Spook-tacular greetings to all! We at Fully Booked were recently given the opportunity to read the debut novel in Alexander Lound’s young adult Jonny Roberts series, The Spirit in the Crypt. This reader thoroughly enjoyed it, and wanted to get a little more insight into the ideas behind the novel. Alexander was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us, and talk to us about his inspiration and how Jonny Roberts came to fruition. Time to get creepy!
Q: To kick things off, can you give us a little background about yourself and what started you off writing? And in that same vein, why were you drawn to or inspired to write young adult fiction?
A: Sure! To be honest, I got into writing when I was just a kid, if you want to go that far back. I used to keep bits of stories in my under-desk tray when I was at primary school. I didn’t get properly serious with writing though until I was about nineteen. I wrote a crime-thriller about a police detective and his brother, which was a massive project for me at the time. However, completing it gave me the drive, ambition and can-do to say, yeah, I can write another novel. I started The Spirit in the Crypt when I was twenty-three, and it took me two years to write and publish. I was finishing off my teaching degree at the time that I started, and I was shocked by the amount of kids that hated reading. I thought to myself, ‘If I was a kid who hated reading, what would change my mind?’ And then I remembered that when I was a kid, we all used to gather round a mate’s houses and watch horror films until silly o’clock. Next came the idea of a kid who could speak to the dead, and Jonny Roberts was born.
Q: So, a simple question; how did you come up with the idea for The Spirit in the Crypt, Jonny Roberts and the idea of him being a medium?
A: I’ve always been interested in ghosts and the paranormal. I know it’s a trope that’s been done before, but I wanted to put my own spin on it. Jonny is essentially a misunderstood teenage boy, living in a small British town, which makes it even more difficult for him to accept that he can speak to the dead. But I was also a teenage boy once, who grew up in a small British town, so a lot of Jonny’s experiences reflect my own.
Q: There’s a great flow and thought process to Jonny’s character and his way of being as a 15 year old; how much of his character would you say was inspired by your own experiences as a young adult?
A: lot of his experiences are inspired by my own, most definitely. I found it difficult to relate to some of my fellow students in the same way that Jonny does. I too was an outcast for a time, and was bullied in the same way that Jonny was. I also fell in with the wrong crowd, and made a lot of mistakes. But I think all this is a crucial part of growing up, and that’s why I love Jonny as a character, because he’s an honest teen who is completely imperfect.
Q: The idea of a mentor-type character tends to be harsh and unforgiving towards the lead in many stories. However in The Spirit in the Crypt, Aaron is welcoming and patient with Jonny. Is there a particular reason
that you decided to lean in that direction with his character?
A: To be honest, Aaron is the sort of character who writes himself. In my mind, the man is an expert on the supernatural, and he has a sympathy with Jonny because he too was once in Jonny’s position. As from where I got the idea for Aaron wearing a black cowboy hat, the simple answer is Terry Pratchett, who is one of my favourite authors. I always thought Terry Pratchett had a sort of wise look about him, and even more importantly, he always wore a black fedora. I didn’t want Aaron to be totally Terry though, so after careful consideration, I changed it to a cowboy hat!
Q: If you were in Jonny’s shoes at 15, how well do you think you would have handled discovering a newfound supernatural ability?
A: Not very well! I think Jonny deals with it pretty well, despite alienating himself from everyone for a time. I, on the other hand, would probably have freaked out, and would have just locked myself in my bedroom or something!
Q: Out of sheer morbid curiosity, do you believe that spirits can linger after death with “unfinished business” and that they may need help in order to properly cross over?
A: I do believe in spirits, and I do believe that they can linger with unfinished business, absolutely. Their business doesn’t have to be malicious, though. I suppose it could be as simple as guarding a living family member, or protecting something else important to them. However, are there harmful spirits out there? Definitely. Do I believe that some people really can speak to the dead? Yes, but I think there are a lot of con-artists out there too, and you need to be careful if you are inspired to try and contact spirits yourself.
Q: I haven’t had a chance yet to pick up the second book in your series The Burned House, though I’ll certainly be doing so shortly. What kinds of changes can we expect from Jonny and Aaron as time passes and their relationship progresses?
A: Do expect Jonny and Aaron to become more familiar, and for their relationship to grow stronger and closer. At the same time though, a closer relationship can also bring a conflict of interests, and seeing as Jonny is a year old in The Burned House, he is much more confident in disagreeing with Aaron and standing up for what he thinks is right!
Q: Do you have anything else in the works at the moment? What can we look forward to in the future?
A: Book 3, The Witch Hunt, is in the works, and should be released in the early months of 2021! Expect another hair-raising mystery for Jonny and the gang! Apart from this, I’m writing a short novella from the perspective of a teenage Aaron, where he sees his first ghost. Expect this to arrive in the early part of 2021 also! Away from Jonny, I’m part way through a new project, a planned trilogy that I will be working on over the coming months. Still top secret for now, but watch this space!
And there you have it folks! A little insight into a fun supernatural series! You can read our full review for The Spirit in the Crypt in the reviews section. The Jonny Roberts books are currently available for purchase on Amazon; check them out!