AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Matt Dickinson, Lie Kill Walk Away
- Thursday 15 September 2016
On 6 October we're releasing Lie Kill Walk Away – Matt Dickinson's latest thriller for young adults, which follows the adventures of Joe and Becca, two teenagers who go on the run in a race to save the world from a devastating new bioweapon. Ahead of the book's publication, we caught up with Matt to talk about virulent viruses, whistle-stop action and Matt's short attention span ...
Lie Kill Walk Away is very different to any of your other books. Two teenagers on the run, a government conspiracy and a life-threatening disease on the loose, make for some hard-hitting action. Have stories about secrets and twisted truths always captured your attention?
Ever since I began to read I have always loved thrillers. Fast pace and a twisty unpredictable plot make for exciting reading and I love that feeling when I find myself turning the pages at high speed, totally hooked on the story and wanting to find out more! Thrillers translate from book to film with a natural transition as well, so there’s often the extra dimension of seeing the story on the big screen later down the line and enjoying it all over again. Secrets are important in this genre so I wanted Lie Kill Walk Away to contain a powerful secret world. It was a great experience to fine-tune the plot of the book so that the secret powers of government hold all the cards, leaving my heroes Joe and Becca running for their lives.
Becca wants to be a natural scientist. Do you share her fascination with diseases?
I certainly am fascinated by the science of killer diseases, and have even made a documentary, which I filmed at one of the most lethal bio-weapon production labs in the world. To explore the abandoned base in Kazakhstan, where the Soviets had cooked up weaponised versions of some of the most horrifying pathogens ever invented, we had to make a clandestine journey deep into Voz Island in the middle of the Aral sea. That was where the Russians produced Anthrax, Ebola, and many other lethal pathogens that were designed for use in war. We had to wear bio-protection suits in forty-two degrees of heat. It was a very demanding shoot that could have ended in imprisonment if we had been discovered. The documentary I directed was broadcast by Channel 4 in the series Going to Extremes.
This book explores some difficult issues: a teen in a young offenders’ institution, young people groomed by a terrorist operation, mental illness. Do you think it’s important for young adult books to address these topics?
Teen and young adult writers have a duty to explore strong themes. The world is a challenging place and growing up is sometimes a difficult journey. As a father of five children (including two teenage kids at the moment!) I have experienced this first hand myself. That’s why thrillers such as Lie Kill Walk Away are important, because they tackle gritty issues head-on and don’t sugar coat the world. Books are a window into themes that are sometimes challenging but I don’t think authors should be apologising for that. It’s natural to explore the dark side of our inner world, and might even help in important ways.
Everybody knows you as the Everest climber – which is possibly the most extreme form of adventure there is – but did Lie Kill Walk Away allow you to explore a different kind of adventure?
Yes, probably I am best known for my Everest adventures, but I have plenty of other themes that I want to explore. In my previous series Mortal Chaos, I based the stories around chaos theory and the chain reactions that cause disasters. With Lie Kill Walk Away I wanted to create a very different form of adventure, a thriller environment in which two teenage protagonists are trying, quite literally, to save the world. It’s a big story but I have loved the challenge and I hope that readers will identify with my two heroes.
With fast-paced blink-and-you’ll-miss-it action, we think reluctant readers will love this book. Do you always have reluctant readers in mind when you are writing and how do you try to appeal to them?
I really like it when ‘reluctant readers’ identify with my books and enjoy reading them. It’s a special feeling because it might inspire a new reading hobby that will last a lifetime. ‘Reluctant readers' are often boys with short attention spans. That’s why my books have very short chapters and are generally fast paced. I am the same in my reading habits; I strongly dislike books that are overwritten or just way too slow.
I can promise readers of Lie Kill Walk Away that they will be in for a very fast read. The focus groups that read the early drafts often devoured the book in a single sitting which is a very encouraging sign.