Barbara Spencer solves problems in her sleep.
I work with both primary and secondary schools, where the most frequently asked question is, where do your ideas come from?
Recently, I got to thinking about that. I often solve plot problems in my sleep – and it works brilliantly. Go to bed thinking about the problem. Hey Presto! It’s fixed when you wake up.
But story lines? With my children’s books, there something from my own life in every one of them – even though they are fantasy. For example: take the famous footballer Jack Burnside, in A Dangerous Game of Football; he’s as close as I can get to David Beckham. When Davidplayed for ManU, every kid in England wanted to be like him, copying his hairstyle and wearing the Number 7 shirt. And the camel, Bud? While I was staying in the Sudan, I visited a camel market in Omdurman. There was a woodcarver and the animals I bought were so lifelike, I bought four: an elephant, camel, rhinoceros and hippo. The elephant was stolen but the camel became a magical being called Bud. For many of my fans, he is still their favourite character: rude, sarcastic, funny and obnoxious but quite wonderful. And he still sits on my dressing table. As for the woodcarver, I fashioned Jacob the sorcerer after him. In the sequel, The Bird Children, I met up with a magic man in Cairo who made cotton burst into flame in my hand.
But Running – that was a different ball game. I thought about it for ages. And by ages I mean a couple of years. I knew computers were taking over the world and that few people really understood them. Then, my computer caught a virus and the world began to wake up to hacking. And so Styrus was born, it’s a virus, so powerful that it can penetrate any firewall, steal the computer’s secrets and override its commands.
Can you imagine having that sort of power? That’s the background to Running – where the bad guys want Styrus so they can take over the world, and they’re not particularly bothered how many people they have to kill to do it.
Scott’s motorbike? I met a guy in a garage. He talked about his Suzuki for half an hour – how he rode up to Scotland. I was sold.
As for the rest, it’s a rollercoaster ride – non-stop thrills and spills – with America