To celebrate the publication of Liquidator, I am pleased to welcome the author, Andy Mulligan onto the blog, to talk about what inspired him to write this book.
Books pop up out of the day-to-day cut and thrust of meeting, talking and laughing. The one I’m working on right now was inspired by a ten year-old boy who was telling me about his pet dog. “I think he wants to be a cat, really,” he said – and the surrealism of that locked onto me. My school series, Ribblestrop, emerged when I was walking past a ruined stately-home in Cornwall. It was for sale and my companion said, “Come on, Andy – let’s buy it. We’ll call it a school, and you can be the headmaster.” LIQUIDATOR, however – and it’s out this month – started off as a joke.
The joke surrounded the concept of work-experience, which every child does and is all too often a predictable disappointment. The child usually looks forward to it. Perhaps he or she has secured a placement at a hospital, and is hoping to be useful, active, creative and essential. Alas, when I was a teacher the kids would invariably come back to school having experienced only that sad stranglehold of health and safety concerns – they hadn’t been allowed to do anything. “I made the coffee on the first day, but then they said I might burn myself, and they weren’t insured…”
I always hoped that one day, a would-be teenage surgeon would come rushing back to class, shouting “It was great! I opened a rib-cage! The midwife was late - I delivered the baby!” It never happened in life, so that was the gag I’ve put into fiction: seven children set off on their work-experience week, and each child is launched into the most amazing experience. It’s a thrill, of course – I love a good page-turning adventure where the heroes dice with death – and I wanted a good villain. Good villains aren’t easy to come by, because people don’t tend to walk around rubbing their hands thinking, “What bad thing can I do today?” Villains are all too often people who have convinced themselves they have no choices, and have been told for too long that their behavior is acceptable. In LIQUIDATOR the villain is a drinks company that wants to do what all too many companies do: maximize profit at the expense of anything noble, decent, moral or right – (sorry, Volkwagon, if you’re reading this). The company I’ve created doesn’t make cars, though. It’s spent millions circumventing health legislation to create a highly addictive kids’ energy drink. They’ve trialed it on poor children in Africa – one of whom is dying, slowly and painfully as a result - and now they’re ready to flood the market. Our heroes discover this, and have to pit their wits against rich, powerful, deadly people.
I like to think it’s exciting, frightening and funny. It took a long time to write – two and half years, in all – because the plot is wildly complicated, and to weave in that many characters is a kind of choreography that takes a lot of thought. It’s not an ISSUES book – I’m never inspired by the challenge of ‘raising an issue’, though people often assume that is a motivation. I’m inspired by characters, and the sheer thrill of telling a good story. When I was at school I was enthralled by a tale well told, and I don’t find it easy to analyse how our imaginations and emotions commit to something we know to be invented. I saw ‘Jurassic World’ last month, which is two hours long. For me, it was two hours of wonder…I screamed, I cried, I had my hands over my eyes – I was there in the Perspex pod as the monster tried to prize it open. The storyteller can’t be cynical: he has to believe that his audience is ready to go on that journey, and feel. I suppose that is the most inspiring thought of all: that as you sit at the laptop, tapping out the sentences, you’re conjuring something that will be more real - for a short time – than reality.
Liquidator by Andy Mulligan was published by David Fickling Books on the 1st October 2015
LIQUIDATOR! The brand-new, delicious and wildly popular energy drink. "For those who wanna win!" The company that makes it is set to earn a fortune, with its global launch climaxing at an international rock concert that will SHAKE the planet. The only problem?An innocent child is dying. Meet Vicky and her class-mates - their work experience is about to spin totally out of control as they uncover a secret that could change the world. And put them all in mortal danger ...From the award-winning author of TRASH comes an action-packed thriller full of danger, hilarity and - above all - friendship.
To find out more about Andy Mulligan: