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>> Dust roads and flooded cities

Dust roads and flooded cities

Dust roads and flooded cities

DUSTROAD, the sequel to FLOODWORLD, is an action-packed adventure set in a future world where climate change has wrecked havoc. Author TOM HUDDLESTON tells us more about DUSTROAD.

DUSTROAD takes us to a future North America where scattered communities live in conflict with each other, battling for scarce resources.

Kara and Joe are once again flung into the centre of a plot, this time masterminded by a group of sinister brothers, to overthrow the Mariners.

This is a fast-paced adventure that raises many questions about what our future world might look like.

Author TOM HUDDLESTON tells us more about FLOODWORLD and his latest book, DUSTROAD:

Q: Can you tell us what your books, Floodworld and Dustroad are about? One sentence each!

A: Ooh, challenging! Okay, hero goes: FloodWorld is an action-packed adventure story set in a future, flooded London, about two street kids who find a secret map and end up on the run from the police, gangsters and a society of ocean-going pirate people called the Mariners.

And DustRoad is the sequel, in which our heroes travel across the Atlantic to the desert continent of North America and find themselves caught up in a war between the Mariners and a clan of mysterious, sinister brothers called The Five.

Q: Why did you decide to write about a future, flooded world? Are you pessimistic about climate change?

A: I find the idea of a flooded city really intriguing - streets filled with water, boats instead of cars, wooden walkways and sunken buildings, it just feels like there's loads of potential for adventure.

As for climate change, I don't think there's any point being pessimistic, because it's already happening. As I'm writing this, large parts of the UK have spent the last two months underwater. What's important is how we respond to it - can we slow down the pace of change? And as the world gets warmer, can we find ways to help those who need it most?

The school strikes give me a lot of hope - the world is listening, and perhaps we can affect things so that the extreme changes that I've depicted in my books don't come to pass. But the world will be completely transformed, that's inevitable now.

Q: Floodworld is set in London; why did you decide to set Dustroad in the US? Have you visited the 'Dustroad' your characters travel on?

A: I wanted to explore more of this future world, it felt like there's was lots more to discover. And yes, a few years ago I'd been on a big road trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts of America, and parts of it already felt like quite post-apocalyptic - we drove through ghost towns, past boarded-up shops and through big stretches of desert.

It gave me a great outline for the story - I just took the basic route of our journey and imagined it 200 years in the future. It hopefully gives the book a sense of reality that futuristic stories don't always have. I even had photographs to look at for most of the locations.

Q: How long did you need to spend planning each of these worlds - for example in Dustroad, the tech they could still be using?

A: I spent a lot of time imagining myself in this world, walking through the flooded streets of London, over rickety walkways and rafts; or flying over the abandoned towns of North America, seeing packs of wild dogs in the rubble. I really tried to visualise everything as clearly possible.

But as for technology, the story takes place in a future where the changing climate has slowed the rate of scientific advancement - people have been so busy just trying to survive, there's been very little time to spend on new breakthroughs. They speak about our era the way we talk about, say, Victorian times - they call it the 'Tech Age'. There's obviously some unfamiliar tech - energy cannons, and Mariner Arks - but the world as a whole hasn't moved on very far from the world of today.

Q: How did it feel returning to the some of the characters from FloodWorld for DustRoad?

A: It was an absolute pleasure. I'd grown so fond of all the characters, it was great to see what they'd do next, and explore new sides of their personalities. Also, there were some relationships in the first book - like the one between our heroine Kara and and her Mariner friend Nate, or between Cane and her father John Cortez - that I'd only just started exploring in the first book. This was a chance to see how those developed.

Q: Why do you keep Kara and Joe together during these adventures?

A: Well actually, in the first draft of DustRoad they were kept apart for much longer. They started and ended their journey together, but for most of the chapters in between they were apart. But my editor said to me - and quite rightly - that the relationship between Kara, who is this tough, streetwise teenager, and Joe, who is much younger and more innocent, was one of the most appealing things in FloodWorld. Their relationship is so loving and funny, they're like brother and sister, even though they're not related. So she urged me to keep them together for longer, and it really helped the book.

But it was important not to let the characters stay the same. In FloodWorld Kara and Joe had learned a lot, about the world and about themselves. In this book I needed to push that further. They both go through some pretty challenging experiences, they're not the same people by the end of the story.

Q: There are some fabulous villains in both books, who did you have the most fun creating?

A: Villains are sometimes the hardest characters to write, because if they're too nasty they end up feeling like cartoons, and if they're too nice they're not scary. In FloodWorld and DustRoad, I've tried to create villains who are both good and bad - they often have pretty good ideas about how the world ought to be, but they push those ideas too far and they start to believe that their way is the only way. I've taken the idea of a villain who can be both good and bad to a new extreme in DustRoad, but I won't spoil that!

My favourite baddie in the books has to be Redeye. He acts like a super-tough deadly assassin, but underneath there's a lot of self-doubt and fear and anger about his own past. Plus he's got an artificial eye, which is just cool.

Q: What is your favourite moment in Dustroad?

A: Well a lot of them come near the end, so I can't spoil them! There's this bit with a flying machine... and another bit with three cars and a bonfire... and a scene with a tram that's really exciting... but I can't talk about any of those.

So I'll go for the scene where Kara, Joe and Nate meet a new character called Lynx, a bounty hunter that they run into in a kind of outlaw bar in the ruins of an old amusement park. Lynx - one of the Wildcats - is my favourite new character in DustRoad; tough but complicated, and with a really unique manner of speech.

Q: How many more books will there be in the series? Can you give us a glimpse into 'what next'?

A: Well I'm planning a third book, but obviously I can't talk about that! The story is all mapped out, and we'll get to go to some very cool places... But that's all I'm saying at this point.

Q: Do you have strict plans and goals for your writing days?

A: Not really, as long as I start on time and work for a decent number of hours. I don't set myself word targets or anything. I tend to write really fast - I can knock out a first draft in a few weeks. But it's always complete rubbish, so then I rewrite it. Then I rewrite it again. Then I rewrite it again, and again, and I keep going until it's good. In those circumstances, word targets wouldn't be much help.

Q: What are you most likely to be found doing when you're not writing?

A: Lying on my sofa watching movies on my new projector! Writing about film is how I make my living when I'm not writing books, and I watch far too many of them. Or if it's sunny I love to swim outdoors, that's my absolute favourite pastime. Get a few friends and a picnic, go somewhere out of town and swim in a river. That's my ideal day.

Q: Your books are packed with adventure - what's been your own biggest adventure to date?

A: Well the road trip I mentioned earlier was pretty exciting. But I think my greatest adventure was when I travelled around southern Africa as a teenager. My sister had been working in a hospital there, and the two of us travelled with some friends through South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The Lake Malawi ferry was probably the craziest part of the journey - an ancient ferry boat packed with literally hundreds of people, all carrying goods to sell in the capital. At one point it was so crammed that I actually had someone sitting on my shoulder - and someone else was sitting on his knee!


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