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An Interview with Geoffrey Charlton-Perrin

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I was born in England. Now I live with my family in Chicago. Years ago, I had a children’s book published entitled Little Lord Blink and His Ice Cream Castle. I worked with a French illustrator in Paris named Georges Lemoine, recommended to me by the illustrator Etienne Delessert. I never had the pleasure of meeting Georges, but he created wonderful illustrations that enhanced my story immeasurably. Recently, the book was translated into French and published in France.

I wrote a short story, “When I Met Orson Welles,” published in the literary magazine, Rosebud, and I had an article entitled “A Star Is Born,” describing how I produced a unique TV commercial, published in the Chicago Tribune Magazine. I have also written an adult novel, Travels of an Advertising Man, and a middle-grade story, Martha Tidbiddle’s Performing Cat (regrettably, neither one picked up so far). And I’ve written many articles on marketing and advertising for professional publications, some of which are on my Linkedin page.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve been writing since I was a boy (eons ago) back in England; in fact, I won the Lord Mayor’s prize in Manchester when I was eleven with an essay I wrote as part of an exam for high school. My story was selected from more than 9,000 students. As for my influences, many writers have had an effect on me, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Shakespeare to the more contemporary writer, Bernard Cornwell. My latest book, 2121: The Battle for Survival Begins, a young adult novel, is not wholly influenced by him, but Cornwell is, in my opinion, a great describer of battles. He makes every battle pulse with excitement. Of course, Cornwell’s battles take place in previous eras – they are historical events, often in Anglo Saxon times – while my battles are set in the future, in the year 2121, in England, where militias roam the land, and eventually civil war breaks out. And in my book, the hero is Alec Brassington, a young man planning to go to university. Not some hardened Saxon warrior. The last thing on Alec’s mind is fighting. He is dragged into it when he is rescued from one band of militias by another one.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

When I was a boy, I had an air pistol. And I took great care to handle it safely. One day, I was harmlessly shooting soda cans off a wall on a windswept field when I was interrupted by a couple of teenage ruffians, well-known in the neighborhood for petty thievery, who begged me to let them have a turn at shooting. Knowing their questionable reputation, I refused. But one of them persisted and swore passionately on his mother’s grave that he wouldn’t harm anyone – just shoot at some of my pop cans. (His mother was alive and well, by the way, but I didn’t know that at the time.) Reluctantly, I finally relented, loaded the air pistol and handed it to him. Immediately. an evil look came over his face; he turned and pointed it at his buddy, who immediately ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. The one with my gun pulled the trigger and – instantly – the fleeing boy dropped like a stone. I was horrified, thinking he might have killed his pal. As I ran over to the boy on the ground, he miraculously sat up and I saw that he had a red weal right across the top of his scalp. “You creased him!” I shouted in horror, snatched the gun back, and never, never, again let anyone use my air pistol. That was the inspiration for how my novel starts.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title practically chose itself. The story is set in Great Britain in the year 2121, a century after a devastating plague wreaked havoc over the entire world, along with massive realignments in the geopolitical scene. The resulting chaos has spawned militia gangs bent on spreading anarchy throughout the land. As the story opens, we meet young Alec Brassington, something of a loner, who lives with his mother and intends to study mechanical engineering at Manchester University. His plans are upended, however, when he is captured by the Renegade Lords. He is rescued by the Jacobin Warriors, their principal adversaries led by Jermaine Baker. There, he is captivated by both Jermaine and his attractive sister Lili. From Jermaine, Alec learns of an almost unthinkable plot to subjugate Great Britain to an enemy power. Together Alec, Jermaine and the Jacobin Warriors set out to foil the plot and save the country from foreign domination.

2121 is a fast-paced novel featuring a likable protagonist (with a quaint attachment to an antique gun that ultimately proves vital to the outcome), a feisty black girl and an evil leader. It contains tense moments, gritty moments, and a few humorous episodes for light relief, anchored by a strong bond between Alec and Jermaine. the leader of the Jacobin Warriors.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I don’t think songs would be appropriate. I think “Mars, the God of War” by Gustav Hiolst would fit best – certainly in the battle scenes.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I was in advertising for most of my career.

When I am not writing, I create one-of-a-kind wooden sculptures from recycled materials – discarded wood, fallen tree limbs – and paint them to bring them to life.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I didn’t read any books for inspiration. I started with that boyhood memory and allowed the story to go on from there.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Much as I’d like young readers of both sexes to read it, I think it will be read by boys. Because of the action and the fighting. But the story contains several funny scenes and, for those who are interested in English history, the story leans on certain historical side issues.

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