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Submerged cities in FloodWorld

Submerged cities in FloodWorld

Look out for a future London, where skyscrapers are submerged beneath the waves and a privileged few live within the City's Walls. But outside those walls, rebellion is stirring ... We asked author TOM HUDDLESTON to tell us more about FLOODWORLD!

FLOODWORLD is set in a future London, semi-submerged as a result of climate change, and chaotic. Outside the privileged world of the City, hidden behind its Walls, lies the Shanties, a lawless area where people struggle to survive from day to day.

This is where Joe and Kara live, until the day that they accidentally caught up in a heist that takes them far away from everything they know.

We asked author TOM HUDDLESTON to tell us more about his latest novel, FLOODWORLD:

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your writing career and what have been your highlights to date?

A: I published my first novel The Waking World in 2013, it was a future-medieval fantasy story with shades of King Arthur. Since then I've written three installments in the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series for LucasFilm, which as a lifelong fan was extremely exciting, and I've recently been working on a really cool fantasy series for 8+ readers under Games Workshop's Warhammer Adventures banner. Both of these series have been loads of fun to write, giving me the chance to create my very own corner of an established universe. But it's great to publish a new book that's entirely my own.

Q: How would you describe your writing style?

A: I try to make my writing as vivid as possible, to create clear visual pictures in my readers' heads. I worked as a film critic for many years (and still do, on a freelance basis), and my books are heavily inspired by the movies I love. That said, the most important thing is to make sure that the characters are believable, and that we care what happens to them.

Q: What inspired you to write FloodWorld, a story of a future, submerged London?

A: The image of a flooded city is such a compelling one, it's been lodged in my head for years, inspired by seeing the (admittedly fairly dreadful) movie Waterworld as a teenager, by reading JG Ballard's The Drowned World, and by trips to Venice, where I have relatives. The idea of making it a floating slum perched in the tops of tower blocks is all mine, though, I hope!

Q: Is the title a reference to the Waterworld film?

A: As I said, I'm always inspired by movies, and the scene in Waterworld where Costner swims down and finds a ruined city on the ocean floor was definitely one of the early sparks for this book. But the title isn't a deliberate reference - in fact, the book was actually called The Mariners until pretty late in the process. I'll admit, though, when we settled on the title FloodWorld, I thought this question might come up!

Q: Did you do any research to plan the book, for example reading about what might happen to the world's cities in the future? If so, what's the prognosis for London?

A: I looked at projected maps of the world as the sea levels rise and learned about the potential impacts of climate change (spoiler: it's not good). I'm sure that a real climate scientist could pick enormous holes in FloodWorld - I think the sea levels would have to rise an awful lot for London to be affected - but that's why this is a work of fiction!

Q: How long did it take to create your setting of a future, flooded London where the poorer Shanties are pitted against the privileged (ie dry) City of London?

A: The image of the Shanties arrived pretty much fully formed - it just seemed like the natural way things would go if a wall was built around London, but only the very privileged were allowed to remain inside. Someone's obviously going to clean the loo and carry the shopping! I was also inspired by images of floating slums like Makoko in Nigeria, where the residents make rafts and walkways from driftwood and scrap, living as best they can in this really challenging environment.

Q: Your main characters, Kara and Joe, get caught up in a plot that will have a dramatic effect on the City. Was their sibling-like relationship always going to be at the heart of the story?

A: Yes, Kara and Joe were there from the very first draft. They're partly inspired by my own family - Kara is a bit like my sister, and Joe is a bit like me - but I thought it'd be more interesting if they weren't actually related, if they stayed together by choice. Kara has taken Joe under her wing, trying to cling to one last scrap of innocence in this unforgiving world. And Joe treats Kara like a Mum, a Dad, a big sister and a best friend rolled into one. I believe that chosen family can be every bit as important as your 'real' family.

Q: You have some great villains - John Cortez, leader of the Mariners, his sidekick Redeye, and some 'good' bad guys like Colpeper. Who did you have the most fun creating?

A: Redeye was definitely the most fun! He's outwardly scary, with his artificial eye and his cruel demeanour. But the more you get to know him, the more complicated his character becomes. We'll learn much more about him in later books, too. Cortez was a real struggle, though - he went through various different permutations until I settled on the character as he is now. Writing a 'big villain' is really hard, because it can feel like everything's been done before. Hopefully he's conflicted and complex enough to be interesting.

Q: Other than a great adventure, what would you like your readers to take away from Floodworld?

A: I'd like them to think about the impact of climate change, because one way or another the world is going to look very different in a few decades, let alone a few centuries. I'd like them to think about the way our society is set up, about the growing inequality between those who have too much and those who have too little. But as you say, most of all I'd like them to have a really good time! To be transported to an exciting new world, and lose themselves in it for a little while.

Q: Will you be revisiting Kara and Joe's world?

A: Yes, the sequel to FloodWorld, entitled DustRoad, is coming out in 2020. As the title implies, this time the story takes place mainly on land, as Kara and Joe find themselves lost in the war-torn continent of North America and get involved with a mysterious tribe of identical brothers called The Five, who have a major grudge against The Mariners. If the first book was like a disaster movie, this one's a proper road movie, an epic chase in all kinds of rusted-up vehicles, buses and trucks and boats and flying machines... it's pretty cool.

Q: You have lots of nautical episodes and gadgets - there's a whole town on the waves, a submarine, submersible and an impressive ship or two. If you could take a trip on any of them, which one would it be?

A: I'd love to visit a Mariner Ark - that's the one that's like a floating town, a huge ocean-going vessel where thousands of Mariners can live and work and study. But the thought of racing around the ocean floor in a little four-person submersible seems pretty exciting too. The submersible chase was maybe my favourite part of the book to write, I could picture it so perfectly.

Q: Do you write full time? How does your writing day go and where is your favourite place to write?

A: I do write full time, dividing my day between writing fiction and film and TV-related freelance work. We have a spare bedroom in our flat so that's where I write, at a desk by the window so I can look out towards Stoke Newington Common. I tend to get up at 8.30, exercise a bit, then be at my desk by 9. I then work straight through until 3pm, minus a few short breaks for tea and toast, so that afterwards I can just relax, have a late lunch and watch a movie or reply to some emails in the afternoon. Six hours is all I can manage before my brain goes to mush, anyway.

Q: What are your top tips for writing action scenes?

A: Keep it simple. It seems illogical - an epic action scene should be, well, epic. But there's a limit to how much a reader can keep in their mind's eye at any one time, and if you load a scene with complicated movement and lots of characters and vehicles and locations, it gets confusing, and then you switch off. The example I always go back to is the escape from Moria in The Lord of the Rings. In the book it's surprisingly brief - they run from the orcs, the Balrog turns up, Gandalf falls, and it's done. In the film version there's all sorts going on - there's a cave troll, the bridge falls over, nobody tosses a dwarf, etc etc. But the book version is every bit as memorable, because you're inside the characters' heads.

Q: Describe your ideal 'writer's shed' and where would it be?

A: I don't need much - a desk, a comfy chair, a computer and a bit of view, preferably of something green. That said, I do prefer to be in a city - that way if I run out of milk I don't have to lose an hour of my day getting to the shops. I'm not sure I can think of a better setup than the one I have now, to be honest...

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