to the BBC, and it was much different then. In fact, it was just about five teenagers time-traveling in an old lift. When I was told they didn’t take scripts off new writers, I decided to turn it into a book, which literally took me a few years, during which time the whole concept of the story changed and the characters were given a real purpose. When I had decided how the story would go, I guessed it needed to be a trilogy; I hadn't expected Book 2 to end up in two parts, though.
4. Would you tell us a little more about the main idea of the series and the world in which it takes place?
In Book 1, the Stardust traveled back in time to 5 periods of history where they recover items, the purpose of which they don't discover until the end of the book. Book 2 is the second part of the quest and they travel, in their dreams, to the Land of Nod, which is in fact the zodiac. If they can successfully get through each house and reach the end, then they must retrieve one item. For book 1, I had to do a lot of research to get the time periods accurate, especially as they encounter real life historic figures in some of the places. For book 2, I have just constructed a fantasy land and the zodiac characters who sit within it. I have had to draw on a lot of my life experiences to construct the characters within. The books are not all fantasy: an essential part of them is showing the teenagers in their real everyday lives, their families, interactions with people and daily problems and experiences.
5. What writing projects are you currently working on?
A. I am currently working on part 2 of book 2, or at least the real live parts of part 2. I finished all the fantasy bits for part two about 9 months ago, having completed part 1’s fantasy bit about 9 months before that. So it could be argued each section of Book 2 is taking me about 9 months to write, but I have to do part 2’s real life part by the beginning of October to get it out by Christmas, so only giving myself 5 months on this. After that, it will be book 3 which I aim to take a bit of time over.
Thanks, A J!