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SPIDERS is a gripping and fast-paced thriller in which teenaged Adam is targeted by a shadowy cult that has already kidnapped a number of talented young people. As their deadly intent becomes clear, Adam knows he and the others have to escape.
SPIDERS can be read on its own or with the earlier book, THIRTEEN, in which Adam tackles a murderous Millenium cult. We are giving both copies away in our competition, below, supported by publisher Macmillan!
Author Tom Hoyle tells us more about these adrenalin-busting adventures!
Q: We understand that Tom Hoyle isn't your real name, so why are you using a pseudonym?
A: For me, writing is a hobby that happens to have worked out - I don't want to do it full time. My intention was to produce something that would compete against computer games and action films for kids' attention and that isn't helped by having a particular name on the front (and especially that of a head teacher, which is my full time job).
Q: How long have you been a head teacher and what does it take to be a good head teacher?
A: I have been a head teacher for quite a while now, but I started fairly young. Fairness, even-temper, and generosity of spirit are vital qualities for any good leader. Being good at writing timetables, interpreting spreadsheets, and understanding the details of policies certainly helps.
Q: What brought you into writing and who have you written Thirteen and Spiders for?
A: I am very worried about kids, especially boys, not reading, and wanted to join the relatively small part of the market that is squarely directed at them. Therefore, Thirteen and Spiders are written 100% for kids. If adults like the books, that's great, but I didn't want to write a book that was smiled on by grown-ups and dismissed by youngsters, and it's wonderful that Macmillan get that.
Q: Have some of your students read your books, and if so what have they said about them? Do they know you wrote them?
A: My secret is (nearly) absolute, and I have never hinted that I've written a book, let alone a specific one. I have seen the book read at school, though.
Q: How much have you drawn on your own classroom experiences to create the characters and incidents in the book?
A: Spiders has a classroom scene that was inspired by something from my own schooldays, but otherwise it's all welling up from my imagination.
Q: The books explore the theme of cults - did you choose that because you thought it would be exciting or do you think cults are genuinely harmful?
A: I didn't want to write about one specific cult, so was very reluctant to do research and then face a claim for libel. It's quite hard to define what a cult is, and some are certainly more harmful than others; some groups often called cults seem rather benign to me.
One reason for choosing a cult-based book was that I thought it was a fairly untrodden path. But I did also want to say something about the dangers of being cut off from the real world and living under the tyrannical influence of a Svengali.
Q: Were there other areas of the book you had to research? For example, the abandoned tube station at the British Museum?
A: I may well have done days of research and investigation, or spent a few minutes on Wikipedia and used my imagination for the rest. I'm going to leave that question hanging.
Regarding other research, the books are fictional and the settings may well exist in a broad sense but the details are very much made up.
Q: How well do you know your settings, London and Scotland, and is this why you chose them? Is the school Adam attends based on the school where you work?
A: I chose London simply because I wanted a place that lots of people would know, and Scotland largely because it's a setting that was wild and isolated, but I also know it well. Adam's school is a pure generic invention, and has a random location.
Q: There are growing romantic themes in the novels too, even though the books have a lot of boy appeal - why have you done so and do you think this area is a bit ignored by writers writing 'for boys'?
A: Girls can be reluctant readers too! They often like action stories. And boys don't mind a bit of romance.
Q: What are you writing now and what can we expect in the Spiders sequel?
A: I will be writing a large chunk of my third book over the coming Christmas holidays, purely because I didn't get round to it last summer. I can't wait! It's intended to be a page turner, but is written in the first person (or, in fact, dual narrators).
The basic idea is really simple, but I hope I've found an interesting and striking angle.
Q: Where do you do your writing?
A: Given the need to reach word limits, I've written in all sorts of places. Given a choice, I'd write next to a lake in an airy summer house. But the majority has been written on a laptop on the kitchen table, near the kettle.
I wrote both Thirteen and Spiders in the summer holiday with strict word limits for each day. When the time was up, the book was finished. The target was easier to meet because I had my godson waiting for the next chapter / instalment, and the son of a friend waiting to read it all in one go at the end.
Q: What have you enjoyed most and least about being an author?
A: Easily the best thing has been when someone who is a reluctant reader has picked up the book and got into reading. The most frustrating thing was writing one chapter of Thirteen - that I thought was the cleverest in the book by far - that no one else could understand. I had to delete all of it.
Q: What do you do or where do you go to escape?
A: In the winter, I ski; in the summer, I swim. I'm a keen football fan. And I write!