BLOG TOUR: Jamie Russell

Good morning guys!

Happy Monday and happy blog tour day to me!

Today, the incredible Jamie Russell has stopped by to answer some questions as part of the SkyWake: Invasion blog tour. I love hosting Q&As because I love getting to know authors better!

SkyWake: Invasion by Jamie Russell

Fifteen-year-old girl gamer Casey Henderson is obsessed with smash-hit game SkyWake – and she’s good at it, too. Little does she realize it’s actually an alien training tool created by an evil extra-terrestrial race. When the aliens swoop down on a national gaming tournament, Casey and her teammates discover they’re abducting the best gamers to fight in a distant alien war across the galaxy. And they’ve got her brother. Casey’s gaming skills are her best hope of stopping the aliens – but first she and her online teammates must learn to work together in real life…

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Tell us about the brand new book. 

I always like to say that SKYWAKE: INVASION is a book for middlegrade readers who are too busy playing Fortnite to read Harry Potter. It’s the first book in a fast-paced sci-fi trilogy about aliens, videogames and what it means to be a leader. The main character is Casey, a fifteen year old girl who discovers that her favourite videogame is actually a training tool created by an evil extra-terrestrial race known as the Red Eyes. When Casey and her online teammates are invited to an eSports tournament in a London shopping centre they discover that the Red Eyes are planning to take the best players to fight in a war on a distant alien planet… whether they want to go or not!

What were the inspirations behind the story?

My daughters! They said they were fed up of middle grade action adventures where boys where the main heroes and they wanted a girl to be front and centre. I started telling them the story of Casey on the walk to school and they were instantly hooked. They kept asking me ‘What happens next?’ Of course, I didn’t know. So I went off and wrote it for them.

Which character was your favourite to write?

Oh, that’s really hard! Casey has four boys on her team and she only knows them by their gamertags not their real names. One of them is ‘Cheeze’. He’s really kind, resourceful and a brilliant hacker in the game and real life. He’s also a wheelchair user. As someone who’s experienced a lot of mobility issues, I was really keen to make sure it didn’t stop him being an integral member of the team.

Do you and the main character have any of the same traits?

Oh no, Casey is *much* braver and more capable than I am! When I was about ten my headmaster told my mum that one day I would be ‘a leader of men’. I knew this was total nonsense. That’s not really me at all. I think he was either confusing me with someone else or just trying to get on my mum’s good side! But it was something I thought about while writing Casey. What makes someone a good leader? She’s on a journey through the trilogy to discover that for herself.

What was your favourite bit of this book to write?

I love writing action scenes! Give me a chase, a plasma rifle battle, or a swarm of robot spiders and I’m happy. In SKYWAKE I wanted to hook reluctant readers by immersing them in an action-packed story that could compete with the adrenaline rush of the best videogames. I wanted the prose to really grab you and propel you forwards. I love it when people say that the story goes like a rocket.

What was the hardest bit?

There is a series of flashbacks featuring Casey and her late dad. He was a bomb disposal expert and a keen retrogamer. In the flashbacks he buys and restores a Space Invaders cabinet with Casey and then teaches her how to play this really retro arcade game. Space Invaders comes to have huge significance in the story (spoiler alert!). Those scenes are the heart and soul of the book in many ways and getting them right was tricky but fun.

What’s your favourite thing about being author? 

Fame! Fortune! Free pizza! Um, no, wait… That’s not right! Being able to make up stories and retreat into a world that you’ve made is the best thing ever. I love the feeling when you’re writing and things are going well and it feels like the rest of the world just vanishes. In SKYWAKE I talk about the concept of ‘flow’ – which is a psychological term for that feeling of being ‘in the zone’. Gamers, athletes and musicians experience flow quite a lot… and writers do to. When you find it, it’s the best feeling ever.

We always love a recommendation here! Is there a book you read recently that you think everyone should read?

There are so many amazing MG and YA books coming out right now. I think we’re in a golden age of children’s fiction. The last thing I read that I absolutely loved was CRATER LAKE: EVOLUTION by Jennifer Killick. She’s a superb middle grade writer and I love the way she crafts her young characters. They always feel incredibly authentic.

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I loved this Q&A so much! Yay for girls in gaming books!

Check out the rest of the blog tour (details below)

SkyWave: Invasion is out July 1st, published by Walker Books.

Thanks so much to Jamie for taking the time to answer my questions and to Walker for having me on the blog tour!

S x

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