Hey guys! So good of you to stop by. I’d love for you all to meet the awesome Tom Harris, author of The Amber Room! I met Tom on Twitter, and if you aren’t following @TomDHarris, do it. I’ll wait. Okay, good. Now, pull up a chair and learn a little about the author behind the book.
Bio: Tom Harris is a writer of Young Adult fiction whose tales of adventure and fantasy are always laced with a twist of humour, horror and suspense.
A thirty seven year old ex-publican, he decided to return to University to complete an MA in Creative Writing. Living in Portsmouth, he is a member of S.C.B.W.I (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) the Portsmouth hub of New Writing South and a local writing group known as The Registry Writers. He has also recorded a number of longlisted and shortlisted short stories in national writing competitions in the UK in 2012.
The Amber Room is his debut novel.
He really hopes you enjoy it.
Yes, you do, now be quiet, I’m talking in the third person here…
Idiot, you’ve ruined it!
Okay, then! How about an excerpt? Read us something!
He sat on the top deck at the front, away from the other school kids at the back who had got on the bus with him. He shielded his eyes, feeling the heat on his face through the glass as the autumn sun peeked out between the terraced houses.
The open staircase behind his seat was his only exit. A blur of sunlight got trapped in his vision as he glanced down the length of the bus to see if he could make a clean getaway when the time came. He could feel the thrill rising inside him like a leviathan.
Four seats back, across from him, sat alone on the double seat was a guy wearing huge headphones, eyes closed, head bobbing. Three seats from the front were a young couple holding hands and giggling; eyes like magnets locked on each other. Second seat from the front was a problem. The middle-aged woman stared at him when he got on and she stared again now. All she had to do was lean across her timid looking husband and…Gotcha! On the seat across from him was an old lady sucking on a mint she had taken out of a packet that sat loosely in the palm of her saggy skinned hand.
North didn’t like mints, but he was going to steal them anyway.
He caught his reflection in the window. The sight of his jean jacket over his drab black and grey school uniform took him back to the Easter holidays when his parents had bought it for him just before his fourteenth birthday. It was the last thing they would ever buy him, probably…
A bead of sweat seeped down his back sticking part of his school shirt against his skin. He pulled his tie off, rolled it up and unrolled it three times, and put it in his jacket pocket. Through the reflection in the front window, the bag of mints sparkled like pure white diamonds.
Goosebumps gathered on his skin. His legs quivered as if he was tapping along to heavy metal. He rolled his neck, stretching, warming up for the main event. A pile of scrunched up bus tickets had collected on the floor below his seat and he spread them out with the tips of his toes forming the letter M for Mint. He let out a small snort of laughter. ‘Second seat from the front woman’ was like one of those pictures that followed you around the room. He avoided her stare through the reflection of the front window and ran his hand across his cropped black hair as the bus pulled to a halt.
The bus trembled at the stop and a rush of heat smothered his body. He picked at the torn Perrow School crest on the blue cloth school bag that hung around his neck. It was too much of a hassle to take off his jean jacket so he blew cold air down his top. He rocked a little in his seat, full of nervous energy, legs still wobbling like jelly.
The thrill was back.
This was what he had been waiting for. He flexed his fingers and toes and closed his eyes allowing a gigantic yawn to stretch through his body, like he was stepping into new skin. He counted from three to thirty in threes, inside his head.
The bus rumbled on.
North banged his knees together and clasped his hands in a ball, making claws with his fingers like his social worker, Mr Javotte, did at their first meeting this summer.
The old lady yawned and accidentally kicked the old wicker shopping basket by her feet. It didn’t interest him. It was the packet of plastic-wrapped, shining white minty gems that made him shiver. Skeletal fingers on her frail hands cupped the packet. They would snap clean off in a struggle, if she tried to hold on.
Next stop Dark Lane Cemetery.
It was almost time.
The bus pulled to the kerb, slowing down as it approached the stop. When the driver hit the brakes, North jumped out of his seat.
His school bag swung around his chest as his hands moved like lightning and grabbed the mints. The packet came away from the old ladies hand easily. He had been right to fear ‘second seat from the front woman,’ but her reach wasn’t long or quick enough. North dodged away from her with ease. With the mints in his closed right hand he swung down the steep staircase wrapping his left hand around the stair rail. He landed awkwardly but scrambled to the bottom.
The hubbub on the top deck was swallowed up by the noise of school children shoving their way off the bus. North pushed his way through the crowds on the lower deck, as the driver screamed at them. “STOP PUSHING!” He found a gap, his heart beating hard as he lunged for the door. His mind raced ahead, imagining a 3D map of his escape route through the cemetery.
His black school shoes hit the pavement and he sprinted straight beneath the creepy Dark Lane Cemetery arch and into the grounds, feeling the chill of the crisp autumn air on his neck. It was as if the dead were breathing again.
Good stuff, right? Thought so.
So, Tom… Why did you decide to write in this genre?
I used to write crime, but I just felt restricted by all the police procedure, there is a definitely a system to all that stuff and it needs to be researched as crime readers demand that, but my imagination didn’t want to abide by those rules. YA is where my writing fits naturally. Your teenage years are a time of your life where your senses are heightened and anything is possible, where life can be simple yet extraordinary. We all need hope and imagination to keep pushing on past all the crap in our lives and I love the eternal future of it all, that tomorrow something incredible can happen to any of us – obviously you become realistic as you get older, but don’t we all need to believe that something incredible could be right around the corner! Many of Hitchcock’s movies fit this ethos too; extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. For me, I love the escapism of YA and transporting myself to other places and worlds both in reading and writing.
Can you tell us a little about your next project?
I’ve been outlining the sequel to The Amber Room, which will be called The Amber Antidote – but my next book will be another YA story called Jackie Jones.
Jackie is 14 and a loner, his Mum works 3 jobs, his dad’s a failed professional darts player and his sister has run away. In his despair, he accepts a mysterious social networking invitation to a country estate to compete for a huge cash prize which could put an end to his family’s money worries for good and bring them back together. When Jackie arrives at Heath Hall he finds that the other contestants not only share his desire to win the money, but also his name. What starts out as an opportunity of a lifetime turns into a nightmare and a battle for survival ensues as Jackie tries to unravel who’s behind the sinister goings-on at Heath Hall.
Who is your biggest supporter?
Some crazy lady outside my house, who knits scarves and paints pictures of me, she’s so committed she’s beaten a court injunction by rigging up a hot air balloon at the bottom of my garden. Stalkers can be really inventive you know…I’m quietly proud of her actually.
Hey! Wait! She was my
stalker fan last week! Oh well. What’s your favorite movie, Tom?
Vertigo, directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock! James Stewart was just the perfect ordinary man in peril. It’s an unconventional love story played out against a murder-mystery where nothing is as it appears to be and no-one is who they say they are. It’s just brilliant. It’s also set in San Francisco and I’ve been a 49ers fan since the Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice days in the 80’s – so close this year too – stupid fumbles! Jim Harbaugh’s turning it round though. Apologies for going off on a tangent.
Awesome. Hitchcock is the master of suspense.
Favorite television show?
One from Buffy, Supernatural, Dexter, Luther, Being Human, The Fades, Life on Mars (UK version), The Shield or 24. So hard to pick one, but these are the cream of the crop for me.
I’m with you on Supernatural. Genius, that show. Crap. I’m interrupting again. Sorry.
What scares you, besides me?
The clown in Poltergeist and Ninja Moles; numb chucks and worm breath is a lethal combination.
It was fun, Tom. Thanks for stopping by!
Where to find Tom’s work and where you can find Tom himself.
Links to buy the book: